Community Achievement Awards for Victoria

2023 Finalists

Best's Wines Tourism and Hospitality Award

  • Rambling Wine Tours - Sarah D’Orria of Seymourhas etched Central Victoria onto the map of unforgettable destinations. Sarah is the visionary behind Rambling Wine Tours. Her luxury small-group tours have taken travellers on immersive journeys into the heart of the region, celebrating award-winning wines, artisanal foods, and local spirits. With innovation, safety, and ethical responsibility at the core of her operations, Sarah has garnered well-deserved recognition, including the 2023 TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award and the 2022 Victorian Tourism Award. Sarah’s relentless dedication to the community and her partnerships with local businesses have been instrumental in revitalising regional tourism and championing sustainability, making Central Victoria a must-visit destination.


  • Grampians Helicopters - Justine Hide of Halls Gap has relentless dedication that has brought thousands of visitors to the area, driving local businesses and promoting Victoria as a top destination. Justine’s work at Grampians Helicopters extends far beyond business operations. She is the driving force behind innovative marketing strategies, custom itineraries, and wine maps that showcase the Grampians region and benefit the community. She actively sits on various boards, including Eastern Grampians Tourism, and provides transport for the Grampians Peaks trail, enriching the region's tourism landscape. Her involvement in events, TV shows, and promotions has reached an international audience, while local clubs, charities, and schools have benefitted from her generosity.


  • Higher Mark - Geelong Cats of Geelong -Boasting the largest event space in regional Victoria, Higher Mark’s ambition is to take your event to the next level. Higher Mark has 32 premium event spaces with facilities for two to 2,450 guests and located in the heart of Geelong CBD. The sophisticated event spaces deliver the perfect venue for all types of events ranging from conferences, exhibitions, business meetings, to social functions, weddings and more. With ‘exceptional’ as a benchmark, delivering premium, tailored experiences for our clients is a priority. 
  • The Hive Gallery Ocean Grove of Seymour of Ocean Grove offers place-based art experiences that captivate visitors, promoting Victoria as a destination of choice for those seeking authentic cultural immersion. Karen Spreadborough is the driving force behind The Hive Gallery Ocean Grove. She has transformed this gallery into a thriving cultural cornerstone on Victoria's Bellarine Peninsula. With a curated selection of over 48 local artists, Karen's vision embodies sustainability, education, and wellbeing. Through her innovation, she has expanded community engagement, building partnerships with local wineries and hosting school exhibitions, nurturing the next generation of artists. Karen's work enriches the local arts scene and contributes to social discourse on sustainability and wellbeing.


  • Aroma Coffee House & Eatery of Eastwood have reshaped the cafe landscape. Founded by Ben and Deb West, Aroma’s diverse menu caters to all dietary needs, showcasing East Gippsland's culinary riches. Sustainability efforts, including solar power and recycling programs, underscore their commitment to the environment and community. Ben's role as a hospitality business coach transforms struggling businesses, while their involvement in local groups and causes fosters social inclusion. Aroma's collaborative partnerships with local producers and attractions showcase East Gippsland as a vibrant destination, inviting visitors to explore its beauty and culture. APM Employment Services collaboration promotes inclusivity. Aroma is making Victoria a diverse, welcoming, and prosperous state.


Awards Australia Charitable Foundation Mental Health and Wellbeing Award

  • Alex Makes Meals – Alex Dekker of Caulfield North is more than just a social enterprise; it's a powerful movement. It was founded by a 20-year-old visionary, Alex Dekker. Since 2020, this initiative has provided nearly 400,000 high-quality, nutritious meals to marginalised communities, including the homeless, refugees, and domestic violence survivors. Their dedication to food quality, akin to what they'd offer their own families, ensures recipients feel loved and connected. Despite their volunteer-driven structure and limited resources, they've been a lifeline to vulnerable populations. Their work aligns with Sustainable Development Goals, addressing issues like poverty, hunger, and improved mental and physical well-being, making a lasting impact on the community.


  • Live4Life is a pioneering mental health promotion charity, transforming rural communities. Their groundbreaking model is tailor-made for rural regions where the youth suicide rate is disturbingly high. Engaging communities and creating partnerships, they remove barriers, reduce stigma, and empower young leaders as Mental Health Ambassadors. The evidence of their impact is in remarkable outcomes. The initiative currently spans 10 rural communities. Over 18,645 students have received mental health education and 1,900 adults have been trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid. Live4Life's proven, upstream approach helps young people recognise issues and seek help early, driving positive change in rural Australia.


  • ART OF THE MINDS - Jules Haddock of Torquay has evolved into a thriving mental health and wellbeing festival from its humble beginnings with 20 artists. Jules, the president of ART of the Minds, embarked on a journey in 2016 to ignite a conversation around mental health. Despite facing challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, Jules's determination allowed ART of the Minds to flourish. The festival engages, educates, and activates communities, fostering resilience and hope. It spans all generations, from young children to the elderly, bringing together diverse groups to converse about mental health. Jules's passion for creative education has been building connections and conversations that transcend the Surf Coast region.


  • The Bendigo District RSL - President Glenn Ludeman stands as an unwavering pillar of support for veterans and their community. They organise events and offer life-changing health and well-being programs. In 2022, they extended a helping hand to 706 Central Victorian veterans, providing 638 critical crisis accommodation, 916 meals, and 502 follow-ups. Their remarkable response to the Rochester floods showcased their commitment to community, feeding, housing, and aiding affected residents, including veterans. This RSL received the 2019 RSL Hall of Fame Sub-Branch of the Year, 2021-2022 Community Clubs Victoria (CCV) Club of the Year, and the 2022-2023 CCV Social Impact Award.


  • The Resilience Project is on a mission to build happiness, resilience and prevent mental health issues. Their evidence-based programs, focusing on gratitude, empathy, mindfulness, and emotional literacy, has reached over 400 Victorian schools, impacting 120,000 students and 6,000 teachers. They have realised significant impact, through coordinated approach across disaster affected regions , instilling hope and resilience in challenging times. Independent evaluations have highlighted significant improvements in student wellbeing, including reduced anxiety and depressive symptoms. TRP's unwavering commitment to mental health makes them a vital asset to the mental wellbeing landscape in Victoria.


Coolabah Turf Connecting Communities Award

  • Rujak - Hayden and Stephanie of Eltham North are living examples of how determination and compassion can change a community. Hayden and Stephanie are the young founders of Hayden's Helping Hands, a youth-led charity has been the lifeline for Melbourne's most vulnerable populations. For over eight years, they have harnessed community support, generating over $360,000 in relief for the homeless, domestic violence survivors, and those affected by the pandemic. Their advocacy and educational work reach 1,500+ supporters, inspiring empathy and activism. Facing scepticism and logistical challenges, they've rented an office space to meet growing needs. Their dedication to poverty alleviation and social justice is an inspiration for all.


  • Regional Education Support Network of Mildura (RESN) is advocating for educational equity by empowering regional and rural Year 11 and 12 students. Founded and operated by 450 volunteer university students, RESN offers free high-quality tutoring services to students who've historically been disadvantaged due to financial or geographical reasons. Over two years, they've reached 3,200 students from 125 schools, answered 10,000 questions, and forged 50 school partnerships. Analysts revealed that every dollar invested in RESN generates a remarkable $3 to $6 in social and economic returns. Their outreach program has magnified their impact, ensuring that high-quality tutoring reaches every regional student, fostering academic potential and educational pursuits.


  • Rochester Community House of Rochester stands as a resilient community pillar, shining brightly in the wake of the 2022 floods that shook Rochester. They quickly evolved into a lifeline for their community, facilitating support, connecting people, and advocating for their voices to be heard in a time of dire need. Rochester Community House faced funding and resource barriers but persisted in expanding its services, from food security to vital mental health support. Their ongoing commitment to Rochester's recovery journey remains unwavering. Their nurturing of community spirit and tireless service prove that Rochester will be remembered not for the flood but for its triumphant resilience.


  • Bakhtar Community Organisation - Bassir Qadiri, through his leadership at Bakhtar Community Organisation, has made a profound impact by mobilising communities in the face of scarce resources and a lack of government support. His extraordinary efforts have resulted in the successful resettlement of more than 4,000 refugees and the provision of essential material aid exceeding nearly $2 million, following the crises in Kabul and Ukraine. Moreover, Mr. Qadiri's initiatives have facilitated the employment of over 200 refugees, dismantling barriers to their refuge. Bakhtar Community Organisation further demonstrates a commitment to advocating for social and environmental causes, promoting multiculturalism, supporting marginalized groups, and combating homelessness.


  • Sunshine Bendigo Inc of Bendigo has been a beacon of hope in Central Victoria. For seven years, they have assisted over 5,000 families with goods valued at approximately $2.09 million. Their mission is to alleviate the challenges faced by families, particularly those with babies and young children. Sunshine Bendigo Inc's 100% volunteer-driven initiative operates independently, with no government funding, relying on the generosity of their community. Despite funding limitations, their expanding support network, active fundraising team, and increasing social media presence enable them to provide essential goods to an ever-growing number of families in need. Their dedication has proven vital for their community, leaving a lasting impact.


Konica Minolta Customer Service Award

  • TalkSmart Training - Dawn Ferrier of Echuca has redefined first-aid training in rural Victoria. Run by Dawn Ferrier, TalkSmart Training is a mobile first-aid training business that has empowered over 10,000 people with life-saving skills. With an 80% financial uplift in just two years, Dawn's results speak for themselves. She champions community safety through free training and collaboration with local organisations, demonstrating a relentless dedication to making her region safer. Her flexible 'travel-to-you' approach provides comfort and convenience to clients, leaving lasting impressions. Recognised with awards for excellence, including Best Home-Based Business, Dawn's exceptional customer service and tireless community engagement showcase the transformative power of her work.


  • Twelve South Bridal - Grace Watson of Yarragon Twelve South Bridal of Yarragon is rewriting the story of bridal shopping in Yarragon. The boutique offers a carefully considered and personalised experience that transcends traditional wedding gown shopping. Grace Watson, the driving force behind Twelve South Bridal, provides forward-thinking strategies that have made Twelve South a 'Bridal Destination,' with brides journeying from across Australia. In the face of a global supply chain crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, Grace demonstrated exceptional dedication to her clients. She collaborated within her industry network to ensure brides had alternatives, showcasing her commitment to their special day. Grace has helped empower women through employment and training opportunities.


  • Beachcomber Holiday Units has redefined tourism in Lakes Entrance. Rebecca and Marty, the driving force behind Beachcomber Holiday Units, are dedicated to providing unparalleled customer service. They've turned a set of modest units into a sought-after self-contained accommodation. They've personalised guest experiences, attending to unique needs, such as mobility challenges. They've also played a pivotal role in stimulating the local tourism sector. Initiatives like the interactive mural wall and the 'Love Lakes Entrance Bag' have united local businesses and offered guests a richer experience. These actions have cemented their status as pillars of the community, exemplifying the transformative power of unwavering commitment.


  • Wattle Tree Country  Retreat of Amhersthas redefined respite care for individuals with disabilities. Their innovative approach prioritises customisation, enabling guests to make choices about their experience. Founder Chelsea Thompson’s dedication to personalised care became evident when they welcomed two sisters in dire need, offering them a fresh start with clean clothes, grooming, and a support system. They also collaborate with local businesses and support the wider community. Chelsea and Wattle Tree embody compassion and empowering care.


  • Ballan Local Butcher has become a local legend for its dedication to quality. Operating within the Zammit Retail family, their Shazam lamb, nurtured on their family-owned farms, showcases their commitment to premium, locally sourced products. They blend the traditions of the butcher shop with modern customer expectations, offering valuable meal planning advice and a personal touch. They extend their impact to the community through collaborations with nearby businesses, participation in local events, and active sponsorship of schools, sports clubs, and charities. They stand out for their unwavering customer service and ethically sourced, high-quality products, making them an indispensable part of the community.


Nectre Regional Service Award

  • Bendigo Karen Youth Network of CALIFORNIA GULLY (BKYN) is a beacon of hope for Karen youth in regional Australia. Driven by a dedicated committee, this youth-run non-profit has brought together Karen youth and strengthened the community in Bendigo. BKYN's focus on self-sufficiency and cross-cultural understanding has significantly benefited not only the Karen community but also the broader Bendigo population. The network's impact is seen through numerous successful projects, from empowering young people to reducing isolation, and collaborating with local organisations to raise over $7,000 for displaced people on the Thai-Burma border. BKYN's innovative approach and commitment to supporting youth continue to shine brightly in regional Victoria.


  • The Bush Bus - Georgina Dymock of Sugarloaf Creek has transformed the lives of over 30,000 participants, making it an indispensable part of the Australian community. The Bush Bus is a groundbreaking mobile playgroup that has dissolved social, financial, and isolation-related barriers for families, promoting community connections. Georgina Dymock's leadership has inspired 11 facilitators and connected local schools, childcare centres, and more with the program. She volunteered even during crises like the pandemic and floods, ensuring The Bush Bus remained a symbol of belonging and support. As the 2022 Community Achievement Awards Australia People's Choice winner, The Bush Bus exemplifies the power of innovation, dedication, and genuine community impact.


  • Jaymee-Lin Ellis of Delacombe stands as a true community hero, leaving an indelible mark through her impactful initiatives. GenkiFIT, her fitness business, brings wellness within reach, engaging over 2000 residents and instilling a culture of well-being. She reinvigorated the Smythesdale Country Market, supporting local businesses, and raising substantial funds for charities. Her leadership at the Woady Yaloak Recreation Facility is nothing short of transformational, revitalising the venue and securing grants for major upgrades. Jaymee-Lin's journey is a testament to resilience, as she courageously faces anxiety and uses her experiences to empower others. Her continuous self-development and unwavering dedication shape a healthier, more vibrant community.


  • Based in Gippsland, A Better Life for Foster Kids was founded in 2014 by Heather Baird, who herself grew up in foster care. We work to improve short and long-term physical, educational and psycho-social outcomes for children in foster and kinship care. Crisis Cases are full of age appropriate essentials, toys and books, to cover a first week. We run camps, dinners, provide furniture, resources and advocacy support for carers to help them navigate the complex system. Volunteers power everything that we do; more than 450 community groups across Victoria hand make and donate clothes, blankets and new toys.


  • Wangaratta Rovers - Benjamin Talarico is committed to personal development. Benjamin Talarico's impactful journey with the Wangaratta Rovers Under 18's Football program transcends traditional sports coaching. Over the past two seasons, Benjamin's approach centres on moulding responsible individuals before accomplished athletes, elevating well-being above mere victories. His most innovative move was introducing a dedicated Well-Being and Development coach to provide emotional support for players. The initiative ensures the team functions as a compassionate, open community. By partnering with the Centre Against Violence foundation and volunteering in local youth programs, Benjamin is inspiring other rural sports teams to prioritise well-being as he champions on-field and off-field growth.


Regional Development Victoria Business Achievement Award

  • Health Select Services of Vermont has a profound commitment to equitable non-emergency patient transport services. Founded in 2005 by Jeanette Cunningham RN, Health Select Services is a vital lifeline for regional Victorians. It has expanded from two ambulances to 60 across six branches. Serving major public health facilities, their compassionate services extend to critical support during state disasters and compassionate transports. Health Select dedicates itself to education, having established Best Practice Registered Training Organisation. Their community involvement knows no bounds; they drive local employment, offer clinical placements, contribute to disaster relief, and engage in charitable endeavours. They embody unwavering dedication to regional healthcare and its people.


  • GAME Traffic & Contracting has a journey that is nothing short of inspiring. Established in 1993, they've become a powerhouse in regional Victoria, offering comprehensive traffic management, grounds maintenance, and equipment hire services. Yet, it's their commitment to social impact that sets them apart. Through their flagship program, Geared4Careers, they've guided over 4,000 students from 14 regional Victorian secondary schools toward brighter futures. They are not just a business; they are a fully self-funded social enterprise making a real difference. With GAME, tackling disadvantage and nurturing our youth are not buzzwords but genuine missions.


  • The Big R's Shed – Are-Able Social Enterprises and Community Activities of Warrnambool is a testament to the remarkable impact that a disability social enterprise can have. Founded in July 2019, they have seamlessly intertwined a charity/recycle shop with a welcoming coffee shop, creating a unique community hub. Beyond the diversity of products and repurposed items sourced from generous local donations, The Big R's Shed's core mission is to promote sustainability and provide meaningful, sustainable employment for 20 individuals with disabilities. It proudly operates as a self-sustaining entity, diverting over 70,000 items from landfills, and nurturing a circular economy within the community. This inspiring enterprise represents the intersection of inclusivity and environmental consciousness.


  • Sweet Justice Honey provides hope and opportunities in the criminal justice system. Established in 2020, founder Claire Moore's vision to transform lives through beekeeping training and employment has become a reality. Their 1,000 bee hives provide commercial honey production and pollination services. They’ve also launched Victoria's first accredited beekeeping qualification. With the Lord Mayor's Charitable Fund, they prioritise hands-on learning for participants with low literacy. Sweet Justice goes beyond honey, offering employment and vital mental health support. They tackle recidivism, reduce welfare dependency, and create a brighter future for all.


  • PavFab Engineering and Fabrication - Paul and Sharee of Yarram have woven a legacy of community commitment since 2015 in Yarram and beyond. Paul and Sharee, the duo behind PavFab, have versatile expertise spanning industries, from marine to healthcare. Their unwavering dedication to empowering Indigenous and rehabilitated individuals, providing employment and training. By actively collaborating with local councils, government bodies, and Indigenous support organisations, they are catalysing transformation in their region. Their charitable spirit shines through donations and support for school programs, fostering inclusivity and cultural awareness. Despite complex challenges, PavFab is sowing the seeds of a future where shared prosperity and growth are values that reverberate through their community.


Regional Development Victoria Leadership and Innovation Award

  • Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) has been a pioneering force in farmer-driven agricultural research, development, and extension in North West Victoria for 31 years. Their 22-member team in a small community has empowered farmers to adopt cutting-edge technologies and practices, making their farming systems among the world's most productive and sustainable. BCG has led the way in building resilience against drought as the north-west node of the Victorian Drought Hub. Their establishment of a Young Farmer Network signals the next generation's thirst for knowledge and support. BCG's legacy extends to their ongoing transformation of the farming community and their instrumental role in advancing agricultural innovation.


  • Sustainable Plastic Solutions of Hensley Park (SPS) is leading the way in plastic recycling with an innovative approach to handling on-farm plastics that would otherwise end up in landfills. Their cutting-edge recycling facility, backed by the local community, transforms end-of-life grain tarps and twine into high-quality plastic resin. SPS creates custom resin to replace virgin resin, ensuring a superior product for customers. Their current capacity diverts 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste from landfills, a number set to double and eventually reach 14,000 tonnes. SPS is committed to becoming Australia's first carbon-neutral plastics company. They are addressing hard-to-recycle items and empowering local businesses for eco-friendly product solutions.


  • Julie Pringle of Sea Lake is the driving force behind Buloke's remarkable transformation. Her mentorship nurtures local businesses, fostering their growth and vitality. Her collaboration with the Victorian Tourism Industry Council brings fresh perspectives and best practices to the region. Her determination has given rise to innovative attractions and initiatives, enhancing the community's appeal and generating opportunities for local engagement and economic stability. Julie's influence has spurred increased visitation, benefiting both interstate and international tourists and local businesses. The region now boasts youthful entrepreneurs and unique experiences, supported by Julie's unwavering commitment to growth. Her lasting legacy is a testament to her impactful leadership and innovation.


  • Woolamai Beach Surf Life Saving Club is championing environmental sustainability, inclusivity, and community partnerships. Their transformation is nothing short of remarkable. With 914 active members and numerous rescues and preventative actions, they've saved lives and made beaches safer. Their engagement goes beyond the waves, Through special patrols, they raise awareness of vital societal issues. Water safety at local events enhances community well-being, while beach safety programs in schools educate and protect. Their forward-thinking initiatives leave a lasting legacy, with structured leadership programs, continued diversity efforts, and ongoing growth. Woolamai Beach SLSC isn't just a club; it's a diverse and passionate community committed to positive change.


  • Ballarat Keralites' Foundation Of Australia is a beacon of compassion and community commitment. Comprising over 300 members who are Ballarat locals, BKFA has consistently demonstrated leadership and innovation in rolling out social projects aimed at supporting Ballarat's marginalised communities. They have provided free meals to the homeless and less fortunate and donated fruit boxes to local schools. Their ongoing blood donation campaigns and unwavering support for international students during the pandemic underscore their commitment to well-being. BKFA's legacy is one of inclusivity, empathy, and community unity. Their numerous awards and certificates validate their exceptional dedication to transforming lives in Ballarat, making them deserving recipients.


Southside Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Community Hero Award

  • Tim Ferguson exemplified selflessness during the October 2022 floods. Tim is a local mechanic and devoted CFA Captain. As a dedicated RACV representative, he gave his time to aid individuals trapped in floodwaters, offering invaluable support and assisting with insurance claims. Tim also orchestrated flood protection and recovery efforts, maintaining open communication with the SES and local authorities. He was instrumental in the distribution of sandbags, organised a local strike team, and led the cleanup, ensuring residents could swiftly get back on their feet. He has arranged strike teams for fires embodying a deep love for his community and a sense of duty.


  • Barbara Glare is an extraordinary advocate, mentor, and guardian of breastfeeding mothers' rights and well-being a testament to unwavering dedication. Barbara is an international board-certified lactation consultant. For the past 24 years, she has provided invaluable support to breastfeeding mothers in Warrnambool. Barb's crowning achievement is the creation of the Warrnambool Breastfeeding Centre, a not-for-profit offering breastfeeding consults, educational events, and a welcoming space for parents and families. Her voluntary contributions, which include moderating a local Facebook support group, extend her influence nationwide by educating healthcare professionals. Barb's boundless commitment has transformed countless lives, empowering mothers, and creating a close-knit community.


  • Mackenzie Sinclair of St Leonards is an inspiring 18-year-old who has made an indelible mark by championing the needs of young people and individuals confronting health challenges and disadvantage. Her journey is marked by volunteering, fundraising efforts for organisations like the Starlight Children's Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Charities, and tireless advocacy. Despite personal setbacks, including enduring multiple brain operations and recently being diagnosed with a neurological disorder, Mackenzie remains unwavering in her quest to make a difference. Her determination to promote accessible youth spaces and dedicated health services within the community has a significant impact, exemplifying her commitment to ensuring a brighter future for many.


  • Ann Toscano is providing hope, support, and a chance for everyone to be heard. Ann’s journey through "Bent But Not Breaking" is an awe-inspiring testament to the power of kindness. In the face of personal health struggles, she selflessly provides Care Packages to those battling financial hardships and mental health issues. Ann's commitment to this mission has resulted in nearly $30,000 worth of items delivered, alongside $15,000 worth of VISA Gift Cards, offering lifelines to those in need. Ann's community engagement spreads positivity, connecting people on a deeper level. Her selfless actions speak volumes. In every gesture, she shows that even a small effort can save lives and inspire change.


  • Rebecca Webber of Kinglake West is advocating for inclusivity and breaking down barriers for equestrians with disabilities in Victoria. Rebecca is a rare disease patient who created the first disabled western Classification System in Australia. She serves as a mentor for able and disabled riders, championing equity and accessibility in equestrian sports. Her rare disease advocacy extends to her role as a Rare Voices Australia Ambassador, where she shares her lived experience to raise awareness and support the rare disease community. Rebecca's tireless efforts have changed the narrative around disabled athletes in equestrian sports, focusing on abilities rather than disabilities and opening pathways for future generations.