Community Achievement Awards for Regional Victoria

2021 Finalists

Regional Development Victoria Business Achievement Award:
SRS Inc of Mildura is passionate about creating opportunities for the elderly and people with disabilities. Sunraysia Residential Services (SRS) was formed in 1976 by community focused volunteers to address the accommodation barriers for people with disabilities (PWDs). In 2014, SRS turned a farm concept into reality when they developed a neglected parcel of land into an accessible and safe farm to provide meaningful activities and training for the elderly and PWDs. The Benetook Farm now has 3,000 free-range hens, a small vineyard, a veggie garden and more. Run by 40 staff, the Farm has since developed into vibrant social enterprise and a tourism location. 

Daylesford Cider Company is committed to innovation. Daylesford Cider is a small-scale cider producer owned by Jon and Clare Mackie who purchased the business in 2015. Jon is self-taught and has refined their cider styles whilst also developing new innovative styles to distinguish their brand. Clare runs the on-site cellar door, aiming to establish the business within the local and regional tourism. They also hold events and live music, functions and weddings, and offer Cider Makers Tours during the summer. They employ 12 staff from the local area. 

Phillip Island Helicopters is committed to tourism excellence. Phillip Island Helicopters began its scenic flights and helicopter experience operations in 2005 for an opportunity to showcase Phillip Island from a different perspective. During their pre-Covid peak, they delivered over 45,000 flights per year with 100% safety record. After being hit hard by the pandemic, the company successfully minimised their outgoings to reduce overheads and ensure to still have a viable business. They also work with other tourism partners to deliver the best experience to visitors. They have won many awards and were a finalist in the 2018 Victorian Tourism Awards, tour and transport category. 

The Trawool Estate is striving to become a regional icon once again. Trawool Estate opened in 2019 but only managed to operate for eight months and had been shut down five times due to the Covid lockdowns. Despite the challenges, they remain dedicated to bringing elevated experiences through food, beverage and accommodation. They offer luxury hotel rooms and a showpiece restaurant that offers uninterrupted vistas of the Trawool Valley. In July 2021, they launched Turbine, an Asian restaurant and bar. Trawool Estate works in partnership with local industries and companies and their staff members have grown from 18 to 50 in the last twelve months. 


Regional Development Victoria Leadership & Innovation Award:
Strathbogie Local of Euroa is innovative and inspired. Strathbogie Local is a volunteer start-up created to support local food producers and consumers in response to Farmers’ Market closure throughout Covid lockdowns. Utilising the Open Food Network online platform, they offer a ‘click and collect’ food hub that allows the customers to collect their weekly orders without leaving their vehicle. Strathbogie Local has taken on the marketing, purchasing, sorting and distribution, allowing local growers to focus on producing fresh quality products. They have given local growers and producers security while introducing a wealth of choice to the community and generating new enthusiasm for healthy living. 

Dr Dan Wilson is a Rural Generalist and GP Obstetrician in training working in Grampians region, Victoria. Dr Wilson is a Non-Executive Director of Rural Doctors of Victoria (RDAV), and Inaugural Chair of the Australian Medical Association GPs in Training Advisory Committee (GTAC). Dr Wilson’s medical interests include Women’s health, sexual and LGBTQIA+ health, education, leadership and safety in healthcare. Dr Wilson is a passionate advocate for enhancing quality outcomes for regional and rural Australians.

Rosita Vincent of Quarry Hill advocates for disadvantaged regional communities. Rosita is a Mexican Australian woman of colour who initiated and led the transformation of a disused church property to a thriving neighbourhood hub that partners with over thirty grassroots organisations and associations. She established the Neighbourhood Collective Australia, sharing this model of how to support thriving resident-led communities with other community groups and services. Rosita initiated the formation of the Bendigo Regional Food Alliance and was a founding committee member of Bendigo Community Farmers Market. As part of the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, she helps develop the first regional strategy across regional Victoria. 

City of Greater Bendigo is committed to its rich history of multiculturalism. After racist protests in 2015, the City of Greater Bendigo responded by implementing innovative initiatives and policies to increase social cohesion and harmony. Their Community Harmony Project aimed at reducing racism and discrimination towards Muslim residents. Their Reconciliation Action Plan recognised and responded to the needs of Greater Bendigo’s two First Nations groups. Other initiatives include the Greater Bendigo Intercultural Ambassador program, Building Culturally Inclusive Sporting Clubs program and The Karen Connections. In November 2020, Bendigo became the first local government area to be formally accredited under Australia’s Welcoming Cities Standard. 


Prime Super Employer Excellence in Aged Care Award:
Nagambie HealthCare Team believes its employees are its most valued assets. Established in 1929, Nagambie HealthCare is a community-owned and operated not-for-profit that provides quality and accessible aged, hospital and community health care. They employ 91 staff and are supported by over 30 volunteers. Nagambie HealthCare nurtures a positive workplace culture. They offer flexible working arrangements and staff rotation across all service areas and support self-funded paid traineeships. Nagambie HealthCare provides funded leaves, emergency accommodation and direct referral to individual psychological support services. During Covid lockdowns and home schooling challenges, senior management worked additional shifts so staff could manage respite arrangements for family members. 

Chaffey Aged Care of Merbein boasts an inclusive and fun-loving community culture. Chaffey Aged Care is a 100-bed community-owned residential aged care facility and sole aged care provider established in 2007. They provide permanent residential care, respite and Transition Care Program services for their rural community. Chaffey Aged Care have 130 dedicated staff and 30 volunteers. Staff enjoy flexible working conditions and above award pay rates. They provide professional development opportunities and scholarship programs to undertake Certificate IV in Leadership and Management. They provide paid domestic violence leave and referral to external support services. Managers take a personal interest in supporting their staff’s wellbeing. 

Koorooman House of Leongatha is committed to protecting the wellbeing of its greatest asset – its staff. Koorooman House is a 36-bed public sector residential aged facility that provides short-term respite and permanent care. They have over 50 local registered and endorsed enrolled nurses, with additional staff providing hotel and allied health services. They encourage staff to take on portfolio roles and provide ongoing training that leads to career enhancement and increased pay and allowances. Staff training and development is supported by Gippsland Southern Health Services. Koorooman House offers flexible work arrangements and leave entitlements and promotes open communication through forums, meetings, surveys and connecting conversations. 

Sale Gardens Care Community works hard to improve the wellbeing of their team. Sale Gardens Care Community is a residential facility offering aged care, allied health, permanent, respite, dementia and palliative care. They have 95 team members who enjoy a flexible working environment. They encourage training and development and offer scholarships to develop professionally. Some of their team members have participated in the Opal HealthCare Emerging Leaders Program. They give opportunities to work in Care Communities around Australia. They have recently partnered with a local disability support provider and have employed a team member with a disability. They have a solid work health safety record. 


Ricoh Australia Customer Service Award:
Bunyip Hotel Cavendish is a small country pub that has physically existed for 200 years. They have changed the look and feel of the pub to attract people from all over Victoria and Australia to enjoy the restaurant and explore the region. They take great pride in serving the five local men who have been drinking Friday beers for 50 years. They require no drink on arrival and provide complimentary snacks weekly. They hire local kids for the kitchen, use local ingredients and support local businesses. Owners pass on their knowledge of customer service through hands-on training of bar managers and small group sessions. 

Wombat Forest Vineyard of Denver believes in the importance of first impressions to enhance customer experience. Wombat Forest Vineyard is a family-owned and operated business that offers eco-friendly cool climate wines and a wedding venue. They aim for their customers to receive service that is flexible to their needs. They develop a genuine relationship with their casual and repeat customers to make them feel welcome and relaxed. They empower their staff and hold onsite and ongoing employee training to ensure consistent and reliable experience for their guests. Staff listen to customers and take the time to answer questions. They attend tourism seminars and workshops to explore current trends. 

Rebecca Lewis of Alfredton is committed to a positive and memorable experience for all customers. Rebecca is the founder, CEO and head of customer relations at Ballarat Car Sales, an independent car dealership that offers premium hand-selected vehicles. Rebecca ensures that every customer feels valued and respected, approaching them with care and integrity. She takes the time to get to know their customer and listens and acts upon their needs and expectations. She strives to provide a product that exceeds their expectations and then backs it up with unprecedented ongoing support. Rebecca has twice won the Unsung Hero Award at the VACC Industry Awards. 

Julie & Stephen Jarvis of Corryong offers personalised and selfless service. Julie & Stephen purchased Corryong Greengrocer in 2000. They supply Corryong and surrounding districts residents and businesses with fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, fresh flowers and more. Stephen does the delivery, but he often goes the extra mile for customers, sometimes even changing light bulbs and smoke alarm batteries. They allow their store to be utilised by local sporting clubs and not-for-profit organisations for fundraising and donations. Following the late December 2019 bushfire, they ran a pay-it-forward campaign where donors can purchase a fruit and veggie box or vouchers and donate them to affected families.


GOTAFE Community Education Award:
Rebecca Absalom of Ballarat North is an engaging educator with a passion for inspiring positive change. Rebecca is a program leader for regional Victoria for High Resolves, an education not-for-profit. In 2016, High Resolves developed Videos for Change, a national competition that challenges young people to create a one-minute video to raise awareness and calls the public to action on issues they are passionate about. In 2019, Videos for Change amplified Australian youth voices by extending the program internationally. Their videos were viewed over 1.69 million times in 56 countries. High Resolves opened its first regional Victorian hub, extending citizenship education to regional and remote areas. 

With Camera in Hand has a passion for making the world a better place through photography. Founded by Michelle Dunn in 2013 in Ballarat, With Camera in Hand (WCIH) offers a suite of in-person and online courses for photography enthusiasts aged 14 through 70+. In 2019, they launched a membership site, allowing photography lovers from any location to take part in the “Photography Challenges with Heart”, share their work on Facebook and learn through monthly tutorials. WCIH’s long term goal was to influence members of the community to consider how images can be used for social change. They maintain an ethos of being 100% independent. 

Zoe Support Australia of Mildura advocates for the education and employment of young mothers. Zoe Support Australia is a not-for-profit, community-based organisation founded with a goal of re-engaging young mothers aged 13 to 25 in education and employment through intensive case management, removing barriers to education like transport and childcare, providing study hubs, and offering a number of pre-accredited educational and social programs. In 2019, they began the ‘Contemporary Cakes and Small Business’ weekly pre-accredited Learn Local course, designed to develop basic baking skills and improve employment outcomes. Zoe Support mothers are largely disadvantaged and vulnerable, all facing the daily stigma of being a teen mother. 

Little Dreamers Australia believes in an equal world for young carers. Little Dreamers Australia launched in 2009 with a mission of improving the quality of life of young carers or those who grow up caring for a family member with a chronic or mental illness. They deliver empowering and proactive support programs co-designed by Young Carers to reduce risk factors and increase life opportunities for young carers. Programs include Dream Experiences; holiday programs; mentoring and tutoring; The Dreamers Hub, an online peer support platform; and the Big Dreamers Personal Development Program. During the Covid pandemic, they received a 218% increase in requests for support. 


Southside Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Community Hero Award: 
Raylene Harradine of North Bendigo is dedicated to supporting resilience and positive change. Raylene is a proud Latje Latje, Wotjabulluck woman who has been the Chief Executive Officer of the Bendigo & District Aboriginal Co-operative for the past six years, where she works with other Aboriginal leaders to improve the lives of Aboriginal children. Raylene is the Chair of The Victorian Aboriginal Children & Young People’s Alliance and was the second CEO of an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, where she was appointed principal officer for guardianship of Aboriginal children. She and her team work with children and their families to ensure the best possible outcomes. 

Saskia Adams of Gladysdale is passionate about animal welfare. Saskia founded Forever Friends Animal Rescue (FFAR) in 2011. She left her job as Senior Editor at Penguin Books after realising that the number of homeless animals in need far exceeded her expectations. With the help of over 1,000 volunteers, FFAR has rescued, rehabilitated and rehomed approximately 10,000 animals on death row. Saskia previously worked for Friends of the Earth and Victorian Dog Rescue. She co-founded Companion Animal Reform Australia and was a founding member of Oscar’s Law and Pound Reform Alliance Australia. In 2019, Saskia was nominated for a Pride of Australia medal. 

Harry Schlegel of Nyah West has touched and enriched the lives of those who are vulnerable. Harry is a retired teacher who has tirelessly contributed to the Nyah West and surrounding communities despite suffering from depression. He attends meetings with the local council and has helped organised and coordinate events such as the Christmas Lights Competition, ANZAC Commemorative Dawn Service and Girl Guides Discos. Harry is the President of the Nyah District Action Group. He is a member of the Meals on Wheels and Golden City Support Services (Bendigo). He volunteers with The Grain Shed on Christmas Day, serving meals to the less privileged and homeless. 

Barbara Speldewinde of Grovedale is making sure families don’t have to face cancer alone. Barb has been volunteering for Fight Cancer Foundation (FCF) to show her gratitude for the treatment received by his son-in-law, who was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia, and honour those who lost their fight. She has helped set up and run FCF’s Geelong Bone Marrow Branch as its Secretary and then as President. She managed FCF’s Recycle Shop for 16 years. Barb has visited schools, clubs and businesses within Geelong region to promote Footy Colours Day, a major fundraising campaign. She received the 2014 Victoria Senior of the Year Award. 


Awards Australia Community Group Award:
Madcow / Bendigo Baptist Community Care is committed to the voiceless. Established in 2010, the Madcow-Bendigo Baptist Community Care is a registered charity that offers assistance to displaced and marginalised people in the community to develop their full potential. Run by 200 volunteers and 63 staff, mostly Karen refugees, the charity established a business model that generates 96% of its funding. This includes a community centre with an op-shop that provides employment and a space for food relief programs and counselling. In 2020, they developed a ‘homeless hub’ concept to provide homeless support. In 2019, they were awarded Rural Australians for Refugees Employer of the Year. 

Crisis Heroes is passionate about mental health. Founded in March 2020, Crisis Heroes uses geospatial technology to provide a free online platform for everyday people to get or give help, no matter their circumstances and location. More than 6,000 individuals have volunteered or sought help thus far. Many have used the platform to combat isolation by requesting a friendly call or chat. Crisis Heroes has onboarded over 100 individuals trained in suicide prevention to identify and help those struggling with suicidal thoughts due to lockdown pressures or other reasons. The development of the platform has been seed-funded and has benefited from partnerships. 

Acres and Acres Co-op Pty Ltd of Corryong is building community resilience. Acres and Acres has a mission of creating a network of Market Gardens across Upper Murray and North East Victoria to build resilience. They use soil generation practices and innovation to make their land financially viable and sustainable for local communities to grow their food. After a devastating bushfire that swept through their town and during the Covid pandemic, they raised over $700,000 to upscale their project. They launched a community tool library, hosted workshops, started building a farmer/food hub/cleaning station and opened test gardens. They plan to create a blueprint model to share with other communities. 

BlazeAid of Kilmore East values the strength of community. BlazeAid was established in 2009 when founders Kevin and Rhonda Butler requested assistance from the community after the Black Saturday bushfires ravaged three kilometres of fencing. With 25 volunteers coming to help, what would have taken months to repair took only a week. Paying the favour forward, BlazeAid has since responded to natural disasters ever since. During the 2019/2020 mega fires, BlazeAid set up 45 camps around the country to help rebuild. Over the last twelve months, they successfully trialled a project where they taught and supplied farmers with native trees and grasses to regenerate their lands.