Community Achievement Awards for Victoria

2022 Finalists
Regional Development Victoria Business Achievement Award

  • ASTERIA Services, Maryborough is a community-based not-for-profit founded in 1972 to provide tailored disability support services. In 1992, ASTERIA established an Enterprise Centre to provide meaningful work and assist participants in integrating into the community. In 2020-2021, they had an annual turnover of over $15 million. They currently employ 132 full-time staff, have 16 volunteers, and support 190 participants, including 45 supported employees.
  • Flaim Systems Pty Ltd, Warun Ponds was founded in 2014 by Dr James Mullins at Deakin University and commercialised in 2019. FLAIM developed the world’s first multi-sensory immersive learning solution for firefighters to safely and cost effectively replicate the stress and uncertainty of real-world emergency situations. Their two solutions, FLAIM Trainer and FLAIM Extinguisher, are delivered in 28 languages in over 35 countries. FLAIM employs 29 employees.
  • Home Instead Geelong was established by Giovanni and Giselle Siano in June 2018. They are a specialist provider of high-quality, relationship-based in-home care for aging adults and people living with progressive health conditions. Home Instead currently employs over 330 caregivers and 43 office staff. From June 2021 to June 2022, they delivered 192,000 hours of care to over 800 clients in their homes.
  • Wattle Tree Country Retreat, Amherst was opened by Chelsea Thompson in April 2021. They offer respite and short-term accommodation for people with disabilities, psychosocial disabilities and acquired brain injuries aged 18 to 65, including customisable and individualised country-based respite options. They employ 10 staff members and have recently onboarded two additional staff with disabilities. In their first year, Wattle Tree had a turnover of almost $500,000.

Regional Development Victoria Leadership & Innovation Award:

  • Giovanni Siano, Geelong West founded Home Instead Geelong in 2018. Giovanni initiated a Collaborative Research project to co-design Artificial Intelligence robot-enabled services and integrate them within the service provision of Home Instead. The aim is to address senior care needs, improve their quality of life and assist staff in care delivery. He has empowered 370 employees and enhanced the lives of over 1,000 clients.
  • Greg Cole, Warragul helped bring Eli Innovation back from the brink and redesigned and manufactured a Milk Meter prototype at his own cost. Eli Innovation is the only Australian manufacturer of Automatic Cup Removers and Milk Meters. Greg also runs Lely Centre Gippsland, where he saw the potential for milking robots to future-proof local farms. He is a member of the Gippsland Community Leadership Program.
  • Tania Chapman, Red Cliffs is the chair of Citrus Australia. In 2013, she led a study tour of 33 growers and industry participants to match Aussie growers/exporters with Chinese buyers/importers. From virtually zero, Australian Citrus exports have gone to over 72,000 tonnes to mainland China. Tania is a Nuffield Scholarship Recipient. She has been appointed to the Expert Advisory Panel on Leadership with Horticulture Innovation.
  • Lindsay Callaway, Maldon is the owner and Managing Director of Warral Maldon, a family-owned apiary that opened in 1986. One of Lindsay’s most significant innovations is developing a new way to transport hives. He uses a custom set-up with mesh curtains and pallets in the trucks, allowing the bees to breathe during long trips. He has taken on the role of Victorian Apiarists Association representative to the Australian Honeybee Industry Council.

Ricoh Australia Customer Service Award:

  • Beachcomber Holiday Units, Lakes Entrance are a newly renovated boutique accommodation. Their commitment to customer service starts even before they meet their guests. They promote Lakes Entrance as a go-to holiday destination by promoting activities, day trips, shops to visit, and cuisines on social media. In November 2021, they partnered with local businesses and made a “Love Lakes Entrance” bag that they gave guests upon check-in.
  • Home Instead Geelong is a specialist provider of relationship-based in-home care for ageing adults and people living with progressive health conditions established in June 2018. Their caregivers provide care 24/7 and empower their clients to choose the care, time and location they want. Home Instead ensures to find a suitably matched caregiver and personally introduce them at the start of the first service.
  • Myrtleford Visitor Information Centre is run by a group of volunteers 7 days a week, 634 days a year. The team comprises of locals passionate about sharing their knowledge with visitors. In 2019, the Centre had over 15,500 walk-in visitors, and the volunteers responded to over 550 enquiries received by phone and email. Volunteers are also trained to process retail sales of local produce.
  • TalkSmart Training, Echuca is a mobile training company that delivers first aid courses to organisations, community groups, volunteers, and government agencies. Its founder, Dawn Ferrier, uses tools to analyse success, such as financials, participant feedback and reviews. Talksmart commits to exceptional customer service by offering flexibility to reschedule sessions for participants who contracted the Covid-19 virus. They have so far trained 1,472 participants.

Southside Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Community Hero Award:

  • Bradley Woods, Alfredton has been volunteering with the Country Fire Authority (CFA) for ten years. As the Wendouree Fire Brigade’s current 1st lieutenant, he is responsible for recruiting new and aspiring members of the CFA and facilitating their training. Brad is an active operational firefighter and has attended over 1000 incidents. He received the City of Ballarat’s Young Citizen of the Year Award 2022.
  • Daniel Cook, Ballarat created a Ballarat COVID Information page, allowing easy, local and timely information to be accessible 24/7 to the wider residents of Ballarat. He single-handedly managed the page, which had over 14,000 members at its peak and continues to grow. Dan worked in consultation with Ballarat Health Services Media Department and the Grampians Public Health unit. He volunteered 18 hours daily.
  • Gabriel Gervasoni, Ballarat advocates for young people with disability. Gabriel is a legally blind young person who is actively involved in the Ballarat Youth Council, Ballarat Youth Ambassador Program and Central Highlands Youth Advisory Board. He is a PTech ambassador who encourages young people to become involved in STEM. He is currently involved in a sustainability project aiming to educate young people about recycling.
  • Jessica Herdman, Bendigo has been a volunteer foster care with Anglicare Victoria for eight years. Jessica is a Home Hub Provider under the Mockingbird Family Constellation implemented by Anglicare and Life Without Barriers. She has supported over 35 children and young people as a carer. Jessica makes herself available 24/7 to support children under her care. She also conducts carer debriefing and support.

Nectre Regional Service Award:

  • The Bush Bus, Mitchell Shire is a mobile nature playgroup and family program developed by Georgina Dymock from Kidding Around Australia Pty Ltd. The program has a unique ability to fill a resource gap in areas where various issues and challenges, such as social and financial disadvantages, are faced by families. The Bush Bus is offered free of charge. It has so far benefited over 21,000 families.
  • Movement Zone Studio, Castlemaine is a rural dance studio formed by Sarah Cook in 1999. Their core mission is to create a safe, supportive space for people of all ages and abilities to grow, learn and shine through. They set up youth initiatives such as ‘XtremeInc Youth’ projects, a not-for-profit, and ‘2 The Xtreme’ Festival. Their Groove Therapy encourages seniors to interact with their community.
  • Quantum Support Services, Morwell is a not-for-profit support centre that has been operating since 1987. They provide community support and care services for vulnerable clients, including homelessness support, family violence crisis response, and out-of-home care. In FYE 2021, Quantum supported over 10,350 clients, including 520 young people in children and family services programs. They provide 100% leaving care services to non-Aboriginal people in the Gippsland region.
  • Youthrive Victoria, Creswick is a charity that operates with a purpose of strengthening rural communities and supporting young people to be leaders. Established in 2008, Youthrive offers vocational and university scholarships, transition and career mentoring, and leadership development Dream Seeds workshops. In 2021, it launched the Rural Youth Network. It has provided over $2 million in scholarships for 131 young rural Victorians to date.

Awards Australia Community Group Award:

  • Ballarat African Association Inc is a non-profit organisation formed in 2006. They went through a series of ten holistic workshops under the Re-branding African Australian Identity Project. As a result, they obtained over 40 sustainable employment for their members. They have also helped reduce rental and lease biases and incidences of racial discrimination in schools. The Association represents over 22 African Countries in the community.
  • Bendigo FoodShare is a food relief agency aiming to reduce food poverty in Central Victoria. They have three paid staff and 200 volunteers who collect food that would otherwise go to waste, sort and repack them for delivery to over 260 partner organisations. Nearly 13,000 vulnerable people get food weekly through their food relief programs in schools, kindergartens and child care centres.
  • Morwell Neighbourhood House provides food security services to people experiencing poverty, disadvantage or distress in Morwell. They offer long-shelf-life food, fresh fruit and veggies and house-made meals from their FoodBank freezer. Their programs aim to reduce social isolation and enhance wellbeing. They have engaged a social enterprise called “A Kinder Cup” café to ensure staff and volunteers can continue to support local communities.
  • Speed Lions Club consists of 24 volunteer members who are committed to raising much-needed funds for the community. Their signature event, The Mallee Machinery Field Days, is the largest agricultural and agribusiness trade show run by farmers for farmers. Now on its 42nd anniversary, the two-day event attracts more than 350 exhibitors across Australia. It has provided numerous fundraising opportunities for the local community.





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.



2020 Finalists

Regional Development Victoria Business Achievement Award:
Bendigo FoodShare of Long Gully rescues, grows, cooks and shares food in Central Victoria. It is a community-owned, volunteer-based association that services 50 agencies and 40 schools and over 12,800 people weekly. They rescue food from supermarkets and businesses and distribute food through schools and community organisations for breakfast, lunch, emergency relief and community meals. They reduce food poverty by providing relief and helping vulnerable people to learn food skills. In 2019-2020, they crowd-funded 10 businesses for their “Cafés for COVID” project, helped 20 schools and business for “Grow a Row, Pick a Branch” project, and supported the development of six Community Cooking Clubs.

Coolabah Turf of Echuca West is passionate about enhancing the lifestyle benefits of customers and community. Founded in 1999, Coolabah Turf’s primary purpose is to provide sustainable and affordable instant lawn landscape solutions. It currently offers state-wide service to supply products through the direct retail market and distribution network. Coolabah Turf specialises in the exclusive supply of drought-tolerant turfgrass varieties. All their home-grown turfgrass are harvested from Echuca farms and delivered onboard their refrigerated semitrailers. Owners Brad and Suzie Shearer have handpicked 37 passionate local staff. In 2019, they were a Finalist in the Regional Development Victoria Leadership and Innovation Award.

Scott Wilkinson of Cobden is the founder, designer and director of Alderwood Speakers, a company that produces a range of speakers and subwoofers suitable for home theatres, live music venues and the marine industry. Innovative thinking led Scott to pioneer an audio design to solve industry issues whilst producing products that mindfully consider environmental impacts and promote Australian manufacturing. A remarkable craftsman, he strictly manages the production of each product over a 30-day process to ensure they reproduce instruments and human voice in a more authentic way. Alderwood has two direct staff and eight distributors in Victoria and two distributors in NSW and New Zealand.

Jackal Fencing of Long Gully is a steel and aluminium fencing manufacturer that promotes quality Australian-made products and contributes to the future of the Australian manufacturing industry. Founded in 2004, they sell 70% of their products into the Greater Metropolitan Areas of Australia through resellers and distributors. Jackal Fencing employs skilled tradesmen and creates practical and innovative fencing solutions. Their 23 local staff enjoy free on-site flu shots and team building activities and staff are encouraged to volunteer in the community. In 2018 and 2019, Jackal Fencing won the Bendigo Business Excellence Awards, Excellence in Manufacturing and Excellence in Manufacturing and Innovation categories.


Regional Development Victoria Leadership & Innovation Award:
Scott Wilkinson of Cobden is an innovative developer. He is the founder and director of Alderwood Speakers, a company that is solving industry issues such as OH&S problems with weight and size of modern commercial speaker design. His latest innovation, the Eros PRO, is the most powerful speaker for its size, in the world. Being mindful of waste, he designs and manufactures products to last a minimum of 15 years. Scott has positioned Alderwood in a 113-year-old Picture Theatre and is slowly restoring the old community building, inviting community members to drop by the space and retell stories of attending dances, balls and pictures.

Stephanie Thoo of Drouin is at the forefront of Gippsland’s innovation and entrepreneurship agenda. Since moving to Gippsland in 2019, Stephanie has worked collaboratively with local, state and federal government, local community and business groups and the private sector to drive long-needed change. She helped establish $2.2million worth of entrepreneurship programs through Startup Gippsland, targeting scalable businesses, and Work My Own Way, targeting self-the employed and small businesses. The funding supports aspiring entrepreneurs through workshops, meetups and business coaching at no cost. Stephanie created the programs from scratch. Her programs have since supported 700 entrepreneurs, creating jobs and diversifying Gippsland’s traditional industries.

Stuart Benjamin of Lake Wendouree is affectionately known as the “Mayor of the Grampians” for his commitment to the community of 11 local governments. He established and Chairs the Grampians New Energy Taskforce (GNeT), which reduces roadblocks to the development and implementation of renewable energy projects. As Chairman also of the Grampians Regional Development Australian Committee, he led the advocacy for hundreds of millions in investments into the Grampians. He established the Ballarat Regional Tourism Board and is Founding Chair of the Regional Incubator for Social and Economic Research of the Federation University. He is also the Victorian Chair of the RDA Reference Group.

Mat Bowtell of Cowes is an engineer and philanthropist. Using his redundancy pay-out in 2017, he established Free 3D Hands, a charity that provides open-source 3D printed hands and assistive devices for people around the world for free. Mat works full time in designing and making assistive devices and even makes his design publicly available at no cost so assistive devices can be manufactured by anyone with a 3D printer. During the pandemic, Mat worked closely with the infectious control team at Bass Coast Health. He was able to make one face shield every 8 minutes and donated thousands of face shields to local healthcare and essential services.


GOTAFE Community Education Award:
Food & Fibre Careers Day Planning Group of Dookie has been planning and delivering the Food & Fibre Careers Day since 2014. It is Victoria’s largest careers event that showcases careers and pathways into 21st Century agriculture. From 100 attendees in 2014, Careers Day has expanded to over 300 students from 21 schools in 2019. Students from nine local government areas attend the no cost event, with the bus travel, catering and presentation costs all provided by the organising committee. In 2019, there were 22 interactive workshops, and an Agribusiness Careers Panel was included in the program. During the pandemic, they held a Virtual Work Experience event that was attended by 578 students.

Food Is Free Inc. of Ballarat Central is a grass-roots, community-led, not-for-profit that focuses on those experiencing disadvantage. Run by fifty volunteers, Food is Free has a core purpose of assisting food security, community cohesion and inclusion, and self-sufficiency education through their two sites, Food is Free Laneway, and Food is Free Green Space. They deliver vital education through workshops on how to grow your own food, plus initiatives such as free seeds and seedlings for people to start their own garden for empowerment and self-sufficiency. They have a purpose-built outdoor classroom with 30 garden beds aimed at risk and marginalised persons, putting community to the fore.

Rebecca Absalom of Ballarat North is the Program Director Regional Victoria, for High Resolves, an educational not-for-profit that aims to develop a generation of young people with the skills and intent to think, feel and act in the collective interest of humanity. In 2016, they launched Videos for Change, a national competition that challenges young people to create a one-minute video that raises awareness and calls the public to act on an issue they are passionate about. In 2019, the videos created reached 1.69 million views in 56 countries. Rebecca supports teachers and students through professional development, classroom resources and student-led project-based online learning program.

Ganbina of Shepparton is an Aboriginal-led, not-for-profit organisation established in 1997. They supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged 6 to 25 years to develop their full individual potential through meaningful engagement in education, training and employment. In 2005, Ganbina created the JOBS4U2 program portfolio, which centres on case management, mentoring and skills-building to enable a successful transition from school to long-term employment. Other programs include Primary School Scholarships, General Education, Accelerated Learning, Driver Training, Youth Leadership, Vocational Training, Tertiary Education and Employment. Ganbina, meaning ‘to rise up’, supports participants to develop a true sense of self and connection to their cultural heritage.


Prime Super Agricultural Innovation Award:
Jason Shields of Ardmona is a key contributor in the development of new Orchard Software “Tie up Farming”, which gives growers the information they need to make informed business decisions from spray diary to cost-capturing. Jason has also introduced a state-of-the-art elevated working platform that has revolutionised orchard jobs such as thinning, pruning and harvesting. He introduced Integrated Pest Management into Plunkett orchards, a critical element for the survival of the apple and pear industry. In the 2019 Autumn Future Orchards® walks, Jason shared the benefits and opportunities of using no bags, trailers, tractors or ladders in improving efficiency, worker safety and fruit quality.

Jock Lawrence of Avenel is co-founder and CEO of Mobble, a livestock farm management software. The software is helping Australian farms become more profitable, productive and environmentally sustainable by enabling them to make better decisions. Mobble improves the way farmers record, utilise and communicate data. It has helped improve farming practices for hundreds of farming businesses, with a potential of improving thousands more around the world. Innovation is founded on farmer feedback. Jock personally spent time asking farmers questions on their biggest pain points in farm management. Mobble is now part of the Melbourne Accelerator Program of the University of Melbourne.

The Original Lamb Bacon Company Pty Ltd of Nulla Vale provides a real alternative to pork bacon for consumers who don’t eat pork for health, ethical or religious reasons. Toni Barton utilised a low-cost value waste cut from the lamb carcass and added high value, leading to the development of additional smallgoods products. Toni participated in an entrepreneur’s accelerator program to understand its potential for a global market. Toni requested funding from Meat and Livestock Australia and the Victorian Government to set up a facility and attend trade shows in the Middle East. Lamb Bacon won at the 2018 Australian Food Awards and 2019 Weekly Times and Harvey Norman Shine Awards.

Soilkee of Hallora developed Soilkee Renovator, a revolutionary Australian technology that reverses soil depletion, sequesters soil carbon, enhances soil fertility and increases productivity. It was tested under a one-year trial across three farms under a Commercialisation Australia ‘Proof of Concept Grant’. The Soilkee Renovator increases dry matter yields by 25% to 100% and crude protein from 13% to 45%, effectively reducing bought-in feed costs. They developed the Soilkee System, which enables water infiltration and retention and nutrient availability through rapid topsoil building, offering a regenerative approach for resilient, profitable and productive Australian agriculture. Soilkee has earned Australian Carbon Credits Units from the Clean Energy Regulator.


Ricoh Australia Customer Service Award:
Gemma Ferguson of Barjarg values open and honest communication. Gemma is the Director of Ferguson’s Travel, a boutique travel agency, born from love of travel and immense passion for turning people’s travel dream into reality. She worked as travel agent in Melbourne for eleven years before moving to Mansfield and opening her travel agency. Gemma builds a relationship with the customer throughout the consultation process. She gets an understanding of their background and travel desires to meet their brief. She contacts her clients before they depart to wish them well, and when they return from holiday to receive feedback. She won three Customer Service Awards in 2019.

Gordana Radicevski of Norlane is passionate about helping others. She is a Client Liaison Worker at Diversitat Aged Support, recognised as the best Aged Support organisation in Australia in 2018. Gordana has 20 years of experience in the Aged Care Sector and holds a Certificate IV in Leadership and Management. Her main duties include supervision of all activities staff, and client support. She knows every single one of their 150 clients, their family members and personal circumstances. Gordana has started local social groups and provides access to multicultural and aged communities for services that will have a positive impact on their wellbeing.

Josh's Rainbow Eggs of Monegeetta produces free-range eggs in the Macedon Ranges, supplying direct to over 70 Coles and Woolworth stores. Josh Murray started the business at age nine, driven by a passion for his hens and his parents’ desire to help him learn valuable life lessons and entrepreneurial skills. Josh’s Rainbow Eggs engages deeply with their customers and visit each store weekly, stock the shelves, replenish displays and monitor their point of sale. On special occasions, they bring their hens to the stores for kids to cuddle and feed while they speak with customers. All staff have undertaken an AIM customer service Certificate IV course.

Alex Lemmon of Delacombe is genuinely enthusiastic about the service he provides. He is the manager and head of customer relations at Ballarat Car Sales, an independent car dealership. Alex has an integral role in the setup and running of the dealership, which uniquely operates and delivers a customer experience that exceeds expectations. As first point of contact, he approaches every customer interaction with care and integrity. He follows a Customer Service Policy that focuses on a human-centred approach to excellence with the goal of keeping customers engaged and gaining repeat business and referrals. Alex has received numerous “Dealer Of The Year” awards during his career.


GOTAFE Community Group Award:
Bendigo Foodshare partners with 90 businesses, services, volunteers and community groups to reduce food poverty. Bendigo Foodshare rescues up to 46,000 kgs per month of food from supermarkets and shares them in Central Victoria. 40 schools use their food for breakfast and lunch programs and cooking classes. The food is also used by 50 organisations who are trying to engage disadvantaged youth, providing emergency food relief and assisting people to budget and get out of debt. During the pandemic, Bendigo Foodshare volunteers rescued, sorted, warehoused and distributed food through 89 schools and community agencies to assist 12,800 people every week.

Find Your Voice Choir of Warrnambool is a “celebration of the human spirit.” The choir comprises 230 individuals from South West Victoria and encompasses all abilities, ages, genders, ethnicities, sexual preferences and backgrounds. Established in 2017, the choir has grown from grassroots into showcase performances at the 2018, 2019 and 2020 Port Fairy Folk Festival, Queenscliff Music Festival, annual appearances at the Warrnambool’s Rotary Concert for Peace and a sold-out concert at Lighthouse Theatre. They also performed in the 2019 season of Australia’s Got Talent, getting 25 million views on YouTube. They received three awards in the 2019 Victorian Disability Awards, including Excellence in Creating Inclusive Communities.

Norlane Healing Hands is committed to improving the quality of life of the disadvantaged. It is a not-for-profit organisation fully operated by volunteers, offering high-quality, low-cost healthcare to socially and financially disadvantaged people. Available to current healthcare cardholders, payment is made by donation. Health services are provided by volunteer professional, accredited or registered healthcare practitioners. Over the last 11 years, the Clinic has provided 10,000 treatments to more than 1,000 people. Treatments include helping address musculoskeletal pain, rehabilitation from surgery and complications from cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other common health conditions. Twenty volunteers are involved in the operation of the Clinic.

A Better Life For Foster Kids of Dutson works to improve physical, educational and psycho-social outcomes for children in foster care and kinship care. Heather Baird, who also grew up in foster care, made her dream of helping other children come true when she founded A Better Life For Foster Kids in 2014. ABLFFK provides Crisis Cases for children entering out-of-home-care in Victoria, containing all the clothing and essential items needed in a child’s first week in care, along with handmade blankets and toys. ABLFFK has two paid employees and four volunteer Crisis Case packers. They source 75% of items needed through in-kind donations from professional agencies, local businesses and community organisations.


Prime Super Employer Excellence in Aged Care Award:
Prestige Inhome Care Geelong specialises in providing dedicated and skilled nurses and carers. Founded in 2005, they assist 641 members of the Greater Geelong community, serve 1,700 clients each month, and employ 130 carers and nurses. Prestige provides comprehensive staff training and development opportunities, including face to face and online learning and encourage internal growth opportunities. They have a comprehensive induction program and set clear expectations from the beginning. They offer work from home opportunities, flexible working conditions, and a 24/7 Employment Assistance Program. Prestige organises an Annual Movie Night, many virtual staff engagement events, and a “Reward and Recognition” program.

Princes Court Homes Inc of Mildura is a not-for-profit that serves 100 residents at the aged care facility and 73 residents in their 55 lifestyle retirement village independent living units. The 130 staff are considered as the backbone of Princes Court. They offer access to external and internal training opportunities and professional development for increased confidence and promotion opportunities. Senior staff attend relevant annual conferences in major capital cities. They provide a supportive work environment, including an open-door policy for immediate debriefing, advice and support from other staff and senior management. Staff enjoy flexible hours and opportunities to work from home and are recognised during Annual General Meetings.

St Catherine's Hostel of Wangaratta is a 69-bed not-for-profit residential care facility. Staff are employed in a variety of roles, including domestic services, cleaners, food services, maintenance, nursing and personal care, allied health professionals and management. Staff work their preferred shifts and are encouraged to take leave when they need it. There is a private lounge for staff who bring their children to work. A Personal Care course operates on-site for those interested. Staff have ongoing education programs specialising in aged care and their Gerontology Nurse Practitioner runs staff education addressing geriatric syndromes. Those who attend education sessions get a chance to win a $500 voucher.

Strzelecki House a Japara Home of Mirboo North is 60-bed aging in place facility that is in the process of extensive renovations, increasing to a 74-bed facility. They employ 64 staff and believe that “Our Staff are Gold.” The facility offers very flexible working hours and has a childcare centre within walking distance. All staff are local and close by towns. They undergo mandatory training on-site and try to offer two sessions a day to ensure they can cover all staff. They offer an Employee Assist Program where staff can call a number and have a discussion about things that worry them in their personal lives or business.


Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning Community Resilience Award:
BlazeAid of Kilmore East is a grassroots organisation that works with communities, families and individuals in rural Australia after natural disasters such as fires and floods. Kevin and Rhonda Butler founded BlazeAid to ‘pay it forward’, after the community helped rebuild their three-kilometre fence that was destroyed in the Black Saturday Bushfires of 2009. Working alongside rural families, volunteers spend between a couple of days to many months helping farmers get back on their feet. Through donations, BlazeAid gives farmers support to purchase fencing materials and hampers with food and goods. They can also access funds to reseed their lands and kickstart the journey to recovery.

City of Ballarat SONIKA - FReeZA Committee is dedicated to providing opportunities for young emerging artists and musicians. In response to the pandemic, SONIKA organised the Fully Sick Festival as an online live streaming event on Facebook. This ensured live gigs were still possible for people to enjoy, and a platform for music, and artist to showcase their skills with peers, and opportunities for young people to earn income. It was also a way for SONIKA crews to continue learning event management skills and think outside of the box. The video content featured bedroom gigs of musicians in isolation and workshops around art and mindfulness made by young people for young people.

Open Food Network of Violet Town is an open source software platform that seeks to build a more resilient, localised food system. Open Food Network connects those who grow food with those who eat it, by providing an open source online marketplace where small to medium sized producers can list and sell their food to customers seeking local, quality produce. During the pandemic, they have supported more than 100 shops, 150 producers, three produce markets and 10 food hubs in regional and metro Victoria to connect with customers. Open Food Network has supported local food enterprises to build and scale rapidly through facilitating shared learning and resources.

Leo op den Brouw of Mallacoota advocates for local solutions to local problems. On New Year’s Eve 2019, a bushfire devastated Mallacoota, and over 100 homes were lost. Leo has been central in ensuring collaborative local solutions are at the heart of the community’s recovery. As State Emergency Services Controller, Leo motivates his team of first responders to go above and beyond. Before, during and after the bushfire, he worked tirelessly to coordinate the community effort and responses. As part of the Emergency Management Team after the bushfire, he coordinated meetings with police, fire, national parks, ambulance and the defence force, and made sure local needs were prioritised.


Awards Australia Community Hero Award:
Jules Haddock of Torquay has worked in the community sector for 30 years and is a Principle Master Mental Health Instructor. In 2015, she established The Anxious Bird, after supporting her son with Autism through his school years. She provides specific education to teachers and parents in supporting children. In 2019, she supported a young illustrator with intellectual disability and Schizophrenia to create her first children’s book, Chirpee The Anxious Bird. With a concept of running a festival for National Mental Health Week, she formed Art of the Minds, a non-profit voluntary charity that umbrella 29 events in the Surf Coast Shire.

Keeley Johnson of Ballan created Keeley’s Cause in June 2017 after her own personal journey with the inability to learn from the current curriculum model and requiring the use of technology to learn, which was unavailable to many with disabilities. Keeley’s Cause provides iPads to children of low income families, those with Autism or intellectual disabilities. This assists those in full-time learning at school to more effectively communicate and interact with others. They also create events to ensure socialisation amongst children and families who have none. Keeley has raised over $70,000 and this year Keeley was one of only two Australian recipients of The Diana Award in the UK.

Kelly Vandenberg of Budgeree founded Gippsland Horse and Stock Safe Bushfire Assistance, a grassroots organisation of local people helping local people. With a network of local horse people, farmers, hay runners, truck owners, drivers and local businesses, the organisation gives the community a helping hand at times of need during bushfire emergencies. Kelly built the movement with zero funding and started an online marketing campaign and built capacity through media exposure. During the recent bushfires, they raised $70,000 in cash donations; $45,000 of horse, calf, alpaca, sheep and dog food; $8,000 of animal health supplies, and much more. They also received backing from Racing Victoria and RSPCA

John Anderson of Shepparton works with heart and soul. He is a member of the Rotary Club and the President of the Shepparton Chamber of Commerce and Industry. John worked on the parking reference sub-committee to bring about $8.5m funding to the Shepparton Central Business District, slated to commence in 2021. He also works with Council on various initiatives. His ability to consult and negotiate without offending or upsetting the business community and Council executives helps John and the general community achieve the desired outcome. He is a kind, respectful and humble leader who is well-loved in the community.


2019 Finalists

Regional Development Victoria Business Achievement Award:
Braille Sign Supplies of Torquay produces Braille tactile signs that comply with Australian Standards. It began when co-founder Travis Ashford, who was then running a signage business, noticed that the Braille signs available were either non-compliant with Australian Standards or too expensive. Recognising a gap in the market, Travis researched before beginning the labour-intensive process of making compliant Braille signs through trial and error, while his wife and co-founder, Leza, took charge of marketing and packing. Today, the company has its own Braille system called BrailleForm, a large factory and eight employees. They are also a Finalist in the 2019 Geelong Business Excellence Awards.

Little Bumble of Warragul is committed to reducing plastic and food wastage in Australia. Founder Laura Eddington, a science teacher and proud Gippslandian, put her science skills to use and developed an all-natural formula that produces anti-bacterial, reusable, Australian beeswax food wraps that keep food fresher for longer. The company has sold over $300,000 in wraps since it opened in 2017. Little Bumble has nine employees, some of whom are from disability employment services and they have started to venture in automation and exportation. Laura and team also teach at schools, libraries and communities on how to make budget friendly reusable wraps.

Sea Lake Hotel Co-Operative Ltd of Sea Lake is a business built by the local community, for the local community. It started when a group of about 20 locals and expats fought to bring back to life the last operating pub in Sea Lake, by purchasing the Sea Lake Hotel at an auction. After a call for investors was made, over 80 people showed up to join the community either to invest or clean up the old hotel. The Royal Hotel re-opened in June 2019, thanks to the dedication, encouragement and inspiration shown by the local community. Today, all of its 16 employees are locals.

TwistED Science of Echuca seeks to entertain and inspire with science. Kathy Stubberfield and her co-founders started TwistED Science as a way to share hands-on science with regional schools and groups and workshops are carefully designed to give students maximum hands-on time. Today, TwistED Science runs a science centre in Echuca, serving schools, tourists and local families. It also offers workshops and curriculum-based hands-on sessions at schools, libraries, homes and event grounds. A driving force in the Echuca tourism industry, TwistED Science has over 20 employees and regularly offers charities, free or discounted science sessions. They won silver in the 2016 Regional Tourism Awards.


Regional Development Victoria Leadership & Innovation Award:
Art of The Minds of Torquay runs month-long events that centre on spreading awareness of mental health issues. The organisation uses all possible events to share lived experience of recovery from mental illness and encourage support through talks, theatre, song, visual arts, yoga, sound, sports events, and education. Arts of The Minds continues to innovate programmes, thanks to its successful funding applications, which allows them to hire an event manager to help better design and run inviting and interesting events for the community and the general public. The events also provide a venue for brilliant regional groups and individuals of Surf Coast to showcase their talents….

Arun Thomas, 29 of Horsham is an inspiring leader in the health sector. A Registered Nurse, he became one of the youngest public hospital directors in Victoria when he was appointed in 2017 at Stawell Regional Health, where he provided strategic direction and clinical governance expertise. Arun was a former President of UniSA Student Association where his role greatly benefited the Aboriginal student community after identifying the need for further inclusion and representation. In 2018, he established a scholarship with a goal of unlocking leadership potential among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander UniSA students. Arun received the 2018 Victorian state-wide Celebrating Aged Care Leadership Award.

EnviroMicroBio of Yinnar is an innovative business that offers science-backed analytical services on matters of sustainability. Serving industries in the Latrobe Valley, the start-up company founded by Emily Scholes, now has an analytical laboratory at the Yallourn campus which engages students and graduates of Federation University and opens opportunities for science graduates. EnviroMicroBio received funding from Latrobe Valley Authorities which helped in setting up infrastructure to enable evaluation of organic wastes for suitability for anaerobic digestion. Apart from offering advice and expertise on sustainability, they also offer access to accurate and reliable technologies like DNA sequencing and 2nd Generation ATP testing.

Tanisha Lovett of Horsham is a dedicated mentor to Indigenous youth. An outstanding speaker, she actively mentors in Indigenous youth camps such as Hands Together; Buldau Yiooghen, Big Dreams Leadership Camp, and Indigicate Camp. Tanisha is a project facilitator for the Kookas after-school club, which focuses on teaching Indigenous kids about Aboriginal culture. She is part of Celebrating Sistas, an Indigenous women’s group that offers a safe space, and the Art Program and After School Art program. Tanisha helped organise an exhibition during the 2019 NAIDOC week. She has finished her traineeship in Goolum and is currently in charge of delivering the Nyupun program.


Prime Super Employer Excellence in Aged Care Award:
Cooinda of Benalla is committed to providing person-centred care to older people and their families whilst helping create jobs for the local community. It is a fully accredited, not for profit 82-bed aged care facility established in 1969 by community members. Cooinda is a major employer and economic contributor to Benalla, employing 115 local community members and purchasing locally-sourced goods. It offers flexible working conditions and encourages personal development among staff. In a 2019 survey, 96% of its staff were proud to work at Cooinda. Among its community initiatives is a partnership with a local registered training organisation to deliver on-the-job training.

Jacaranda Village of Red Cliffs seeks to provide a life worth living to both its residents and staff. The not-for-profit organisation Red Cliffs & Community Aged Care Services Inc. owns and operates the 75-bed Jacaranda Village. The Village employs 137 staff members, the majority of whom are registered nurses, enrolled nurses and personal care workers. They offer competitive salaries, benefits and perks to attract and retain the best employees. The organisation has terminated external contracts and hired internal staff to increase team and improve skills on dietetics, speech pathology and physiotherapy. In 2018, Jacaranda Village paid over $54,000 in training and professional development for its staff.

Multicultural Aged Care Services of Geelong is dedicated to providing excellence in diverse aged care and quality employment. A not for profit organisation, MACS has 160 residential beds, 146 community aged care packages and provides care to over 240 people in their homes. Since 1994, MACS has endeavoured to provide an innovative and culturally appropriate residential aged care facility for Geelong’s migrant community. Today, their residents and consumers represent 66 nationalities. They have 210 staff and more than 65 volunteers from the Geelong community. The staff enjoy flexible working conditions, technology assistance, and an on-site training competency program. MACS also developed a Staff Engagement Strategy.

St. Catherine’s Hostel of Wangaratta believes that aged care is about savouring the precious time in one’s life. It is a not-for-profit residential care facility that holds a 3-year accreditation with the Aged Care Quality Agency and has 67 beds for residents and two beds dedicated for respite. St. Catherine recognises the importance of stability and security among its staff, allowing them to work their preferred shifts. Employees are also encouraged to take leave when they need it and they are allowed to bring kids to work. They offer a Personal Care course and an education program conducted by nurse practitioners for interested staff.


Parks Victoria Environmental Sustainability Award:
BeachPatrol 3280-3284 of Warrnambool advocates for clean beach and oceans. It began when founder Colleen Hughson started a Facebook group called “Pick Up Sticks” after finding numerous cotton bud sticks whilst walking on the beach. Another Facebook group was created to collect white plastic pellets called nurdles. The two online communities then evolved into a volunteer group that commits to at least one beach clean-up per month. Since 2017, BeachPatrol has done 175 clean-up drives, collected over 1,000kg of debris and recorded 1575 volunteer hours. For its work, the organisation was given a letter or recognition from the CEO of the Environment Protection Authority.

Four Wheel Drive Victoria of Mitcham adopts the mantra of “driving in a sustainable environment.” FWDV is an incorporated association formed in 1975 by four wheel drive clubs in Victoria with the interest of protecting the land and communities through which they travelled. In the last four years, they have conducted five major “Clean up the Bush” projects and removed 400 cubic metres of rubbish from forests. Other initiatives include track clearing, Camp Host, hut restoration, and educating the public about “driving in a sustainable environment” at four wheel drive shows. In 2018, they recorded over 15,000 volunteer hours or $500,000 worth of in-kind hours.

Friends of Toolern Creek of Melton West has 30 core members and 200 volunteers who work endlessly to restore the historic Toolern Creek. One of their biggest initiatives is the 12-month Darlingsford Bend project which focused on revegetation and plantation of over 10,000 indigenous trees, shrubs and grasses and removing of noxious weeds and dumped rubbish. FOTC has received many grants from Melbourne Water to help with planting along the creek to improve water quality and reduce pollution. Another project is the Platypus Festival. To encourage more volunteers, the organisation has partnered with Corrections Victoria, Melton Primary School, Melton Scouts and many other local businesses.

Wandoon Estate Aboriginal Corporation of Healesville is committed to the rejuvenation of the Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve. Recognising the aboriginal belief that land and people are indivisible, the organisation hopes to integrate traditional indigenous cultural and land management practices. Their projects focus on restoring health of the land and waterways, creating 13 paddocks and installing water troughs, managing weeds, planting trees and extending habitat for endangered species through partnerships with individuals, friends and volunteers. Their ultimate goal is to nurture the land and strengthen the future. Some organisations they’ve partnered with are Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority, Landcare, Friends of HEHO and Indigenous Business Australia.


Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning Diversity and Inclusion Award:
Disabled Surfers Association Mornington Peninsula of Mornington has been sharing the joy of surfing with people with a disability. DSAMP is a volunteer organisation that takes any person with any disability for a safe and enjoyable surf at Point Leo. It provides the wet suits, disabled toilet and changing facilities, rash vests, beach wheelchairs, surf boards, food and drink. DSAMP hold their events every January and March where up to 250 volunteers, 150 participants with carers and families and 400 people on the beach attend. They successfully raised funds to construct a boardwalk to allow wheelchair access and now hope to extend the boardwalk onto the beach.

Food Next Door of Mildura aims to nurture the land whilst nurturing the diverse local community. FND is a community initiative that matches under-utilised farmlands with landless farmers to support small-scale regenerative farming, growing diverse crops and engaging people from diverse backgrounds to supply food to local households. The organisation helps relieve the distress of newly arrived migrants and refugee groups in the rural areas having no access to land, by re-engaging and empower community members in farming and growing food. In 2017, Food Next Door partnered with the Sunraysia Burundian Community to facilitate the growing of traditional maize, a staple Burundian food.

Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services of Bendigo is supporting multicultural communities and celebrating diversity. Established in 1999, LCMS is a not-for-profit organisation that empowers people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to participate fully in Australian society. It supports newly arrived migrants and refugees to build a successful life in the region through community programs on employment, education, capacity building and community development. LCMS organises arts and events to support social cohesion and cross cultural competency, including the Zinda Festival, an annual multicultural event attended by over 6,000 people. In 2019, over 15 cultural groups participated in the festival celebrating diversity through music, dance and food.

United Muslim Sisters of Latrobe Valley of Trafalgar aims to foster a better relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in the Gippsland community. They have 100 members and initiates projects such as interfaith talks and the “My scarf story” project, which hopes to build tolerance and understanding in the Valley community. They hold a Ramadan Iftar dinner and Eid festival, where over 400 people from multicultural backgrounds come together and enjoy the day. United Muslim Sisters upholds women’s freedom and empowerment and organises empowerment courses. They have partnered with Gippsland multicultural centre to support women’s education, health and personal development and starting one’s own social enterprise.


Prime Super Agricultural Innovation Award:
Bulmer Farms of Lindenow is passionate about promoting career pathways in agriculture. A family-run business, they employ up to 180 people during the peak months of September to May. To help people find a career in agriculture, Bulmer Farms opened its own traineeship or apprenticeship program and teamed up with Gippsland Regional Agrifood Employment Program to give opportunities to the underemployed. They are a co-creator of the East Gippsland Vegetable Innovation Days and was the first to introduce the Sormac Salad Washing and Drying Tunnel line. To give back to the community, they sponsor local sports clubs and primary and kindergarten schools.

Goulburn Murray Valley Regional Fruit Fly Project of Horsham is protecting the region’s horticultural industry by effectively managing the spread of the Queensland Fruit Fly before it can cause significant economic harm. Established in 2017, the GMV Fruit Fly Project is comprised of representatives from Agriculture Victoria, Goulburn Murray Water, many local councils and business and the community. The organisation monitors fruit fly population through a regional trapping grid, identifies fruit fly “hot spots” and holds education workshops for community, industry and government based on an “ownership of the issue” approach. It has also removed more than 5,500 fruit fly host trees and plants from private and public land.

Mountain Milk of Kergunyah South is dedicated to improving dairy operations and community livelihood. The Mountain Milk Co-Operative was formed by six farming families in Kiewa Valley who, instead of worrying about the direction of the dairy industry and Murray Goulburn Co-Op, took the initiative to establish an operating framework to improve security and returns and reduce corporate risks. Composed of dedicated community people, it fosters profitable and sustainable outcomes on farms. They have created a brand and job opportunities and encouraged sharing of resources and investing together. Other initiatives include medical outreach and a platform to highlight how to care for animals and the environment.

Tyrrell College of Sea Lake has introduced innovations in the agriculture education. Tyrell College’s Agricultural Program delivers an innovative model of education through engagement of industry partners. All of its 168 students are exposed to agricultural production during their journey. Students learn through excursions and by working with people directly involved in the agricultural sector, resulting in enriched, engaged and inspired students. The College partners with farmers, machinery dealerships, agronomic consultants and agribusinesses. Tyrell College’s 60 hectares supports a cropping program, a small orchard and a greenhouse. Students can gain a CERT 2 in Agriculture and develop skills that are highly sought within the industry.


Ricoh Australia Customer Service Award:
The Farmers Arms of Creswick has a fervour for providing quality food and wine sourced from the local area. Offering Melbourne-quality food experience in a small town, The Farmers Arms Hotel runs an award-winning restaurant that serves local quality products, from farm to plate. They buy whole animals from local farms and focus on sourcing all food within a 50-kilometre radius, maintaining strong relationships with local suppliers whilst providing exceptional customer service. Staff are encouraged to take external training courses paid for by the owner. Hailed as the “Best Victorian Pub” by Herald Sun, they were also a finalist at the Business Commerce Ballarat Awards.

Josh’s Rainbow Eggs of Monegeetta has a passion for building strong customer relationships. Josh’s Rainbow Eggs produces free range eggs in the Macedon Ranges, supplying direct to over 50 Coles and Woolworths stores. The company has developed a customer service model where they visit each store weekly, stock the shelves, and talk with customers. This way, they can provide value for the stores and the customers they serve. Known for developing the most environmentally sustainable model of egg farming in Australia, Josh’s Eggs is the only producer that delivers directly to both major supermarkets. Josh hopes to change the way people think of food production.

Sea All Dolphin Swims of Queenscliff provides unique and unforgettable wildlife encounters for decades. After 22 years, they have introduced innovations helping transform the business into a year-round provider and stabilise the business. This includes new services like the Great Ocean Road Surf Tours and a Sting Ray Feeding program which providing additional customer experiences and more revenue streams. They employ 51 locals and are the largest tourism employer in the region. The Sea All Dolphin Swim staff undergo continuous training to perform their best. They deliver free educational sessions on local marine ecosystems and are creating a marine education virtual reality package designed for schools.

The Doggie Den of Bairnsdale has incredible passion for dogs and cats. Founded by Warren and Kathryn Sinclair, they offer pet products in Bairnsdale and East Gippsland with a holistic and natural focus. The team spends quality time with customers to know their pet’s lifestyle and to offer tailored diet, treats, toys and accessories. An in-store butcher produces preservative and additive-free meat meals and even homemade treats. They also have an accredited dog trainer offering weekly classes. The Doggie Den has left many customers satisfied, achieving 100% customer satisfaction received from 700 responses and retaining a consistent 5-star Facebook rating for two years.


Life Activities Clubs Victoria Senior Achievement Award:
Dianne McAuliffe of Shepparton advocates for volunteer work for the elderly. Di has headed the “Love to Sew” volunteer group that meets to sew and kit for community causes and fundraisers and helps raise money for the Shepparton Retirement Villages. Her group made 120 individual patchwork quilts for Maculata Place, a new aged care building. They held an exhibition, raffles and sewed a Collingwood-themed quilt that was auction off with the proceeds donated to Shepparton Villages. Di also volunteers with GV Pregnancy Support, in support of young, and often vulnerable mums. She also volunteers for Rumbalara Elders Facility, an aged care home for indigenous elders.

Jean Nelson of Geelong has spent more than 20 years volunteering for those with life limiting illnesses. She has been an active volunteer and a life member at Anam Cara House Geelong, a Community Hospice that provides day and overnight palliative respite and end of life care. Jean is in her eighties and volunteers Monday and Friday nights, providing palliative respite for people that would otherwise be admitted to hospital or residential aged care. Jean is actively involved in care episodes and fundraising. She is determined to improve the lives and deaths of people with life limiting illnesses.

Kevin Mitchell of Devenish has helped promote the town of Devenish. He originally initiated the street art in a neighbouring Church which led to the silo art in the area. A committee was formed to deliver the painting of the Devenish Silos which came with a military theme that was widely embraced by the elderly community members and visitors. Kevin spent hours with the Benalla Rural City Council and GrainCorp on the contractual agreement. He spent many weeks arranging the artist to ensure the silos were painted in time for Anzac Day. Visitors of the silos grew to 80,000 over the past 15 months.

William “John” Morse of Warrnambool is helping male elders find their sense of purpose. He left his engineering work and decided to use his skills to support male residents of the Riverside unit of Lyndoch Living, a large residential care facility in Warrnambool. John then established and now manages as a volunteer the Lyndoch Living’s Lego Club, which brings male residents together to team-build complex constructions, improve social integration and maintain brain function and motor skills. They have constructed at least 15 Lego Technique models so far. The Club hopes to alleviate feelings of helplessness and amplify an inner sense of purpose for male elders.


Awards Australia Community Group Award:
Devenish Community Group has built a town rich in community involvement. It is composed of 120 people in dedicated small groups, working together, looking after the town. The group holds many events to bring the community together and improve maintenance around town. One of its significant projects is the Devenish Silo Art 2017, a project to paint three GrainCorp Silos with a military theme to commemorate their sacrifice to country. They also hold community events like dinners, concerts, morning tea for cancer research, car rallies, bus tours, and Australia Day Awards ceremonies. The organisation also helped raise $30,000 for the Royal Children’s Hospital.

Golden Square Pool, Inc. of Golden Square successfully saved a 101-year-old pool and turned it into a community hub. Golden Square Pool is a group of 55 locals who transformed a once dilapidated, under-used facility, to an inclusive, vibrant and empowering hub for Golden Square and Bendigo residents. They launched a campaign in 2012 to save the pool from closure by extending its lease. Since then, it has provided accessible health and fitness opportunities to 90,000 patrons. Volunteers introduce innovative programs like live events and wellbeing programs. One initiative is the SwimSafe Bendigo program where free swimming lessons are given, especially for local refugees, migrants and multicultural adults.

Goorambat & District Community Group takes pride in its huge community spirit that has brought over 60,000 visitors to a town with 300 residents. Formed in 2016 to provide assistance, communication and entertainment to local and district residents, the Group has since become an “umbrella group” for the town's organisations. They have raised funds for the painting of two grain silos in 2018 and one in April 2019. Both by the artist Dvate as part of the Wall-to-Wall Festival in Benalla. The Group organizes activities throughout the year especially when they celebrate the opening of the silos, this raises funds and assists with improvements to the local amenities. The silos have enhanced tourism in North East Victoria and brought visitors to Goorambat, now described as “Small Town, Big Art.” In 2019, they received the Benalla Rural City Community Group of the Year award.

Puckapunyal and District Neighbourhood Centre is dedicated to improving the quality of life for its community members. Founded 30 years ago, PDNC is a community organisation that fosters new friendships, provides support where needed and offers various programmes tailored to the unique needs of every demographic and family make-up. It hopes to become a home away from home for its predominantly military community who deal with a unique set of challenges such as transient living, separation from family and deployment. The centre caters to around 280 families and only charges $15 per family per year and many programs are either free or gold coin donation.


2018 Finalists

Regional Development Victoria Business Achievement Award:
Australian Pumpkin Seed Company of Oven
is owned by Sharan (Sharon) West and was founded by her parents. The range includes raw, roasted, salted, wood smoked, chilli coated and chocolate coated pumpkin seeds. The oil mill produces pumpkin seed, walnut, almond, hazelnut, hemp, sunflower and apricot kernel oil. Australia’s largest grower of pumpkin seed with 16 staff, they have a farm shop, 350 stockists, 50 major food manufacturing contracts and are exploring Asian export opportunities.

Remax Pty Ltd of Nathalia is a family business commencing in 1999. The company designs and manufactures custom Commercial and Industrial doors and aims to be the Partner of choice for Premium Industrial Doorway Solutions. They employ 32 staff; a huge benefit to their rural community. The business has grown to support a national and international client base. Recently the business built a new 1800sqm production plant in the northern industrial estate of the town. 

The Forge Pizzeria of Ballarat was established in 2010 by brothers, Chris and Tim Matthews. The Forge creates delicious wood fired pizzas made with fresh, local produce. The much awarded pizzeria was rated in the top 10 Australian Pizzerias by Trip Advisor in 2015. Their two restaurants employ approximately 90 staff and can cater for over 300 people. Their “Buy a Slice” initiative provides food for Ballarat’s homeless and they regularly donate to their local community.

Regional Development Victoria Leadership & Innovation Award:
Dr Elena Kelareva of Warragul has a PhD in Computer Science. She founded GippsTech with the vision of growing regional startups and tech communities and in her first year, employs seven staff. Elena founded Gippsland’s first conference on innovation, technology and startups, ‘Binary Shift 2017’ which brought together Australian and international leaders. The conference received great feedback from attendees and was one of the flagship regional events in the Victorian Digital Innovation Festival.

Jodie Haythorpe of Bendigo has Psychology, Sociology and Criminology degrees. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at 21, Jodie has utilised her learning to assist and support people with MS and their families. Her objective is to ensure their right to social justice and promotes empowerment and awareness of MS. Jodie is an MS ambassador and an inspirational speaker, voluntarily facilitates the Bendigo MS Peer Support Group and is a 'learned guest ' at schools for MS Readathon.

Dr Skye Kinder of Bendigo is a tireless health advocate for marginalised communities, a prolific writer and international speaker. She is a respected voice in the rural health debate and an inspiration to her peers and patients alike. Skye founded the Medical Students Association’s Rural Health Committee, creating discussion opportunities for rural medical students in policies affecting both their communities and careers. Skye was named the 2017 Victoria’s Junior Doctor of the Year.

Prime Super Employer Excellence in Aged Care Award:

Cooinda of Benalla was established in 1969 by members of the community and is a fully accredited, not for profit 82 bed aged care facility. With 115 staff, Cooinda has a strong focus on flexible working hours, professional development and health and wellbeing initiatives such as meditation sessions. A Community Support person provides support and counselling for staff and residents. Survey results indicate 90% overall staff satisfaction and 96% are proud to work at Cooinda.

Jacaranda Village of Redcliffs was established in 1999, combining Sunraysia Hostel for the Elderly and Red Cliffs Nursing Home. Jacaranda Village currently offers 30 high care and 45 low care beds. They have 120 staff, 20 volunteers and a further 18 volunteer Friends of Jacaranda fundraising team. Staff are provided with flexible work rosters, development opportunities as well as in-house and external training sessions. The residents have a men’s shed program, exercise classes, group lunches and dancing.

St Catherine's Hostel of Wangaratta is a not for profit residential care facility. They provide accommodation for 69 elderly residents and hold a three years accreditation with the Aged Care Standards Agency. St Catherine’s offer staff ongoing education programs and an on-site Personal Care course for staff interested in training as personal care workers. During a routine unannounced audit in November last year they were praised for their commitment to technology and their nurse practitioner program.

Goodwin Village of Donald is a not for profit community owned aged care facility. They provide residential care, retirement living and community care to people in their own homes. Goodwin Village, wherever possible, obtains its products and services from locals including the butcher, baker, building maintenance services and contractors for major building works. It provides employment for 44 staff with a full-time equivalent of 22 staff. Goodwin Village provides placement hours for local VCAL students.

South West TAFE & Deakin University South West Regional Achiever Award:

MSRF Dream Seeds Program of Ocean Grove is a group of over eighty alumni in the Macpherson Smith Rural Foundation ‘Young Rural Leaders Program’. They are committed to building capacity in young rural Victorians focusing on themes including aspiration and resilience. They have provided leadership workshops to over 450 Year 6 students and continue to grow their network of partner schools. Recently the Dream Seeds Program was awarded a grant to fund the ‘Mallee Trip July 2018’ project.

Richard Colman AM of Geelong is a Paralympic Gold Medallist. Living with Spina Bifida, Richard has become an inspiration for athlete’s young and old, working off the track to motivate and encourage individuals to get involved, get active and work hard to be the best they can be. Richard has spent over 15 years mentoring people with a disability. He has recently launched a wheelchair skills workshop teaching independent wheelchair skills for a successful life.

Cathy Roth OAM of Geelong has been at the forefront of female leadership and was the first female President of a Rotary Club in Australia and New Zealand. She Chaired a Rotary Zone major international conference and introduced the Rotary Leadership Institute for Rotarian Leadership Development. She was also the first female President of the Geelong Chamber of Commerce and established PALZ - Professionals with Alzheimer's to provide neuralplastic and social stimulation. PALZ is expanding across Australia and the UK.

Parks Victoria Environmental Sustainability Award:

Plastic Free Phillip Island is a community-driven initiative that educates, unites and empowers people to choose ocean-friendly alternatives to single-use plastics. They provide tools and resources to support local businesses and individuals to make positive changes easily and effectively. 46 businesses so far have removed or reduced single-use plastics. Their purpose is to grow a community dedicated to protecting Phillip Island and San Remo’s unique biodiversity from plastic pollution and become nationally recognised as a plastic-free destination. 

The Upper Campaspe Landcare Network brings together 17 Landcare and Friends groups in Central Victoria, covering 140,000 hectares.

They work together to protect biodiversity, create connectivity across the landscape, and promote sustainable land and water use and ecological health. Their goal is to achieve positive environmental and social outcomes for our area. They conduct Citizen Science projects to find and document special species such as Powerful Owls, Phascogales and Greater Gliders, then implement measures to protect their habitat. 

Four Wheel Drive Victoria is an Incorporated Association formed in 1975 by four wheel drive clubs, with a charter to represent the interests of four wheel drivers. Adopting the mantra of "Driving in a sustainable environment", Four Wheel Drive Victoria also maintains excellent and ongoing relations with the state's land managers and plays an active part in ensuring that tracks are used in a way that minimises any negative impact from four wheel drive use.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning Diversity and Inclusion Award:

Betul Tuna of Shepparton is the founder of “Hijack’d’, a food van with the slogan, ‘Nourish the Conversation’. They take pride in using locally grown fresh products and promoting local agricultural businesses when marketing their delicious Turkish inspired cuisines and street foods. Hijack’d is also known for facilitating unique conversation sessions, providing an opportunity for dialog between non-Muslim and Muslim communities. Hijack’d is about promoting social cohesion by leading conversations in safe spaces.

Kia-Ora Piggery of Yarrawalla is a large-scale piggery that has diversified its workforce by employing skilled Filipino workers. They continue to expand their business, now employing 24 Filipinos, accounting for 50% of their total workforce. Each year, Kia-Ora Piggery supports the local Fiesta, a celebration showcasing Filipino and Australian cultures. The Pyramid Hill community has been incredibly supportive, developing financial support programs to help bring families across to Australia, and assist with English learning programs.

Senior Sergeant Sean Halley of Robinvale has championed diversity and inclusion and has been a driving force in encouraging strong relationships with the Aboriginal Community. Sergeant Halley has invited a local artist to paint a mural on the Police stations reception area wall. He organises The NAIDOC Police/Community BBQ, school visits and tours of the station. These initiatives have enhanced understanding and trust for all parties, broken down barriers and improved community confidence in police.

Wycheproof Community Resource Centre is a not-for-profit organisation providing activities and services to build community capacity, reduce social isolation and encourage health and wellbeing. The Resource Centre supports the Wycheproof Men's Shed, Op Shop, Community Car program, the Wycheproof Cancer Support Group and many other community groups. WCRC strives to provide a wide range of events and activities to ensure all members of the community feel included and inspired to participate.

Prime Super Agricultural Innovation Award:

Australian Pumpkin Seed Company of Oven was relocated from Queensland by Sharon West, and has flourished. The product range of pumpkin seeds is extensive and the Oil Mill and farm gate also act as an education centre, which sees them ranked number one tourist attraction in the area. They are the largest grower of pumpkin seed in Australia, have 350 stockists and 50 major food manufacturing contracts. The largest growth is in packet and bulk health food.

Cutri Fruit of Woorinen is a production horticulture fruit farm, specialising in stone fruit. In an industry that is highly manual, Cutri Fruit have embraced automation, resulting in higher profit retention. They continue to innovate, trialling ways to use land, water and sprays more effectively. In 2011 they introduced a nursery and are growing some exciting new varieties. The business has grown in recent years and is now Australia’s largest family-owned stone fruit grower, marketer and exporter.

Simply Rose Petals of Murraydale was founded by Jan Slater and her daughter Sarah Rose Bloom. They now manage the first rose petal farm in the southern hemisphere. Producing a world-first range of freeze dried edible flowers, Simply Rose Petals has won national and international awards. The delicate petals are hand-picked, frozen and dried, retaining their colour and shape. Simply Rose Petals was named Australia’s Number One in Special Services at the Australian Bridal Industry Awards.

Ricoh Australia Customer Service Award:

Mansfield Armchair Cinemas is an award-winning community-based, not-for-profit cinema supporting the local community of Mansfield. Employing six or more students as trainees at any one time, MAC collaborates with the Secondary College and TAFE to deliver an innovative traineeship program, combining Certificate III in Media Studies and on-the-job training. Mansfield Armchair Cinema supports the local Freeza Youth Group, holds special movie nights for nursing homes and support local charities by holding fundraising movie nights.

Rich Glen Olive Estate is the #1 tourist attraction in Yarrawonga on TripAdvisor. It is a mecca for delicious fresh, organic food and home-grown olive oil products. They maintain quality customer service with staff inductions giving clear direction of the estates high expectations and quality control. They measure staff performance, monitor social media posts, respond to enquiries promptly and take feedback seriously. The Estate is winner of several prestigious awards for excellence in food tourism.

Sea All Dolphin Swims of Queenscliff offers a wide range of marine adventures and experiences. They are the local collection point for printer cartridges, corks, batteries and mobile phones and have introduced a used wetsuit recycling program, saving thousands of wetsuits destined for landfill. They have employed a total of 51 locals. Sea All Dolphin Swims actively promote the message of ‘Take 3 for the sea’, a clean beach initiative reducing plastic pollution through education and participation.

Awards Australia Community Group of the Year Award:

The Wimmera Southern Mallee Local Learning and Employment Network of Horsham is an independent, not for profit association, covering 28,000 square kilometres of Western Victoria. They support disadvantaged young people to remain engaged in education or transition into employment. They have 14 voluntary Committee of Management members and over 115 members with the equivalent of 5.4 paid staff. The network has brokered 55 active partnerships with community organisations and local businesses, with staff travelling extensively to plan and implement these partnerships.

Food Next Door Co-op of Mildura is a not-for-profit organisation supporting newly arrived migrants and refugees living in rural areas, to re-engage in farming and grow food, including their traditional foods. Food Next Door generates income through ‘Out of the Box’, a weekly local produce box from over fifteen small-scale regenerative farmers, returning $40,000 directly to growers. An acre of land was provided to Food Next Door with food grown given to the Burundian Community and excess available for resale.

The Simpson & District Community Centre is a small dairy based community, 20 minutes inland from the 12 Apostles. The Centre is a funded Neighbourhood House and provides recreation and educational activities, with an average 180 participants per month. Their six person committee and a core group of 12 volunteers have established a very successful Men's Shed and a Community Garden. The centre ran a series of digital inclusion training workshops for seniors with over 280 attendees.


Henry Carus & Associates and Life Activities Clubs Victoria Senior Achievement Award:

Cathy Roth OAM of Geelong was the first female President of a Rotary Club female President of the Geelong Chamber of Commerce. With her husband’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 2017, Cathy established PALZ - Professionals with Alzheimer's. PALZ provides intellectual stimulation in forms of listening to high power corporate speakers, formal presentations, industry visits and boardroom lunches. PALZ provides opportunities to keep neural pathways open and challenge the brain to open new pathways.

Leopold Men’s Shed began the project based at Moolap Primary School two years ago. The men volunteer to work with Grade 5/6 students to assist them to develop and complete woodwork projects with only recycled materials. One of the primary aims of the project is to support the mental and physical health of older men by forming close community connections. The children have benefitted by learning to design, create and problem solve.

Priscilla Taylor of Wangaratta has a Masters of Wound Care and is the first person in Victoria and 3rd in Australia to achieve this qualification. Priscilla set up a Wound Clinic at Benalla Hospital. Since retiring in 2012, she has volunteered her services in wound management to three aged care facilities in Wangaratta. Priscilla performs monthly educational sessions in how to prevent pressure injuries and has published a research paper on skin trauma from radiotherapy.



2017 Finalists

Regional Development Victoria Business Achievement Award

Timboon Fine Ice Cream at Brucknell has been producing boutique ice cream, using fresh local ingredients for 18 years. They now have a whiskey distillery and eatery in the historic railway shed and are growing Timboon as a tourist destination. They conduct “Sundae School” ice cream classes, and their Food Truck has attended 150 events. They have won several Dairy Industry awards. 

Bakery on Broadway at Wycheproof was established by four couples wanting to bring the town back to life. A year later, the popular bakery has seen near empty streets turn into a busy town, with parking often at a premium. They employ thirteen locals, provide catering and have gained a reputation for great coffee. Funds raised from selling coffee grounds to gardeners purchased a community car. 

Kowelec Electrical Contracting in Castlemaine began in Adrian Kowal’s spare room. Five years on, they now employ 12 locals and service commercial, industrial and domestic customers. Customer satisfaction is their number one priority and in a recent survey, they achieved a 95% excellence rating. Kowelec prides itself in being community minded and provides $10,000 sponsorship each year to the local community and sporting clubs.


Regional Development Victoria Leadership & Innovation Award

XtremeInc Youth Projects of Castlemaine has inspired and supported young people since 2009. They engage and empower youth across regional Victoria through arts, festivals, fundraising, extreme sports, mentorship programs and volunteering. XtremeInc also provides free training for their volunteers. They run the 2 THE XTREME Multicultural Youth Festival, attracting hundreds of young people and families. XtremeInc celebrates diversity and has young people at the forefront of their decision making

Birchip Cares was formed in 2014 by concerned citizens, following the withdrawal of funding to the Home and Community Care Service. The committee developed a Community Transport Service Delivery Model raising $17,000 for medical appointment travel for the needy. They also implemented a L2P learner driver program linking students with volunteers. Birchip Cares has enhanced the liveability of Birchip by connecting health, education and community.

Thomas Banks of Geelong West is Director and Founder of the Centre for Access, a specialised training service to businesses who employ people with a disability. The Centre also facilitates disability awareness workshops. Thomas wrote and published “Through the eyes of a person with a disability” and toured nationally in his one man show, “Someone like Thomas Banks”. He is currently working on an autobiographic film “The Power of Love".

Paul Chapman of Kangaroo Flat is Chairman of the Australian Turntable Company, supplying turntables for move buildings, vehicles and works of art internationally. He is Chair of the volunteer Committee for the Bendigo Inventor Awards, connecting inventors with investors to produce solutions related to emergency and disaster management. Paul developed the first Festival of Failure to showcase the importance of embracing failure as part of the innovation process.


Prime Super Employer Excellence in Aged Care Award

Rural Northwest Health in Warracknabeal commenced 125 years ago. Their 90-bed facility, including 15 beds in the award-winning memory support unit, employs 270 people. They provide staff with transition to retirement plans, purchased leave options, generous maternity and paternity leave and have just introduced family violence leave. The facility has a 95% rating from staff who view them as an employer of choice.

Wimmera Health Care Group in Horsham has three aged care facilities with direct access to on-site dentists, dieticians, massage therapists and podiatrists. They have implemented a Health and Wellbeing Working Group to promote positive health and wellbeing to their 160 staff members. This includes weekly onsite lunchtime staff yoga classes. Staff are provided with varied training including Grievance, Cultural competence, Beyond Blue and many more.

St Catherine's Hostel in Wangaratta is a 69-bed not-for-profit residential care facility. St Catherine’s value their staff and have set rosters for them to work their preferred shifts and to support those undertaking tertiary education. Staff with school aged children can bring them to work during school holidays if required. As an incentive for staff to continue ongoing training they are entered into a $500 gift voucher draw.


Prime Super Agricultural Innovation Award

Green Eggs of Ararat is a family business. Their working farm has sheep, cattle and 36,000 free range chooks. Green Eggs produces ethically farmed, sustainably produced, free range eggs into cafes, restaurants and retail outlets both regionally and in Melbourne. They pride themselves on their product and the welfare of their hens. They employ local people and aim to maximise efficiencies and minimise wastage.

Glendemar Multi Purpose Merinos of Marnoo and their 6th generation managers, Ben and Cheryl Duxson have introduced innovative and productivity measures into their Merino breeding operation. Australian Sheep Breeding Values, DNA testing and eID data collection systems are creating leading edge industry management practices. Their focus is not only on productivity, but also on cost saving and animal welfare. They are preferred suppliers of high quality products with great integrity. 

Dad's Oats of Natte Yallock began in 2015 when siblings Peter and Alicia Cain started ‘Dad’s Oats’, selling rolled oats grown on their fifth generation family farm. They sell several types of oats plus hand rollers which enable the oats to be rolled fresh. They used crowdfunding and social media to market the business. Dad’s Oats are available online, at farmers markets and in over 50 cafes and stores.


South West TAFE & Deakin University South West Regional Achiever Award

Maree Crabbe of Warrnambool is the coordinator and co-founder of an Australian violence prevention project called ‘Reality & Risk: Pornography, young people and sexuality’. Maree is also the co-producer and co-director of two documentary films: Love and Sex in an Age of Pornography and The Porn Factor. She is widely interviewed and has published many articles. Maree presented at the National Council Women of Australia conference and has also presented internationally.

Jayson Killick of Belmont survived a stroke in 2010. A year later he founded the Portland Stroke Support Group. He aims to educate and raise awareness of strokes and is fighting for more funding and better health care to improve the lives of stoke victims. In 2012, Jayson became a Victorian Ambassador for the Stroke Foundation. He also won the Stroke Foundations Improving Life after Stroke Award.

Robyn Ledin of Warrnambool is a member of the Warrnambool East Primary School leadership team. She implemented and secured funding for a Nurturing Room for selected Prep to Year 2 students who had experienced trauma and violence. Based on Robyn’s research of the United Kingdom programs, the Nurturing Room provides a safe, non-judgemental haven for students to transition into the school day with a positive attitude and full stomach!

Jayson Ward of Warrnambool is the co-owner of Portland Eyecare and a Director of Optometry Victoria. Jayson has established eye clinics in local indigenous communities and provides free eye screening in schools. He is involved with The Waves Gala Ball committee raising over $100,000 for Peter's Project Cancer Centre and the Warrnambool SES. Jayson is an active Young Professionals Warrnambool member and is a player and volunteer for several sports clubs.


Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning Diversity and Inclusion Award

Cardinia Shire Youth Services are championing for the inclusion and equal treatment of LGBTI youth. ‘Safe and Supported in Cardinia’ is a program to support local young people who identify as same sex attracted and/or sex and gender diverse. They have introduced programs in schools, engaged in public campaigning, supported the production and distribution of a film and encouraged local government participation in LGBTI-related events. 

Gabby Gamble of Bendigo played an integral role in implementing an Aboriginal Volunteer Program to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. A local Elder, Gabby is pivotal to promoting equality and inclusion. As a volunteer with Bendigo Health, she has increased understanding of Indigenous needs and made it a more welcoming place. Gabby has become an important conduit between the hospital and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Tania Bardsley of Newington is a volunteer coordinator with the Ballarat City Football Club and has worked hard to connect and engage with the culturally and linguistically diverse community. Africana Ballarat was her concept; to highlight and value the contribution of the African community to the club. The Africana Ballarat event cut-across art, sport, food and music ensuring broad participation regardless of age, ethnicity, culture, religion or socio-economic challenges.

Z Fit Studios of Bendigo champion diversity and inclusion. Their members range from two to 62 and regardless of nationality, belief, shape or ability they enjoy the physical and social benefits of dance and exercise. Z Fit Studios raised $10,000 for the Cancer Council’s Relay for Life and 25% of staff and members donate blood. They also won the 2017 Bendigo Business Excellence in Health & Wellbeing Award.


Parks Victoria Environmental Sustainability Award

Euroa Arboretum has overseen the transformation of a farm paddock, into a showcase site for natural resource management. 25 years after the land was donated to the Euroa community, the property is now a popular public reserve, supported by an educational facility, offering comprehensive land restoration services. The Arboretum’s motto is ‘Growing back the bush’ and one of their main objectives is to provide seed for revegetation work.

Mirranatwa - Panyyabyr Landcare Group at Karabeal has since 2008, run Victoria's largest community fox baiting project The project covers 30,000Ha of private land in Victoria Valley, adjoining the Grampians National Park. The project is a win for biodiversity, protecting nationally threatened wildlife, enhancing community collaboration and is an economic win. The increased lambing rates support fine wool and prime lamb production for Victoria Valley farmers.

Caring For Our Bays of Drysdale is an innovative program to lift the profile and appreciation of Corio Bay and the Bellarine shoreline of Port Phillip Bay. The aim is to raise awareness of, and reduce the amount of litter, sediments and nutrients entering the waterways. This is the first coordinated project to cover the catchments and integrate engagement, infrastructure and enforcement activities across community, business and government.


Ricoh Australia Customer Service Award

Queenscliffe Visitor Information Centre has a team of 38 skilled volunteers providing quality information, accommodation referral, ticketing and guided heritage tours. Last financial year, they volunteered 5,281 hours, handled 76,655 visitor enquiries and welcomed 40,000 visitors who spent an estimated $5 million. The volunteers enhance the visitor experience with their enthusiasm and local knowledge and are core to the success of the Queenscliffe’s tourism economy.

Ella Bache Bairnsdale independent owner and operator, Jodie Ashworth, works tirelessly to ensure her business maintains its excellent customer service reputation. Since 2011, they have received 11 awards for business and customer service excellence. A supporter of Breast Cancer Research, Ella Bache Bairnsdale is the major sponsor of the Mother’s Day Classic and the salon provides treatments for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Phillip Leitch of Leigh Creek is the Arena Manager, 2IC and valued member of the Kryal Castle team. He works weekends, holidays and after hours, planning and delivering weapons performances and horse based shows on the Main Arena. He is also responsible for staff rosters, staff training and animal welfare. Phillip is passionate about interpreting Medieval History to modern audiences and is sought after on the international jousting circuit.

Harmony Bed & Breakfast of Fingal is a traditional Bed and Breakfast with three guest rooms. Owners Sharon Richardson and her husband Jeremy work hard to ensure their guests are happy and become regulars. Harmony Bed and Breakfast have received many awards including the Hosted Accommodation category in the 2015 and 2016 Victorian Tourism Awards. They also received a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2016 and 2017.


WorkSafe Victoria Regional Safety Award

Community Roadsafe Mildura develops community programs to target and improve the understanding, behaviour and attitudes of road users. Working with Police, Mildura Rural City Council, professional drivers, community groups and organisations they aim to prevent road trauma and examine road safety problems. The “Driving in Sunraysia” campaign, reached 2,400 people in response to an over-representation of accidents caused by drivers not local to the region.

Citizens Radio Emergency Service Teams, Victoria based in Newtown is a voluntary organisation. Operating for 40 years, CREST have monitored emergency frequencies and relayed thousands of calls to Emergency Services or Utilities. In the last five years’ they have recorded 18,000 hours of monitoring. CREST also provide monitoring equipment and personnel for schools and events such as fun runs, to increase participant safety.

Cycling and Pedestrian Interventions in the North - City of Greater Geelong is a collaborative project between the Youth Activity Centre - the fOrT and North and East Geelong schools, to promote road and cycle safety. The initiative identified a vulnerable demographic and is actively engaging with them to promote knowledge and understanding of road safety and improved road user behaviour. They have so far reached approximately 14,000 people.

Anglesea Fire Education Program is part of the CFA Survive & Thrive Program. The award winning program is led by a community partnership consisting of representatives from the local CFA Fire Brigade, the primary school, local fire experts and others. The program empowers and encourages students to take on the role of educators and lead bushfire education and preparedness activities in their school and community.


Life Activities Clubs Victoria and Henry Carus & Associates Senior Achievement Award

Baw Baw Shire Council – Aged & Disability Services Team commenced a pilot program in 2012 named 'The Pet Program'. The program supports residents who are frail, aged or have a disability, to care for their pets. Volunteers assist with walking dogs, transportation of pets to the vet and grooming or bathing and short-term feeding. Approximately 450 hours of pet support has been provided over the past year.

Dr Tess Brady of Clunes has led the organisation Creative Clunes, transforming the rural town of Clunes from decline to a prosperous vibrant community. Volunteer run for nine years, Creative Clunes created an annual book festival and opened the first community bookshop. Now the town boasts six independently run bookshops and the annual festival attracts 20,000 guests. They have monthly author talks and the town is a centre for cultural tourism.

Mornington Police Senior Community Register was started in 2001 by a group of mostly retired volunteers. They aim to make clients feel safer by creating a relationship with the Police, and provide day trips, lunches and activities to keep them involved in the community. Volunteers provide home visits and telephone calls to isolated, elderly people. 4,250 people have been involved since the register’s inception.


2016 Finalists

Regional Development Victoria Business Achievement Award

Masons of Bendigo, is Bendigo’s only “hatted” restaurant. Its 65 seats are consistently booked every night, wowing approximately 600 guests each week. Since opening in 2012, husband and wife chef team, Nick and Sonia, have received numerous awards including The Age Good Food Guide: 2016 ‘Chefs Hat’ Award. Nick and Sonia also conduct cooking demonstrations and student training at schools and support local food producers and fundraisers as Bendigo Foodshare Ambassadors. TripAdvisor, has voted Masons ‘Number One’ in Bendigo, for four years running

King Valley Walnuts of Myrrhee, began 20 years ago in a derelict hop garden. In the last four years, retail sales have increased by 100%, online sales by 35% and in 2016, 32 tonnes of walnuts have been produced. Owners Mike and Carol have also given 29 years of voluntary service to the Australian Walnut Industry Association and Greta Valley Landcare Group. They have received State and National food and business awards and sponsor many local events and donate walnuts for fundraising

PETstock of Wendouree, is a 100% Australian owned company, with 125 stores across Australia and New Zealand. Originally purchased as Ballarat Produce and Merchandise, the family owned business franchised in 2002. 2015 revenue exceeded $250 million and expectations are $500 million by late 2018. PETstock’s charity foundation, PETstock Assist, in partnership with PetRescue, supports almost 1,000 Australian animal rescue groups. PETstock staff regularly donate to the foundation. PETstock coordinated a $1 million dog and cat food donation, distributing 58 tonnes to 240 animal rescue groups


Regional Development Victoria Leadership & Innovation Award

Amy Bell of Goldie, has dedicated the last five years to designing an innovative youth precinct; a project that had been languishing on the Lancefield community’s agenda for twenty years. Through Amy’s leadership, the project received $250,000 in funding, and the construction of the Lancefield Skate BMX Park is due to commence. Amy is committed to having a public space for children to socialise and exercise in a safe environment, and despite constant barriers, has ensured the success of the project

Koroit & District Primary School, developed a six week parent program to build parent understanding and confidence in the social, emotional, intellectual and physical development of pre-schoolers. Led by teacher, Michelle, the program included story-telling, healthy snacks and the sharing of success stories from parents. Teachers have noticed improved learning and an increased rate of literacy since commencement of the program. The Beyond the Bell, Moyne Action Group program is now involved, and has been extended across the Moyne area

Samantha Little of Leneva, has helped thousands suffering with depression through her book ‘Into the Fog’, focusing on her own challenges with depression. Samantha speaks at community events and schools, encouraging others to be open about their issues. She created the ‘My Big Sister’ program, holding sessions with Secondary students, teaching skills to deal with adversity to prevent the build-up of issues which can lead to mental illness. Samantha is also studying a double degree in Law and Psychology


Prime Super Employer Excellence in Aged Care Award

Wimmera Health Care Group of Horsham, have 160 committed staff providing aged care services across three sites. Providing a supporting environment to enhance the wellbeing of older people, they are the only service in the region with immediate access to on-site allied health professionals including, dentists, dieticians, massage therapists and podiatrists. Wimmera Health have implemented the Named Nurse Concept, Person-Centred Care activities such as ‘My Day’ forms, pain management programs and participated in the 5,000 Poppies Project

St Catherine's Hostel of Wangaratta, is a not-for-profit residential care facility, providing accommodation for 69 permanent residents and two respite care beds. Their philosophy is to provide a family environment and facilitating others to live life to the fullest regardless of age, ability or illness. St Catherine’s operates ongoing education programs and staff are supported to undertake tertiary education. The facility holds three year accreditation with the Aged Care Standards Agency and have been praised for their Nurse Practitioner Program and commitment to technology

Shepparton Retirement Villages Inc, founded in 1968, is community owned and cares for more than 600 residents in three locations. Expanding into Home Care and Community Support, they are in the final stages of design for a new 120 bed, $34million state of the art aged care facility with a specialised dementia wing. The 420 staff are offered training programs, staff flexibility and opportunities for advancement. The Villages have great community involvement with 190 volunteers delivering activities and services to residents

Lyndoch Living Inc of Warrnambool, is a community owned, not-for-profit Incorporated Association, employing approximately 420 staff with 180 volunteers. The Facility consists of 198 beds, and their community services cater for 670 individuals. Lyndoch Living participates in community programs promoting health and wellbeing and have developed partnerships with Continence Australia and Hearing Australia. Lyndoch Living, in partnership with South West TAFE provide onsite training for students studying Aged and Community Care and have increased internal staff training by 60%


Ricoh Australia Customer Service Award

Avoca Hotel, is a three time recipient of the Golden Plate Award for Best Regional Hotel Dining, and two time winner of their State Award for Best Hotel. Located in the Pyrenees wine region, owners, Ian and Alison are passionate about sourcing local ingredients and supporting locals with employment and training. Avoca Hotel received TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for the past four years, and has consistently rated as their Number 1 restaurant in the region. The Avoca is also a major sponsor of local sporting clubs

Orbost Auto Electrics, excellent customer service is demonstrated by providing call outs for elderly customers. They travel to broken down customers and provide free loan cars whilst servicing vehicles. The business employs three staff and three apprenticeships. The business has grown from 887 customers in 2004, to 2,276 customers last year, achieving a 60% growth in turnover. Orbost Auto Electrics were finalists in the East Gippsland Business Awards and Winners of the 2016 VACC Industry Awards Best Auto Electrics in Victoria

Robert Trewin of Bairnsdale, established Robert Trewin Mortgage Broking 12 years ago. He believes in offering old fashioned face to face service and operates by his motto of treating all clients equally. Robert won the 2015 Regional Australian Broker of the Year, and the East Gippsland Business Awards for Professional Services. He established the Cooper Trewin Memorial SUDC Research Fund, and has helped raise over $600,000. The business has loaned $350 million to thousands of Gippsland clients helping make their dreams a reality

Natasha Perri of Main Ridge, has been employed as Operations Manager at Green Olive Red Hill since 2014. Natasha provides excellent customer service and is responsible for meeting, greeting and seating guests, as well as handling customer feedback. Since being employed there has been an increase in online reviews, customer satisfaction and a decrease in customer complaints. Green Olive has also achieved Gold in the 2015 Qantas Australian Tourism Award and Gold in the 2014 and 2015 RACV Victorian Tourism Awards


South West TAFE & Deakin University South West Regional Achiever Award

Robyn Ledin of Warrnambool, is Assistant Principal of Warrnambool East Primary School. After noticing an increase in young students experiencing trauma, Robyn established a Nurturing Room. The Room provides a safe haven for students to transition into the school day, providing breakfast, conversation and activities. The program has resulted in increased engagement, improved learning outcomes, reduced absences and improved behaviour and social skills. Robyn has secured funding to continue for the next three years and to assist five other schools to establish Nurturing Rooms

Tim Baker of Warrnambool, is a specialist emergency medicine doctor at Warrnambool and Portland Hospitals, and lecturer at Deakin University. Recognising the need to improve emergency medical care in the South West, Tim initiated the Centre for Rural Emergency Medicine. He has successfully built a regional emergency workforce of doctors, medical students and smaller emergency care facilities to the state-wide emergency care system. Tim’s has been invited by State and National Government committees to be the advocate for the emergency medical needs of rural communities

Kate Meade of Peterborough, is Director of the Victorian Dance Festival, giving regional dancers the opportunity to dance with Australia’s top Choreographer’s and Educators. The event has grown in three years from 200 to 2,400 attendees in 2016, with dancers coming from all over Australia. The Festival was awarded ‘Victoria’s Favourite Event’ by Ausdance Victoria and ‘Best Community Event’ by Colac Otway Shire. Kate has taught dance to over 5,000 students in regional Victoria and volunteers teaching dance to children and adults with a disability

Caitlin Morden of Warrnambool, is a 15 year old student at Warrnambool College and a member of the South West Academy of Sport Cycling Squad. Caitlin initiated a community bike ride, raising funds for Southern Way Direct Care Inc to purchase health and fitness equipment for people living in disability residential support homes. The ride also catered for people with a disability, providing them with a sense of inclusiveness. Caitlin has influenced people in other regions to establish similar disability awareness and fundraising rides


Prime Super Community Group of the Year Award

Lake Bolac Eel Festival Inc, is a community based art and music festival, focusing on environmental issues and Indigenous culture and has been the inspiration for several documentaries. Organised by a volunteer committee, over 800 hours was contributed to produce the 2015 festival. The festival has won several significant Awards including for Contemporary Cultural Development from Regional Arts Victoria. The festival provides a vibrant cultural experience to the small rural community and promotes the restoration of Lake Bolac and surrounding waterways

Maryborough Riding for the Disabled, established 35 years ago, provides clients with the feeling of freedom of movement and confidence, and builds their core strength and communication skills. The organisation is run by 35 volunteers and sees 18 clients each week and encourages riders to partake in local Pony Clubs and Gymkhanas and to engage with their community. Two riders have won titles at State and National level. The members also volunteer many hours fundraising, attending events and assisting the riders

Ballarat Relay For Life, is organised each year by a group of passionate volunteers to raise funds for the Cancer Council’s research and support services. In the past 15 years, the Ballarat volunteers have raised over $1,073,000 helping the 569 people every year who are diagnosed with cancer within the City of Ballarat. In 2016, 721 community members took part in the relay and 50 local businesses provided sponsorship. They aim to raise over $100,000 in their 2017 event

Heyfield & District Historical Society, was founded in 2002, and the “Save our Post Office – Make it our New Museum” project was launched in January this year. The museum will showcase the diverse history of the Heyfield District. Since beginning the project, committee members have volunteered more than 655 hours of work, and have raised $145,000 enabling them to purchase the museum. The Museum will strengthen pride within the town and its heritage, and allow for community involvement on many levels


MOA Benchmarking Community Service in Aged Care Award

Tracey Hooke of Kilmore, is the Lifestyle Coordinator at Caladenia Nursing Home. She is passionate about her role, often working beyond her rostered hours, volunteering in the evenings and on weekends. As part of the wellbeing and lifestyle program Tracey developed the “Sensory Me” program, recognising and responding to special memories of the residents. “Tracey’s Social Dining In” allows residents to socialise with friends and enjoy a special meal together. Other popular initiatives are Wedding Days, an Ice Creamery store and a sensory garden

Ursula Jaehner of Mildura, has been a Community Visitor Scheme Volunteer since 2005, spending over 500 hours providing companionship with those at risk of being socially isolated and lonely. She communicates patiently, lovingly and respectfully with people from all backgrounds including those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Ursula’s visits make a real difference to residents’ lives, evident by their smiles and interactions. Staff provide ongoing feedback confirming the positive contribution that Ursula makes to each of the residents she visits

Pauline Walters of Euroa, is Apartments Supervisor at The Old Colonist’s Association of Victoria and has been an employee since 1998. Pauline is passionate about the residents and their welfare and familiarises herself with their social and emotional needs. Pauline goes above and beyond for the residents, taking them to doctors’ appointments, grocery shopping and helps with their gardening on weekends. She is also the after hour’s safety contact for medical emergencies, attending to those in need in the early hours of the morning.


Parks Victoria Environmental Sustainability Award

Middle Island Maremma Project of Warrnambool, is a volunteer committee protecting the Middle Island Little Penguin Colony after fox attacks reduced the number of penguins from 700 to 4. The group implemented a world first project using Maremma dogs. Since the first dog went to Middle Island in 2006, no penguins have been lost to foxes and the population is now approximately 160 birds. The Australian film ‘Oddball’ was based on the project and Zoos Victoria are now using Maremma Dogs

Winters Flat Primary School of Castlemaine, have harnessed the power of student voice, community and environmental respect to drive their ‘Students Leading Change’ WFPS Sustainability Program. The school has dramatically reduced its carbon footprint and embedded sustainable practices throughout the curriculum. Initiatives include working with local elders on the creation of the Bush Tucker Garden and the Nude Food Policy encouraging families to buy fresh food. The school has gained 5-star accreditation through reducing waste, energy and water consumption and increased biodiversity

Four Wheel Drive Victoria, works with the community to remove unsightly and environmentally damaging waste from State Forests and National Parks. 190 volunteers contributed 839 hours in the 2015 ‘Clean up the Bush’ Campaign. They collected 245 cubic metres of rubbish, 8 car bodies and 120 tyres from the Nerrina State Forest and the Wombat State Forest. Working together with community members to achieve a cleaner environment, they are spreading the message to recreational drivers to take care of the bush


Federation Training Gippsland Regional Achiever Award

Kirsten Finger of Warragul, co-founded “Olivia’s Place” in 2014. It took two years of persistent grant applications, public speaking and media releases to raise sufficient funds. “Olivia’s Place” is a centre focussed on supporting parents during pregnancy and transition into early parenting. Kirsten was awarded a 2016 Baw Baw Shire Australia Day Medallion for her contribution to the community. Through “Olivia’s Place”, Kirsten is actively empowering the Shire community to bring to life the phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child”

Sue Murphy of Trafalgar, is passionate about community. Sue is an active member of the Baw Baw Arts Alliance, a not for profit community organisation providing a focus for the arts in the Baw Baw shire. She led the team that initiated and re-furbished Yarragon and Trafalgar Railway Stations into gallery spaces and arts workshop areas. Volunteering up to 30 hours each week, Sue works at the Trafalgar Opportunity Shop, supports the work of Trafalgar Rotary and is secretary of the Trafalgar Youth Resource Centre

Aislin Jones of Lakes Entrance, commenced shooting clay targets when she was 12. She was the youngest Australian to shoot a perfect round of 100/100 in domestic skeet and at 15, won the Open Women's National Championship. Aislin speaks at Schools and Rotary Groups motivating her audiences about success, work ethic and achieving goals. She trains more than 8 hours and travels 10 hours each week. She was named the youngest ever member of the Australian Olympic Shooting Team for the 2016 Rio Olympics


Life Activities Clubs Victoria and Henry Carus & Associates Senior Achievement Award

Love to Sew Ladies of Shepparton, was established 15 years ago and consists of a group of volunteers who share a love of sewing, knitting and craft. Most members live in the Independent Living Units, and they meet regularly offering a welcoming environment and ongoing friendships. The ladies have donated clothing to orphans in Romania and assist Shepparton Villages with their fundraising activities. They make exquisite hand knitted woollen socks and have hand sewn 120 bed quilts to raise funds for their new facility

Margaret Cox of Seymour, volunteers countless hours helping others to combat social isolation, particularly the elderly in her community. She has been a member of the Country Women’s Association for 25 years and is President of PROBUS, Seymour. For 18 years, Margaret has overseen fundraising and activities for the residents at Karingal Elderly Citizens Hostel. She has supported the Cancer Council for 15 years and been involved at the University of the 3rd Age for 7 years and was President for three

Sunassist Volunteer Helpers Inc of Mildura, is a not for profit community organisation. They were established 30 years ago after recognising the need for community transport for those with disabilities. Sunassist provides a range of services including Meals on Wheels, community transport, assisted shopping and social outings for the elderly or people with disabilities. Sunassist has 300 volunteers and 3,000 clients, allowing them to live in their own home and feel independent. In 2015, volunteers provided 50,246 hours, travelled 443,032km and delivered 26,723 meals


2011 Finalists

Regional Development Victoria Business Achievement Award
• Border Pathology
• Camperdown Compost Co


Prime Super Community Group of the Year Award
• Lead On Ballarat Inc
• Committee of Gippsland Rotary Centenary House


Fonterra Dairy Leadership Award
• Heidi Knowles
• DemoDAIRY Co-operative Limited
• Dairyfarmers of Victoria Macarthur Branch


Parks Victoria Environment and Sustainability Award
• Orbost Secondary College
• South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association


Medibank Healthy Participation Award
• Greater Shepparton on the Moove
• YMCA Anglesea Recreation Camp
• Corryong School of Dance


BlueScope Distribution Leadership and Innovation Award
• McKern Steel
• Cris Ruhr


Parks Victoria Regional Achiever Award
• Goulburn Valley Hospice Care Service Inc
• Ballarat Woodworkers Guild Inc
• Graham Dettrick
• Bodhi Hawken


Beaurepaires Road Safety Award
• L2P Learner Driver Mentor Program
• Eastern Region Motorcycle Working Party


Regional Development Victoria Trade and Career Achievement Award
• Pauline Birch
• Karina Finch


Department of Sustainability and Environment Water Efficiency Improvements Award
• City of Ballarat
• John Padman
• Northern Grampians Shire Council


2010 Finalists

Regional Development Victoria Business Achievement Award
• FreshBins Pty Ltd
• Wangaratta Coachlines Pty Ltd


Prime Super Community Group of the Year Award
• Kyabram Ambulance Auxiliary
• The Awakenings Festival


Fonterra Dairy Leadership Award
• Dairy Extension Centre
• Murray Dairy Incorporated


Parks Victoria Environment and Sustainability Award
• Broken Boosey Conservation Management Network
• John Sherwood


BlueScope Distribution Leadership and Innovation Award
• McCallum Disability Services
• Tracy Montgomery & Helen Marsham


Parks Victoria Regional Achiever Award
• "Copsnkids" Program Ballarat
• Mark Uren


Regional Development Victoria Trade and Career Achievement Award
• Pauline Birch
• Sarah Parker


RACV free2go Youth Community Involvement Award
• Prue Addlem
• Michael Stott
• Rachel Tharratt

2009 Finalists

Regional Development Victoria Business Achievement Award
• Tgarage
• Tatura Hot Bread
• Girton Grammar School
• Luv a Duck Pty Ltd


Kleenheat Gas Community of the Year Award Population over 5,000
• Kyabram Ambulance Auxiliary
• Stawell Railway Station Gallery Inc
• Raising Dust Inc
• Bendigo Youth Choir Inc


Kleenheat Gas Community of the Year Award Population under 5,000
• Talbot Farmers Market
• Bridgewater Youth Swimming Hole Committee
• Joint Service Clubs of Terang and District


Parks Victoria Environment and Sustainability Award
• Peter Reefman
• Damascus College Energy Breakthrough Team
• Conservation Volunteers Australia (Ballarat)


Bartercard Local Hero Award
• Kevin & Rhonda Butler
• Jodie Thorneycroft
• "Copsnkids" Program
• Anne Leadbeater
• Kevin Butler


Parks Victoria Regional Achiever Award
• Elizabeth Maffei
• Wayne Collins
• Julie & David Hayes


Regional Development Victoria Trade and Career Achievement Award
• Nathalie Jeffrey 
• Priscilla Taylor 
• Susan Brumby 


RACV Free2go Youth Community Involvement Award
• Ben Easton
• Our Space ,Our Shire, Our Solution, Youth Action Committee (Macedon Ranges Shire Council)
• Word and Mouth Ltd