Victorian Regional Achievement & Community Awards

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.