Victorian Regional Achievement & Community Awards

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