Celebrating Victoria’s Unsung Health Heroes

23 May 2017

The ninth Minister for Health Volunteer Awards today celebrated the tireless efforts and incredible work of some of Victoria’s most generous citizens.

Minister for Health Jill Hennessy handed out the 14 awards, congratulating the recipients on their outstanding work, which ranged from leadership in raising awareness within the community around specific health issues, to closely caring for the most vulnerable.

The annual awards recognise the hard work and generosity of the countless volunteers that give their time and talent in hospitals, ambulance services, community health, mental health and aged care.

Extraordinary work was seen in a variety of support, care and advocacy efforts across the categories of promoting public health, supporting cultural diversity, improving patient experience and the new Better Care Victoria Innovation award.

Lifetime volunteers, young, new and ongoing volunteers alike were honoured for their efforts in bettering the delivery and quality of all health services in Victoria.

Recipients of the Outstanding Achievement Awards for 2017 are:

  • Michael Casha, Carers Victoria
  • Louisa Detez, Eating Disorders Victoria
  • Julie Miller, Ambulance Victoria
  • End of Life Care, Barwon Health
  • Melbourne Genomics Health Community Advisory Group, Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance
  • Steven Taylor, Hepatitis Victoria
  • Brian Catchpole, Solve Disability Solutions
  • Jan McNess, Compassionate Friends Victoria
  • Julie Kilgour, Bass Coast Health
  • Colin Krycer, Victorian AIDS Council
  • Linda Kotsopoulos, Northern Health
  • Gabby Gamble, Bendigo Health
  • Friends of Carinya Auxillary, Peninsula Health
  • Kate Hutchinson, Merri Health

The number of people volunteering in health organisations across the state continues to grow every year, with 463 people from 56 organisations nominated for an award.

Quote attributable to Minister for Health Jill Hennessy

“This event never fails to inspire and stun me with the generous, creative and tireless efforts of our volunteers in Victoria – the work they do is truly extraordinary and helps some of our most vulnerable Victorians.”

Quote attributable to Parliamentary Secretary for Carers and Volunteers Gabrielle Williams

“Picking the winners for these awards is a tough job – but these awards are a very important part of recognising the extraordinary contribution our volunteer workforce makes to our health system.”

2017 Minister for Health Volunteer Awards recipients:

Outstanding Achievement by a Young Volunteer

Michael Casha

Carers Victoria

Michael is a 25-year-old young carer and ambassador for young carers and family carers in the community. Becoming a young carer from a very early age, supporting his parents to care for his eldest brother David who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of five, Michael now juggles his full-time career, his caring and his volunteering to go above and beyond the call of duty for

the community. Through his work as an Ambassador for Carers Australia and Carers Victoria and a volunteer and supporter of Little Dreamers, a young carer awareness raising organisation, he improves the lives of young carers by raising awareness, advocating for change and being a voice for so many who do not have one.

Louisa Detez

Eating Disorders Victoria

Louisa is a dedicated and enthusiastic member of the Eating Disorders Victoria (EDV) volunteer team. Her role includes supporting, encouraging and connecting with people who are affected by eating disorders. Her thoughtful and considered responses to the EDV community on the phone, in person, via email or on EDV’s

forum form the core of the volunteer team’s services.

Outstanding Lifetime Achievement

Jan McNess

The Compassionate Friends Victoria

2017 marks 20 years of wonderful, hugely beneficial voluntary work from Jan in supporting bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents. When Jan first experienced The Compassionate Friends Victoria (TCFV) – two years after the death of her eldest son Jeremy – the experience of peer support was a profound comfort, and subsequently Jan became the Geelong representative of TCFV.

Jan’s volunteering with TCFV is two-fold. She provides ongoing support to bereaved individuals and families through support groups, one-on-one peer support, creative work, and advocacy, and she is also a supporter of the supporters, TCFV’s statewide voluntary force of support group leaders.

Julie Kilgour

Bass Coast Health

Julie is an inspiration to the community of Wonthaggi and surrounding areas in South Gippsland. A passionate woman with a zest for life, Julie has unselfishly devoted 35 years to volunteering with Bass Coast Health, in a way that will forever shape the future of the volunteer program.

Julie underwent training with a Bass Coast Health social worker some 35 years ago to assist women and children affected by domestic violence. This contribution to volunteering has shaped the life of many in the local community, helping children and women to recover from domestic violence and instilling self-esteem and hope for a better life.

Colin Krycer

Victorian AIDS Council

Colin is a longstanding Victorian AIDS Council volunteer, as well as an unpaid committee representative for many other Melbourne community groups. He is also a presenter on JOY 94.9 FM, having been part of the planning before they went to air, as well as from day one of transmission on World AIDS Day, 1 December 1993.

Colin has volunteered tirelessly for over four decades. The quintessential unsung hero, Colin is often behind the scenes as the audio-visual guy, ensuring that speeches can be heard, visual presentations can be seen, the voices of the Gay and Lesbian Choir can soar, and that thoughts expressed so passionately on JOY FM are recorded for posterity on podcasts.

His willing engagement early in the life, and continued support, of a number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) projects and organisations displays his dedication to the community. He is a role model for giving something back without fanfare or fuss.

Outstanding Achievement by a Volunteer: Better Care Victoria Innovation Award

Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance Community Advisory Group

Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance

The Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance (MGHA) Community Advisory Group provides patient and community perspectives that inform how genomic medicine is implemented in Victoria. This group of volunteers is one of the world’s first in the field of genomics – established in January 2014, within weeks of MGHA’s founding. It is a patient-connected, grassroots group of individuals, each nominated for their

networks, knowledge and skills.

MGHA comprises leading healthcare and research organisations dedicated to bringing the global knowledge of genomics to the individual care of Victorians – the first such alliance in Australia. The Community Advisory Group has led the way in ensuring community perspectives inform the implementation of genomics into healthcare – resulting in better care for patients. A pioneer in its field, nationally and internationally, the group has created a model and framework for community involvement in the genomic medicine era.

Steven Taylor

Hepatitis Victoria

Steven is a social worker and film student who has volunteered with Hepatitis Victoria for over a year. He has done this in two capacities – as someone with high-level

skills and passion, and as someone with a lived experience of hepatitis. Steven has contributed to peer support programs such as HEPConnect – an over-the-phone support service for those living with viral hepatitis, as well as community advocacy for hepatitis. As a HEPHero, Stephen has publicly pledged to advocate for the elimination of stigma and discrimination of viral hepatitis.

Using his film production skills, he provided Hepatitis Victoria with a short film, C the change, which he produced in his own time outside his designated volunteer

hours. By sharing his personal story, he challenges the stigma and discrimination of viral hepatitis.

Brian Catchpole

Solve Disability Solutions

Brian is a founding member of Solve Disability Solutions, and he has volunteered for 41 years as a technical volunteer. Initially volunteering while working full-time,

Brian continues in the role today, despite being well into his 80s. Through his innovative approach, Brian uses his ingenious problem-solving abilities and engineering expertise to design, make and or modify equipment for

people with a disability when a commercial solution cannot be found. His projects have allowed people to become more independent, try out new hobbies or sports, and have more opportunities to participate in the community.

Outstanding Achievement by a Volunteer: Improving Patient Experience

Julie Miller

Ambulance Victoria

Julie has a strong passion to ensure her team and community are provided with a community first responder team, which is reflected in her passion and drive to nurture and support the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). First responders are volunteers who are despatched at the same time as an ambulance, and they provide basic emergency care services within their local community until the ambulance arrives.

A founding member of her local CERT, Julie has been instrumental in ensuring the CERT provides a vital 24-hour service to the community. Julie not only performs the hands-on role, she is also a vital link that maintains the team’s cohesion, wellbeing, support and ensures that the CERT delivers on its promise.

The Dignity Therapy Team

Barwon Health

The Dignity Therapy team comprises 14 volunteers from a wide variety of professional backgrounds including journalism, social work, case management, local politics and school administration. Some also have personal experience with palliative care. Dignity Therapy involves interviewing patients with life-limiting illnesses, allowing people an opportunity to reflect on key aspects of their lives and document messages for loved ones in a printed book.

Nine of the volunteers conduct face-to-face interviews with patients, and five of them transcribe the interviews and provide the behind-the-scenes support for the program. The volunteers have a high level of commitment and strive to provide individualised support to the patients.

Outstanding Achievement by a Volunteer: Improving Public Healthcare

Friends of Carinya Auxiliary

Peninsula Health

The Friends of Carinya Auxiliary (FCA) was established in 1992, six months after the Carinya Aged Persons Mental Health Residential Care Facility first opened. The facility provides highly specialised and unique care for elderly members of the community who have dementia or mental health diagnoses and cannot be managed in nursing homes due to behavioural issues. The membership is made up of Carinya staff, family of past and present residents and community members who have a passion for making a real difference in mental health residential aged care.

Kate Hutchison

Merri Health

Kate has been contributing to volunteering for over four decades and is passionate about improving social conditions and services for women and marginalised families in Moreland. A humble and compassionate woman with a very warm and gentle demeanour, her work in this area is complemented by her very strong advocacy for the advancement of much-needed healthcare services

for children and disadvantaged families.

Outstanding Achievement by a Volunteer: Supporting Diversity

Linda Kotsopoulos

Northern Health

Linda is known for the support, comfort, kindness and countless smiles she has brought to dementia patients and their families during her 11 years of volunteering at the Kath Atkinson Wing (KAW) of Northern Health’s Bundoora Extended Care. Linda is committed to gaining a better understanding of the needs of people with dementia, while adding a personal touch to their everyday lives. A bilingual speaker, Linda goes out of her way to fulfil her friendly visitor role of assisting to bring the outside world in. By making Greek and Italian coffee and baking cakes for patients to enjoy while playing cards or chatting, she helps patients to experience a little bit of their culture and home life.

Gabby Gamble

Bendigo Health

Gabby, a well-known Aboriginal Elder, is incredibly passionate about Bendigo Health and the Aboriginal community of the Loddon Mallee Region. Approximately

two years ago, Gabby joined the volunteer team with the clear view of trying to encourage the local Aboriginal community to be comfortable to get involved with

or receive care at Bendigo Health.

It didn’t take Gabby long to show interest in other ways to improve and support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cohort, and she sought to join the Bendigo Health Consumer Advisory Committee. As a member of the committee, Gabby gives regular feedback from the Aboriginal community, and sees her role as a two-way street. She takes every opportunity to share with the Aboriginal community what she has learned from Bendigo Health that may be useful for the ongoing journey in the health service.

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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