2022 Volunteering Awards


The Volunteering Awards acknowledge and celebrate the outstanding contribution of thousands of volunteers around the Canberra region who willingly give their time and skills to the community each year. Our Awards ceremony was held on Wednesday 7 December and the following winners were announced. 


Volunteer of the Year Award  


Deborah Martin 

  Deborah is a Mulgyin Jaru/Kitja and Gooniyandi woman, a survivor of the Stolen Generation, and founder and CEO of the Jillari Justice Aboriginal Corporation, and was one of the Deadly ACT Aboriginal Women profiled in the Canberra Times on International Women’s Day 2020.  


As the Aboriginal representative on the Sentence Administration Board, she has been instrumental in ensuring Aboriginal voices are heard in proceedings and has delivered Cultural Sensitivity Training to members, including a mock hearing organized to inform Aboriginal community of the Parole process. Knowledge and understanding have improved Board decisions through informed re-integration decisions, reducing the recidivism rate of Aboriginal People in the ACT. She has delivered cultural sensitivity training to AFP, Federal Govt, Legal Services and more recently the Sentence Administration Board in the ACT.   


Deborah has researched and designed evidence-based and community-informed programs to address the factors identified in the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody (1996) that contribute to the high rate of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system and linked these to initiatives that are creative and innovative. Data from the SOS (Surviving Out Side) and the Strong culture, Strong Families confirm the success of these programs.  


Volunteer Leadership Award 

Sponsored by Galent Management Consulting 

Highly Commended 

Leesa Ffrench 

Leesa is a champion for individuals and families affected by cancer in the Canberra region through her volunteering and leadership at Rise Above. Rise Above provides practical financial assistance to individuals and families affected by cancer in the Canberra and QPRC region. 

Leesa was a primary part of raising over $400,000 for local cancer patients and their families last year. Leesa wants to make the cancer fight easier for those diagnosed in her community.  



John Butcher 

 John convenes the Friends of Oakey Hill ParkCare volunteer group, coordinating a volunteer group that undertakes weed management, tree planting and rehabilitation works on Oakey Hill Nature Reserve. John develops annual work plans alongside ACT Parks and Conservation Service and the Reserve Rangers and works with his volunteer team to carry out agreed works on the Nature Reserve, with the outcome of protecting and preserving the native flora/fauna of the region.  John hosts well-being volunteering activities that aim to support volunteer activities held with community service providers and schools in the region with the goal of improving well-being outcomes for vulnerable Canberrans and engaging young people in conservation work.  



Innovation Award 

Sponsored by CDC Centres 

Highly Commended 

Rainbow Paws Program – Rainbow Reading Dawgz 

  In partnership with Communities@Work Galilee School, the Rainbow Reading Dawgz program consists of 4 dogs and their owners who volunteer their time to attend Galilee School and work alongside the teachers and students.  The program was designed to develop children’s reading skills and encourages the participation of students who may not feel comfortable reading aloud in front of their peers.  The Rainbow Reading Dawgs team attend the school weekly, and students will read out loud to the dogs on a one-on-one basis. 



Share the Dignity – ACT Team 

Share the Dignity supports women, girls and those who menstruate in need, providing them with essential period products and other care items. They support those experiencing, or at risk of experiencing homelessness, fleeing domestic violence, or otherwise suffering financial hardship. Through their tireless efforts in 2022, Share the Dignity collected 18,045 period products and 2,338 handbags in ACT, ensuring thousands of women and girls in the Canberra region were able to access period products they may otherwise have not been able to afford.    


They also installed Dignity Vending Machines which dispense free pads and tampons, so items can be taken without anyone without having to ask. Volunteers source these locations and stock the machines. There are currently 13 vending machines across the Canberra region.  



Inclusion Award 

Sponsored by MF & Associates 

Highly Commended 

Courtney Chapman 

 Courtney has been a Lived Experience Volunteer Educator with Mental Illness Education ACT (MIEACT) for the past 12 months. During this time, she has courageously shared her personal story of living with and managing anxiety, suicidality and complex post-traumatic stress disorder with hundreds of Canberrans of all ages and backgrounds. Courtney has shared her story with the Australian Federal Police as a part of their Enhanced Mental Health Training Course. In 2022 Courtney was a Mental Health Community Coalition’s 2022 Community Mental Health Ambassador and ran 5km in the Canberra Times Fun Run representing and raising money for MIEACT. 



Chris Van Reyk 

Chris Van Reyk has volunteered with Community Services #1 for three years as a group facilitator for the social support group ‘Strum for Fun’. The group is a place for vulnerable and disadvantaged people of all abilities to come together to play and learn the ukulele in a friendly, welcoming environment.  Chris runs the weekly class and organises several concerts during the year that brings together a number of community music groups to perform.  

Chris has a long history of volunteering including volunteering for 18 years with MIE Australia presenting mental health awareness sessions to school children and adults. He has worked with ACT Mental Health Consumer Network as a committee/policy group member and as a Board Member for the ACT Mental Health Community Coalition. 



COVID-19 Relief and Resilience Award 

Sponsored by Aspen Medical 

Highly Commended 

COTA Get I.T. Volunteers 

  COTA ACT’s Get I.T. program assists older people to gain confidence and competence in using their digital devices in an increasingly digital world. Since its inception in 2020, the program has supported hundreds of older Canberrans for more than 1,500 instances of support. The program is currently run by seven volunteers who give more than 700 hours each year. The program works to assist with a range of issues such as: connecting to family online, setting up and using new devices, sharing photos and more. Of course, during the pandemic, this has been more critical than ever. 



ACT State Emergency Service Volunteers 

  The 330 volunteers of the ACT State Emergency Services are based at seven units across the ACT. Volunteers train every week so that they are ready and able when the ACT community reaches out for help. ACTSES volunteers help the community in times of flooding and storm damage. The volunteers of the ACTSES also have a role in educating the community about the danger of storms, and how to prepare for, respond to and recover from them. ACTSES volunteers also assist with searches for missing people and evidence in both urban and remote areas. 


ACTSES volunteers were an essential component of the ACT Government Covid response. Whilst the community moved into lockdown and isolation, the SES volunteers took to the streets delivering food hampers, school packs and RAT tests to vulnerable Canberrans.  



Senior Volunteer of the Year Award

Highly Commended 

Vinnies Emergency Relief Help Line  

The Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn Emergency Relief Helpline Team supports vulnerable members of the community who are seeking Emergency Relief assistance. The help provided can include assistance with food, rent, utility bills, clothing, education support, or connection to services. The six Helpline volunteers have over 45 years of experience combined and take calls from people in need five days a week.  


The Helpline Volunteers have shown resilience and perseverance while dealing with issues in their own lives like sickness and injury. They have always come back to the phones as they report it gives them a sense of purpose. 



Angela Brown 

 Angela is a proud Nimbah/Walwan woman who generously shares the Indigenous perspective on cultural aspects of reconciliation and healthcare. Angela uses her lived experience to advocate for people living with musculoskeletal conditions as the Chair of Musculoskeletal Australia’s Consumer Advisory Committee. Angela shares that musculoskeletal conditions have a high impact on people’s lives, contributing to mental health issues, poverty and homelessness among many other things.  


She has assisted in submissions to the review of the National Medicines Policy and the deliberations of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee regarding medicines for people with musculoskeletal conditions. She also worked on the national survey report that was sent to the Federal Minister for Health with recommendations for improvements to the medication authorisation process. Significant contributions as a member of Musculoskeletal Australia’s Reconciliation Working Group. 




Young Volunteer of the Year Award 

Sponsored by MF & Associates 

Highly Commended 

Alex Legg 

  Alex is the first openly trans member of the ACT Rural Fire Service and persevered through significant challenges to achieve her goal of becoming an operational volunteer. Alex is now involved in assisting the community with incident response activities to protect life, property, and the environment. She works with the community to develop awareness at community education events and takes part in incident response for RFS and other emergency services. Alex has shown other young members of the service how persistence, personal development and an ambition to improve prove to be valuable assets in emergency management volunteering.   



Alexandra Banks 

 Alex has been a dedicated Roundabout Canberra volunteer for numerous years and has provided grant writing services, fundraising events support, safety checking ownership and has been their critical Monday night team leader. Alex has single-handedly run the Monday night volunteer sessions, providing a welcoming atmosphere for volunteers who need a night-time option.  


Alex is a warm and friendly volunteer team leader and delivers quality sessions every week. Every Monday, she uses her attention to detail and reliability to ensure the safety of hundreds of donated car seats, to be re-gifted to families in need. Alex has been a great role model for younger volunteers, showing that there are volunteering options for all ages at Roundabout.  



Volunteer Team of the Year Award  

Highly Commended 

The Bold Bandannas  

The Bold Bandannas are the longest-running Relay For Life team in the ACT and will celebrate their 24th year in 2023. In the year 2000 team captain Rosemary Drabsch answered a call for team registrations when she was looking for a way to give back to her community. And give back they have! The Bold Bandannas are one of the top fundraisers for Cancer Council ACT, winning “Highest Fundraiser” 16 times, and holding the top spot for the last 9 years, even when COVID meant that the event had to run virtually for 2 years. The Bold Bandannas have raised over $560,000 for Cancer Council ACT’s prevention, support, and research programs.  



Indigenous Reading Project Engagement Team 

  The Indigenous Reading Project is a Canberra-based project, working to improve the reading ability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students throughout our region and across Australia. Their E-reading Program (ERP) targets kids who are behind their peers and want to improve their reading skills. The Engagement Team is made up of 4 volunteers who select students for the program, make sure students are supported, monitored and tested, and ensure that kids have access to quality e-books. They are very organised and use a mix of administrative, digital, and communication skills. The Engagement Team provide direct support to teachers, parents and students to give them the best possible chance of succeeding.  



Canberra’s Choice Award 


Leesa Ffrench 

  Leesa also won highly commended for the Volunteer Leadership Award and has also been honoured with the Canberra Choice Award.  Leesa puts others before herself, not because she has to, but rather because she wants to help and support people who need it.  


The prime role of volunteers at Rise Above is to raise money to provide financial support. After all, cancer isn’t just physically and mentally draining, it’s financially draining, and often families are struggling to make ends meet. Leesa has helped to ease this burden by leading fundraising efforts to a total of $400,000 in the past year.