Northern Rivers' selfless volunteers honoured
"WITHOUT volunteers we wouldn't have a community,” was the powerful statement made by Coraki's Robert Grasby as he accepted his awards for Senior Volunteer of the Year and The Northern Rivers 2019 Volunteer of the Year.
He was among the outstanding volunteers from across the Northern Rivers region who were recognised for their contribution to their communities at a special ceremony in Lismore on Thursday.
Robert was honoured for his selfless work at the Coraki Golf Club, where he almost single-handedly helping keep the Coraki Golf Club operating through his volunteer work on the greens.
He maintains the fairways, greens and bunkers as a volunteer, as well as organising competitions, coaching clinics and support for young golfers. A local gold club is an important sporting facility for regional towns, but also plays a core role in building well connected and healthy communities.
Robert's volunteer work has ensured the club survived difficult financial times and now thrives with better facilities and a growing membership.
"I was overwhelmed to receive both awards,” he said.
"The coaching is something I love doing and if we don't have kids coming up then you've got no one to replace the old fellas like me when we drop off.
"I like giving the kids some self esteem and see them improve. It gives me a sense of fulfillment helping others.”
Taking out Adult Volunteer of the Year was Woolongbar's Sheliya Van Buggenum from the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children.
As an adult with significant hearing loss, the Northern Rivers 2019 Adult Volunteer of the Year Sheliya Van Buggenum knew the impact she could make to other people adjusting to new technology that helped restore hearing after many years of impairment.
She volunteers at the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children's Auditory Training Suite in Lismore, where she focuses her support on adults who have recently received a Cochlear Implant.
These adults often require greater support to adjust to their new hearing, including learning or re-learning language skills, help with digital aids and the support and confidence to take on this new challenge later in life.
Sheliya said she was shocked to win the award.
"I really struggled with my cochlear implant and at the time there wasn't a peer support group available for me,”she said.
"So I eventually started a peer support group called Cicada for people how have cochlear implants or are looking at getting them.
"Volunteering has given me purpose and it makes me feel good to help people who maybe need some support. Helping others is rewarding in itself.”
The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards is an annual program run by The Centre for Volunteering which has grown to become one of the largest celebrations of volunteering across the country.
Regional finalists for the awards are announced at 21 ceremonies throughout NSW and are invited to the Gala State Ceremony in Sydney for the announcement of the 2019 NSW Volunteer of the Year.
The Centre for Volunteering CEO Gemma Rygate said volunteers from across the region had given so much to the local community.
"Your volunteers build connections for people in towns and communities across the region,” Ms Rygate said.
Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward said volunteers made an enormous contribution to local communities.
"A vibrant volunteering sector leads to healthy and strong communities,” Mr Ward said.
"In NSW, volunteers contribute more than $5 billion to the economy each year and their social contribution is even greater. The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards are a fitting way to say thank you.”