The Victorian Senior of the Year Awards were presented at Government House on Wednesday 11th October 2023. Governor of Victoria, Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Margaret Gardner AC hosted the event.
Watch a video on the awards:
Premier's Award for Victorian Senior of the Year
Mr Andrew Suggett OAM, 80, Warrnambool.
Nominated by: Rotary Club of Warrnambool Daybreak
Andrew has lived in Warrnambool for 80 years, and throughout that time, there would be very few people who have done as much good for the community as he has. He joined the Warrnambool Rotary Club in 1980 and became one of the charter members of the new Rotary Club of Warrnambool Daybreak when it was formed in 1998. Serving as a Rotarian for such a long time is enough to earn recognition in itself. But it was in the year 2000 when Andrew’s life changed. Forced into early retirement following his diagnosis of Parkinson’s, he maintained his infectiously positive outlook on life and resolved not only to do everything he could to improve his own quality of life, but to do what he could to help others.
A lot of people might have slowed down after a Parkinson’s diagnosis, but Andrew accelerated. Andrew has been the President of the Warrnambool Parkinson’s Support Group since 2009 where he coordinates the monthly meetings and he was also instrumental in the creation of other Parkinson’s subgroups. He was the inaugural chair of the Warrnambool Rotary House project, a Parkinson’s Victoria board member from 2011 until 2016.
Receiving a diagnosis of a lifelong illness has the potential to be isolating. But Andrew does everything he can to let people know that they are not alone. Andrew has been a dedicated leader in the Warrnambool Parkinson’s Support Group since 2009. He fosters an inclusive environment for individuals to openly discuss their experiences and feelings while enjoying the company and friendship of others in a similar situation.
Alongside his work coordinating monthly support group meetings, Andrew was instrumental in the creation of other Parkinson’s subgroups, including Painting with Parkinson’s; Exercise for Parkinson’s activities and initiatives; and ParkinSong, a therapeutic group singing intervention developed by music therapists and speech pathologists.
In addition to his community roles, Andrew maintains a monthly newsletter and organises an annual awareness walk to ensure those effected by Parkinson’s don’t feel isolated. Andrew chairs the Warrnambool Combined Health Support Network, which brings people together to socialise and provide mutual support to one another to enjoy the best quality of life possible.
Andrew’s commitment extends beyond Parkinson’s advocacy. He served on the Board of Parkinson’s Victoria (now Fight Parkinson’s), championing the incorporation of cutting-edge research and treatment practices into regional Victoria. His active involvement in the Rotary Club over four decades, including in leadership roles like President and District Governor, underscores his dedication to the community.
Doctors told Andrew when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2000 that he wouldn’t be able to walk properly within five years. But he kept playing golf, he went to the gym and those years of keeping himself fit and healthy have given him the ability to continue to serve the community he calls home. Until 2020, he regularly attended Daybreak Rotary Club’s Laundry/Shower/BBQ sessions for people living rough in Warrnambool, where he provided a friendly social connection for people experiencing complex mental health, addiction, homelessness, and isolation issues. His extensive engagement with Warrnambool City Council committees and reputation for generosity and positivity make Andrew a beloved figure in his community.
Ageing Well Award
Mr Maxwell (Max) Primmer, 74, Hepburn Shire.
Nominated by: Ms Madeleine Ellis
Max is a humble person known for his sense of humour and a strong advocate for human rights for all members of the community. He serves as an Elders Rights Advocate, supporting the LGBTI community through Alice’s Garage and volunteers at the Daylesford Community Cinema. Max hosts radio shows, including the Hepburn Radio Breakfast and Rainbow Radio, and leads the Ageing Disgracefully Thursday Group, fostering connections among single, widowed or divorced seniors.
Max is actively involved in the Chillout Festival and is a narrator for Rainbow Storytime for young children. He volunteers at Hepburn House Aged Care Community, including regularly taking residents on outings. Max visits dialysis patients to provide support, motivation, and encouragement while they undergo dialysis, and assists them with transportation for medical appointments. He is also a dedicated speaker for the National Kidney Foundation.
Promotion of Multiculturalism Award
Mrs Hanh Tran, 74. City of Booroondara.
Nominated by AVA Boroondara Senior Citizens Group Inc.
Hahn, a retired business owner, began volunteering as the assistant kitchen leader at Hoa Nghiem Buddhist Temple in 2003, where she cooked health vegan meals of the local Buddhist community and residents in South-East Melbourne. She then joined the Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association in 2006, actively participating in fundraising efforts and becoming the Treasurer in 2022.
Hahn became an active member of the Boroondara Senior Citizens Association in 2004, serving as both Treasurer and President. Hahn organises a regular weekly lunch and monthly group discussions and, during the pandemic, she organised weekly online meetings to keep the Boroondara Senior Citizens Group connected.
Hanh contributes to community cohesion through activities like dancing, sports, exercise and computing, and has led fundraising initiatives for homeless people and the Vietnamese Community.
Healthy and Active Living Award
Mr Douglas (Doug) Sloan OAM, 73, Maroondah City.
Nominated by: Blind Sport & Recreation Victoria (BSRV)
Pictured here is Maurice Gleeson accepting the award on behalf of Doug Sloan who was unable to attend the ceremony.
For over 52 years, Douglas has been a tireless advocate for blind sports in Victoria. After losing his sight in a car accident, he joined Blind Cricket, dedicating his life to volunteering.
Currently serving as the Voluntary President of Blind Golf Australia for 12 years and Blind Golf Victoria for 22 years, Douglas has also been volunteering with Blind Sports & Recreation Victoria for 9 years, and a Volunteer Ambassador for 3 years. He’s made significant strides in advancing blind sports, establishing tournaments, improving accessibility, and promoting blind golf through partnerships and fundraising.
Douglas also created audible cricket balls for vision-impaired players and founded the World Blind Cricket Council. At 73 years old, he remains an elite athlete and influential role model, fostering community among those who live with vision impairment.
Veteran Community Award
Mr Dennis Clarke, 76, Manningham.
Nominated by: Doncaster RSL
Dennis has led a life dedicated to service and support after serving in Vietnam and contracting Poliomyelitis.
In 1984, Dennis became the inaugural President of Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RAEME) Vietnam Veterans Southern Chapter, remaining actively involved on the committee and as Secretary. He volunteered extensively, creating driver training courses and coordinating events for Vietnam Veterans.
Dennis is a vital part of the Doncaster RSL, serving as Senior Vice President and Appeals Officer, and fundraising for veterans’ causes. He tirelessly supports veterans, widows, students, and the community, ensuring their wellbeing and access to support services. Dennis continues to be a dedicated and compassionate advocate for others.
Council on the Ageing (COTA) Victoria Senior Achiever Awards
Mr Shashi Kochhar OAM, 75, City of Monash
Nominated by: Notting Hill Neighbourhood House
Shashi is a dedicated volunteer with over 30 years of service to the community. He co-founded the Geelong Asian Community Association in 1982 and established the Friends of the Children Foundation in 1996. A committed blood donor with over 210 donations to the Australian Red Cross by 2021, he actively participates in various organisations, including Lions Club Oakleigh, Monash Multifaith Group, Monash Men's Shed, and Monash Disability Consultative Group.
As a Justice of Peace, he has completed over 450 shifts since 2012 and initiated projects like the Bread Brigade and The Walk for Monash Children's Hospital. Shashi continues to seek new ways to serve his community, inspiring others to volunteer.
Ms Robbie Rae, 71, Strathbogie Shire.
Nominated by: Mrs Sarah King
Robbie is a highly respected and dedicated community member in Violet Town, known for her extensive volunteer work spanning over three decades. She has served as the VICSWIM Regional Coordinator for 32 years, actively supporting the Friends of the Pool Committee and promoting water safety. Robbie is also a dedicated judge for Keep Australia Beautiful Victoria (Tidy Town) and a member of various groups, including Victoria Volunteers and the CFA.
Her involvement in the Violet Town Bowling Club includes organising fun and educational lawn bowls events for children. Robbie has also contributed to environmental projects, supported community festivals, and played a significant role in the Violet Town Hall Committee. Her commitment, awards, and enthusiasm for nurturing community spirit and reducing isolation make her a cherished community leader.
Mrs Gwenyth Barbary OAM, 86, Yarriambiack Shire.
Nominated by: Yarriambiack Shire Council
Gwenyth Barbary is a dedicated and pioneering volunteer with a remarkable 32-year tenure managing the Yarriambiack Shire Council Community Asset Committee Retirement Units in Woomelang. She has tirelessly advocated for her community, enabling elderly residents to remain in their homes among loved ones.
Gwenyth's involvement with the Country Women's Association and her roles with various committees, including the Medical Centre, Centenary Committee, and Hall Ladies Auxiliary, showcases her commitment to community service. Gwenyth is a valued volunteer for multiple organisations, demonstrating unwavering dedication. Gwenyth's outstanding contributions earned her the Yarriambiack Citizen of the Year Award in 2001, and her passion for community service continues to shine.
Mrs Rachel Sandey, 82, Bayside.
Nominated by: Triumph of Good Incorporated
Rachel's leadership as President of Friendship, a seniors club, has had a profound impact on community wellbeing. She oversaw the club's remarkable growth, expanding membership from 77 to 140 members. Rachel's personal and compassionate approach in combating loneliness and fostering inclusivity, particularly among Russian-speaking seniors, is evident through her visits and support for every member.
She serves as a mentor, nurturing emerging artists and promoting cross-cultural exchanges. Rachel's positive outlook on aging inspires people of all ages to embrace later stages of life with optimism. Her passion for activities like cold-water swimming and laughter yoga promotes physical and mental wellbeing. Moreover, her dedication to supporting new migrants greatly advances inclusion in the community. Rachel is a true asset to her community's overall welfare.
Ms Annette Ward, 75, Whitehorse
Nominated by: Eastern Health
Annette has been a dedicated community volunteer for over 35 years, contributing her energy and drive to various roles. She spent 17 years with the EdCare program in the Emergency Department of Box Hill Hospital, serving as a volunteer convener and mentoring new volunteers. Annette has also given her time for a decade at a local church's St Thomas Playgroup.
Her background as a Pastoral Care Coordinator for 18 years, with a focus on beginning-of-life and end-of-life support, has made her an invaluable support for those organising funerals. Additionally, Annette facilitates a support group and, along with a team of professionals, secured a grant to produce a book titled From Fear to Freedom. Her commitment to community and support is unwavering.
Mr Antonio (Tonino) Bentincontri, 81, City of Yarra
Nominated by: CO.AS.IT. - Italian Assistance Association
Tonino Bentincontri is a respected leader in the Italian community, dedicated to bridging cultures and promoting inclusivity in multicultural Australia. Having immigrated from Italy to Australia many years ago, he understands the challenges of adapting to a new culture and language.
Tonino has served as a bilingual and bicultural guide for Italian immigrants, organising language classes, cultural events, and festivals that celebrate their heritage. He fosters connections between Italian-born and Australian-born Italians. Tonino is an energetic volunteer and advocate for social justice, advocating against racism, discrimination, and inequality. He actively supports initiatives that promote diversity across Australian society, embodying a commitment to harmony and inclusiveness.
Mr Ian Barclay, 65, Hobsons Bay.
Nominated by: Williamstown S&LSC
Ian has many talents and volunteers across diverse communities. His key contributions are with the University of the Third Age (U3A), Williamstown Swimming and Life Saving Club (WS&LSC), the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, and the Repair Cafe at the Louis Joel Arts and Community Centre.
Inclusivity is the consistent theme that runs through all of Ian’s voluntary activities. He has an ability to engage and support people of all abilities. His quiet, patient manner and ability to create social connections serve to build people’s confidence far and beyond the skills they may be learning. A life member of WS&LSC since 2022, and currently Secretary of the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, Ian is someone that people of all ages and experience admire.
Mrs Lorna Green, 90, Indigo Shire.
Nominated by: Beechworth Citizens Club
Lorna started a line dancing program in Mumbil, NSW, almost a decade before she moved to Beechworth in 2001. Once in Beechworth, she became involved in local lawn bowls, croquet, line dancing and table tennis. In 2007, when funding was no longer available for the Beechworth Exercise Activity and Training group (BEAT), Lorna began a Certificate III in Fitness. She was 75.
Since then, BEAT’s membership has grown to about 90 people aged 55 and over. Lorna has been actively involved on its Committee of Management for many years, helping to organise the club’s social outings and activities such as boat and bus trips, theatrical performances, and involvement in the local Easter parade. Lorna’s hearing loss is no barrier to her mixing readily with those who gather for morning tea after exercise class and welcoming all newcomers.
Mr Eamon Naughton, 84, City of Darebin
Nominated by: Irish Australia Support and Resource Bureau Incorporated
Eamon Naughton’s dedication, impactful work, and leadership has cemented his place as a well-respected member of the Irish community in Victoria.
Eamon has dedicated himself to the service, preservation and proliferation of Irish culture, community and identity in Victoria. As a native Irish language speaker, Eamon pioneered the Irish language scene in Victoria. His willingness to lend a helping hand whenever needed has made Eamon an invaluable asset to the community. Eamon remains active and enthusiastic in his participation in a range of volunteer activities.
Mr David Martin OAM, 73, Wodonga.
Nominated by: Mrs Monique Tucker
David has had a lengthy association with the RSL, spanning back to 1969. He served as Treasurer for six years before becoming President in 1990 and has been the Sub-Branch Honorary Secretary since 2009. His significant contributions include the development of the Rutherglen Memorial Park, which involved acquiring obsolete artillery pieces, constructing a World War II Honour Wall, pathways, and various memorial structures.
David secured a grant for a World War I soldier statue to mark the ANZAC Day Centenary. Additionally, he supports the Vietnamese veteran community by identifying children in need of medical treatment and visiting orphanages and schools in South Vietnam, demonstrating a strong commitment to community and veterans' welfare.
Mrs Lesley Twidle, 77, City of Brimbank.
Nominated by: Sunshine RSL Sub-Branch Inc
Lesley is an exceptional volunteer with a long history of dedicated service. She has served as Secretary of the Sunshine RSL Sub-Branch for over 15 years, committing up to five hours a day to her role. For more than 17 years, Lesley has coordinated the sub-branch's welfare program, including fundraising for ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day. She also organises the ANZAC Day Community Commemoration March, involving various community groups.
Since 2007, Lesley has managed the Sunshine Harvester Day Club, providing social activities, meals, entertainment, and support for older community members. During the pandemic, she initiated a meal program for RSL veterans and seniors. Lesley's volunteerism also extends to St Vincent de Paul's Maribyrnong Soup Kitchen. Her enduring commitment to community welfare is remarkable.
Mrs Elizabeth Vescio, 67, Moonee Valley.
Nominated by: Avondale Heights Grandparents’ Play Group
In 2012, Elizabeth was one of the founders of the Avondale Heights Grandparents’ Play Group. After she took on leadership of the group in 2014, it quickly outgrew the weekly session and more days were added to welcome more families. Elizabeth has fundraised and obtained council grants to purchase equipment such as bicycles, see-saws, toys, building blocks and paints, pencils and puzzles. Her vision and tireless work have paved the way for future grandparents to enjoy spending time with their grandchildren at the playgroup.
Elizabeth has also raised many thousands of dollars for the Cancer Council by organising Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea events.
Mr Kevin Healey, 73, Moorabool.
Nominated by: Ballan & District Community House Men's Programme
A resident of the small town of Blackwood for most of his life, Kevin has been a go-to person for the community for many years. In 2007, Kevin was the guiding force behind the creation of the Men’s Group at the Ballan and District Community House. He has been a committed member of the Ballan CFA for many years and is always one of the first responders to call outs, having attended more than 350 incidents.
Kevin also assists with door knocking in Ballan as part of the CFA’s fundraising efforts for the annual Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal. A keen scholar and researcher, Kevin embarked on a massive project for the ANZAC Centenary in 2015, spending thousands of hours on research for the Ballan RSL and the Historical Society. He also volunteers with the Wombat Arts group.
Mr Ian Doug Ashton, 80, Merri-bek.
Nominated by: LINK Community & Transport
Doug has dedicated nearly 20 years to volunteer community driving with LINK Community & Transport, a service that aids aging individuals in remaining happy and healthy in their homes. Since 2004, he has directly assisted thousands of clients, making a positive impact on countless lives.
Doug continues to commit to driving one day a week, ensuring community members have access to medical appointments, social events, and essential services. His dedication inspired his wife to join four years ago. Although humble, Doug accepted this nomination to shed light on the crucial need for more volunteer drivers to support those in need, exemplifying his unwavering commitment to community welfare.
Reviewed 31 October 2023