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2018 Victorian Senior of the Year Awards

Premiers Award for Victorian Senior of the Year

Mr Hamish Russell, 79 from Lilydale

Hamish Russell with Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria and Sharon Knight, MP
Pictured (L-R): Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria, Hamish Russell and Sharon Knight, MP.

Nominated by Inspiro Community Health

Hamish Russell is receiving this award due to the breadth, reach, and lasting impact of his volunteer work. Since retiring 24 years ago, Mr Russell has dedicated himself to volunteering in his local community in the Shires of Yarra ranges and Cardinia.

In support of his nomination, his nominators wrote of the inspiration he provides those he comes into contact with, they said Hamish is a highly accomplished man with a firm commitment to giving back to the community.

An Agricultural Scientist, Hamish draws on his working life experiences to inform and assist the organisations he is involved with. Some of the most impactful results of his volunteering include:

  • Initiating a Tertiary Health Scholarship as Chair of the Board of Management at the Lilydale Community Hospital which has supported 70 students through their medical careers.
  • Leading the development of the Yarra Ranges Public Health and Wellbeing Plan as Chair of the Yarra Ranges Health and Wellbeing Advisory Committee which enabled the Council to sharpen their focus to wellbeing with a more targeted program of services.
  • Overseeing the amalgamation of nine magnificent gardens in the Dandenong Ranges as Chairman of the Dandenong Ranges Gardens Trust. This amalgamation brought the management and preservation of gardens under one umbrella with Parks Victoria, making them more sustainable in the long term.

In addition, Hamish serves or has served on committees overseeing Cardinia Dementia Care; the Lilydale Super Clinic; Ranges Community Health; and the Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network and has been an instrumental contributor for many positive health care developments in the local area. He volunteers with the maintenance group of the retirement village that he lives in, and also with his church.

Hamish has made a very significant contribution to community life in the Shires of Yarra ranges and Cardinia. His clear focus on aiding organisations to deliver high quality outcomes in response to the needs of local people stands him apart. He is also valued as a wise and generous man whom people find very easy to approach and work with. Hamish is modest about his achievements and is a natural mentor for young people.

Watch a video about Hamish RussellExternal Link

Healthy and Active Living Award

Mrs Robin Gale-Baker from Macleod

Nominated by Sustainable Macleod

Robin Gale-Baker and Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria

Robin was nominated for this award for her leadership in the establishment of Sustainable Macleod, the Macleod Vegie Swap and the Macleod Organic Community Gardens.

She is the networker and connector for a very diverse range of individuals and community organisations and she is regarded as a role model and mentor for older community members and younger generations seeking to engage in the community.

Robin has a deep understanding of the importance of social participation to people’s health and wellbeing – one of her respoinses has been the organisation of a busy calendar of events to attract and engage locals seeking activity and companionship.

This includes her work to engage young people and people with disabilities on practical approaches to healthy living and community participation

Her activism on sustainability and broader environmental issues, includes the workshops she delivers associated with the practicalities of local healthy food production and on the worldwide transition movement which aims to establish caring, safe and resilient local communities.

Promotion of Multiculturalism Award

Ms Marin Ahmed Abdulle, 69 from Flemington

Nominated by the Australian Somali Women's Healthcare Community Foundation.

Marin Ahmed Abdulle and Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria

Marin’s house is always open to guests and her local community respect and welcome this. She is the go to person, particularly for newly arrived families, older women and young mothers.

Marin is a door opener – she provides frontline support for newly arrived Somali migrants, connecting them to the local community and helping them make the transition to their new home; fostering an age-friendly environment and setting up a range of practical classes; such as sewing and cooking programs, presented by older women and open to all ages. These offer the opportunity for social connectedness and the maintenance of culture.

Marin identified that taking up English as a 2nd language is critical to the capacity for older Somali women to maintain their traditional involvement as guides for the next generations and she provides strong support to the presentation of the language classes program.

As a key member of the organisation’s crisis response team, Marin visits those who are sick to find out what they need and assists with accommodation, food and clothing for people in need of these services.

Her organisation and her family are very proud of what she has achieved.

Veteran Community Award

Mrs Nance Ormsby, 92 from Thomastown

Nominated by the Epping RSL

Nance Ormsby and Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria

Nancy has given over 30 years of voluntary service to veterans.

In that time, her formal roles have been as the Welfare Volunteer at Epping RSL, President of the Rats of Tobruk Ladies Auxiliary and President of the Epping Legacy War Widows group.

Nancy has made countless visits to veterans and elderly members in hospitals and at their homes to practical support and advocacy.

She is an excellent fund raiser for services for veterans and their families, and a renowned poppy and badge seller throughout the year.

Earlier this year the RSL presented Nancy with their highest honour – the prestigious Meritorious Service Medal recognising her work in the Land Army as a young woman and her voluntary work with Epping RSL and in the local community.

She is loved and respected as a calm and generous woman by all whom she works with.

COTA Senior Achiever Award

Ms Brenda Appleton, 67 from South Yarra

Nominated by the National Ageing Research Institute

Brenda Appleton and Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria

Brenda Appleton is a staunch advocate for older members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse and intersex community and in particular the senior members of the LGBTI community.

After retiring nearly ten years ago, Brenda became involved with Transgender Victoria, and is the Chair of Transgender Victoria and co-chair of the Victorian LGBTI alliance. Brenda works tirelessly on promoting community awareness and understanding of the experiences of trans and gender diverse people. A leading figure in bringing about cultural change in the community, in aged care services, and community health services, Brenda inspires others by generously sharing her own journey and experiences.

Brenda is dedicated to supporting the LGBTI community through education and professional training and has taken part in a range of research projects with the National Ageing Research Institute and the Council on the Ageing Victoria.

Due to Brenda’s dedicated volunteering, collaboration with Council on the Ageing Victoria, funding was secured to produce the publication Safeguarding the End of the Rainbow – a guide to help LGBTI people plan an end of life of their choice, taking into account their life experiences. This publication has been well received across the community and furthers Brenda’s advocacy for human rights, dignity and respect for the LGBTI community and in particular Trans people.

Brenda also speaks on positive ageing issues both nationally and internationally, articulately advocate for the rights, dignity and respect of LGBTI people.

Watch a video about Brenda AppletonExternal Link

Mrs Valerie Broad OAM, 81 from Kangaroo Flat

Nominated by the Bendigo Youth Choir

Valerie Broad and Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria

The Bendigo Youth Choir was founded in 1984 by its current Artistic Director, Valerie Broad. It is a not-for-profit organisation, supported by expert music staff who volunteer their time in developing the singing skills of young people, and their life skills in general.

The choir nominated Valerie for this award for this work, which has enabled hundreds of young people to develop an interest and expertise in music.

In addition to this work, Valerie is also recognised for her work with Rotary to develop respite centres for people with a disability, for her long-time commitment to Bendigo Carols by candlelight, for her fundraising role following Bendigo’s Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 and for her advocacy for regional performing arts spaces.

Aunty Iris Bysouth, 66 from Goornong

Nominated by Bendigo and District Aboriginal Cooperative.

Iris Bysouth

Iris is a Barkindji Elder and recognised by her organisation and the broader community as the holder of extensive cultural and family knowledge which she shares with members of the Stolen Generation seeking to find out where they come from and then assists them along that path.

Age has not slowed her, she has more energy and commitment than most people half her age and this is expressed in the many ways she provides timely and practical support, guidance and advocacy.

When a family comes to Bendigo and is experiencing difficulties she responds to ensure food, shelter and safety. She is a guide for many facing challenges with mainstream services, attending appointments with them, helping with forms and explaining how to navigate through service provider processes. This includes advocacy on housing, health and education services for Aboriginal people with English as their second language.

Iris is an organiser of the traditional dancing elements of the annual and very significant Dreamtime at the G and she is also a life member of the Dandenong Aboriginal Cooperative.

Mrs Elaine Bull, 82 from Patyah

Nominated by Edenhope Tourism

Elaine Bull

Elaine Bull moved to Patyah, near Edenhope in 1956 when she married a local farmer Frank. She still manages that farm in partnership with her son Stephen. For more than 60 years she has been very involved in her local community and since reaching senior-hood 22 years ago, her community presence has grown even more.

Elaine is a leader, a far-sighted and determined one. Her nominators say she is focused and fearless, with the capacity to always see things through to successful completion and to support others to do the same.

She is passionate about the physical and social heritage of her region, always with an eye to ensuring that local resources and services remain useful and relevant today and into the future. The Edenhope Tourism and Information Centre is the driving force for an extensive range of community initiatives for which Elaine is both a behind the scenes coordinator and promoter and a hands-on worker, a powerful combination.

In particular, her local community and the broader cricketing community honour her central role in ensuring that the legacy of Edenhope as home to Australia’s first cricket team to play internationally – the Aboriginal XI which toured England in 1868 – is not forgotten. Most of the team were Jardwadjali, Gunditjimara and Wotjobolok men from the district. This year has been one of significant outcomes – in May Australia Post issued a commemorative stamp and in June the men's and women's Aboriginal teams embarked on a historic tour of the UK to commemorate the 150th anniversary of that tour.

Mr Frank Cherry, 88 from North Blackburn

Frank was nominated by his family who are very proud to be able to acknowledge his community and volunteer work.

Frank Cherry and Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria

Frank is a founding member of the advocacy group Fair Go for Pensioners Association. His vision was to ensure pensioners have a stronger voice in everyday issues that affect their lives. The Association is now a voice for all people on pensions, single parent families and the unemployed.

A lifetime unionist, and since retiring a past State and national Secretary of the Retired Members Association, Frank is driven by his focus on addressing welfare and social justice issues for older Victorians, including advocating for the creation of the Bendigo Bank’s Reverse Mortgage Scheme and paying particular attention to the challenges faced by older people from a non-English speaking background.

Along the way, Frank has provided outstanding mentorship to many other volunteers, including younger people and is a role model for active ageing.

Mrs Elizabeth Crawford, 89 from Gisborne

Elizabeth was nominated by her grand-daughter Jacinta who has vivid memories from early childhood onwards of tagging along to many of Elizabeth’s volunteer activities.

Elizabeth Crawford

Elizabeth has chaired and been a committee member of numerous local community and service organisations, in particular the Gisborne Ambulance Service where 25 years of fund raising has delivered helicopter pad, high tech ambulance equipment and modern training aids.

Elizabeth is very much a hands-on person and skilled project manager – she is at the local Op Shop five days a week sorting through and ensuring best use of the items donated – there is a very extensive list of those who benefit as a result.

Jacinta was moved by the plight of fairy penguins suffering from oil spills and downloaded the pattern for a penguin coat, expecting Elizabeth to knit one. In six months, Elizabeth knitted 100! Jacinta remains in awe of her talents and hard work.

Mr Donald Forster, 81 from Edenhope

Donald Foster and Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria

Don’s nominator says that he is a man who pouts his hand up for any task and what makes him standout is his willingness to volunteer in a small community across a very wide range of clubs and associations.

He is a hands-on volunteer, curating and maintaining the local bowls and golf clubs and Lions Community Gardens, along with undertaking many administrative and organisational tasks behind the scenes. Don and his ride on mower have achieved local fame – always out and about providing his much appreciated “Don’s Mowing Service”!

He is a team member and group leader of the Lions Club Meals on Wheels service and a hospital visitor, checking on people’s wellbeing and providing social and practical support such as firewood in winter.

Don has also taken on a Carer role for three local elderly residents.

As a lifelong Edenhope resident, he has lengthy tenure with local organisations, in particular his 60 years with the volunteer Patyah Fire Brigade, a vital community service provider in western Victoria.

Mr Alan Henderson, 75 from Doncaster East

Nominated by Manningham City Council

Alan Henderson

Carers play a really important role in our community – they are quiet achievers.

Alan is a loving husband and carer to his wife Elizabeth. Manningham Council and the local community have benefitted enormously from Alan’s capacity to identify the learnings associated with his role.

He provides leadership, training and support for other older male carers – helping them understand their role and to speak up about their experiences and concerns.

Alan is a founding member of the Manningham Local Dementia Alliance Group. He is an articulate advocate on dementia awareness and response – a fellow member describes the “lightbulb moments” that Alan regularly delivers to those seeking to better understand what is needed. He is acknowledged as a great contributor, as an awareness raiser and for his quiet efficiency.

Dr Rosalie Hudson, 79 from Thornbury

Nominated by Elizabeth Hudson

Rosalie Hudson and Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria

Rosalie chairs “What Does Chris want” a support group for men with severe acquired brain injury. Initially established to support Chris, the group worked with therapists to develop an improved rehabilitative and recovery process and also influenced the Young People in Nursing Homes COAG agreement in 2005 to better respond to the needs of young people with acquired brain injury.

Rosalie is a passionate and effective advocate for the humanitarian treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, through her recent service on the Board of Hotham Mission and her extensive hands-on volunteer work. She works on the principle of “The Power of One” – committing significant time to individuals, believing that if you can support positive change in someone’s life, the ripples out into the broader community are significant.

In common with all our award recipients, Rosalie has never sought accolades. Her daughter Elizabeth says Rosalie is a lifelong learner, and a prime example of this is Rosalie receiving her Doctorate at the age of 62. She inspires others her age to get the most out of themselves, mentally, socially and physically.

Mr Robert Lowe Senior, 71 from Warrnambool

Nominated by the Warrnambool Community Garden

Robert Lowe

Robert Lowe Senior is a Peek Whurrong Elder from Warrnambool. He grew up on the Framlingham Aboriginal Mission at a time when Aboriginal people were not really allowed to speak about their history, however he now volunteers his time working with people across the Warrnambool community to educate them on the thousands of years of history, and areas of cultural significance across the region.

Robert who has a quiet and generous style, was instrumental in the upgrade of Swan Reserve in 2013-14, and inspired the design based on his knowledge of local Aboriginal history. He also guided the development of an Indigenous acknowledgement area in the Warrnambool Community Garden and takes school and public groups to the garden to teach about the cultural and historical significance of the garden site to the Maar (Gunditjmara people).

In addition to these community sites, Robert devotes his time to working with a wide range of organisations including local schools of all levels; the Warrnambool City Council; the Warrnambool Art Gallery and the Clontarf Academy.

In support of his nomination, the Director of the Warrnambool Clontarf Academy expressed his deep gratitude for the pivotal role that Robert has played in making the Clontarf Academy the success it is today.

The positive impact on visitors to the community garden and reserve has been transformative. For many of the visitors – Rob is the first Aboriginal person they have had the opportunity to interact with and learn from. The spirit and passion he has for building relationships and understanding between people of all cultures and ages makes him a wonderful role model for everyone in the community.

Watch a video about Robert LoweExternal Link

On the road to reconciliation with Robert Lowe

Ms Catherine Riggall, 82 from Ballarat

Catherine was nominated by Jenny Curtain

Catherine Riggall and Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria

Catherine is highly regarded in the Ballarat community for her long record of commitment to volunteering activities that improve the health and wellbeing of the community.

Two stand out projects that Catherine has been involved with in Ballarat are the revitalisation of Pennyweight Park in East Ballarat, which was a large community-led project to improve the facilities of the park, so the playground would be safe for families of all ages. And the local Relay for Life which enables the Ballarat community to recognise and celebrate local cancer survivors, patients and their carers to raise money and help support more people.

A strong advocate for providing opportunities for Ballarat seniors to keep active – mentally and physically and socially through dance – Catherine is always willing to help the many activities that she is involved with.

With a life-time dedicated to dance, Catherine has organised dancers to perform at nursing homes, Council and public appearances and festivals. For the monthly dance club, she organises everything from start to finish – including the supper!

A dedicated mentor and teacher for many years, Catherine has inspired many with her selfless community spirit, and raised a lot of money which she has donated to charitable organisations around Ballarat.

Catherine is also a lifetime member of the Ballarat South Senior Citizens Centre, where she is currently President, a position which she has held for the last three years. A very busy woman involved in many activities, Catherine is energetic, hard-working and dedicated to getting senior Victorians in her community up and dancing.

Mrs Margret (Marnie) Sloane, 84 from Seymour

Nominated by Seymour and District U3A

Margret (Marnie) Stone

Marnie is recognised by her peers as having an enquiring mind and a thirst for new challenges. A retired businesswoman, Marnie brings her organisational and entrepreneurial skills to her volunteer work.

She is a wonderful mentor, encouraging and supporting others to try new things and follow the U3A philosophy of lifelong learning.

Marnie is also a leader and long-term member of the Seymour Volunteer Group of Cancer Council Victoria which undertakes annual fundraising activities for the organisation.

She has delivered Meals on Wheels for many years, undertakes many community activities with her local church and is a mainstay of the district’s historical society, doing research, setting up displays and teaching others.

As her nominators say – she gets on with life.

Mrs Cheryl Webster, 66 from Burwood

Cheryl was nominated by Knitted Knockers Australia

Cheryl Webster and Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria

After her second breast cancer diagnosis, Cheryl decided the best way forward was to have a mastectomy, however at the time breast prosthesis were expensive and potentially uncomfortable, so Cheryl began to research alternatives and found an American organisation called Knitted Knockers.

Wasting no time, Cheryl joined forces with women from the Country Womens Association to form an Australian arm of Knitted Knockers. Using the softest Bendigo Woollen Mills 8 ply cotton to knit breast prosthesis, the knockers are provided for free to women following a mastectomy.

Through Cheryl’s hard work and dedication there are now 30 branches with volunteers knitting the prosthesis all around Australia, and the flow on effect on the confidence of breast cancer survivors has positive impacts on their re-entry into community, work and social life.

Through the Knitted Knockers, Cheryl has passionately advocated for breast cancer survivors both in Australia and internationally in Papua New Guinea and Vietnam. Cheryl has also been an active member, speaker and developed partnerships with the Rotary Club; Lions Club; Probus Club; Country Women’s Association and the Burwood Neighbourhood House.

Age Friendly Victoria Award

The U3A Movement in Victoria

Susan Webster, President, U3A Network of Victoria and Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria
Susan Webster, President, U3A Network of Victoria and Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria

The U3A Movement in Victoria was established in 1984 as a volunteer-based education and social movement for seniors. The movement and the work of the U3A Network Victoria which is the peak representative body for all U3As in Victoria (also celebrating their 30th Anniversary) and embodies the principles of an age-friendly organisation and builds communities that are inclusive of older people.

The Section Panel recommended U3A Network Victoria for this Award in recognition of the organisation’s commitment to the engagement of older people at all levels of the organisation and for the well-established presence of the U3A movement in Victoria.

Across Victoria there are now 109 U3As with over 38,000 members, who participate in and lead a great variety of activities and programs for seniorsU3As show the wealth of social capital in our communities.

Volunteer members share their expertise, skills and passions to lead courses on life-long learning programs, social interest groups such as healthy ageing, the arts, climate change and the environment, walking and mountain climbing; or work on advisory groups with local business, community organisations and all levels of government to develop and support socially inclusive and age-friendly communities and positive ageing strategies to support seniors to live their lives to the max!

There is also growing evidence to highlight the positive health and wellbeing benefits of being involved with and participating in local activities, and organisations like the U3As set an excellent example of this.

Reviewed 25 November 2022