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2021 Victorian Senior of the Year Award recipients

Celebrating the community spirit and contributions of senior Victorians who make our state stronger and fairer

Premier's Award for Victorian Senior of the Year

Anne Tudor OAM, 71, from Black Hill

Anne wears a striped shirt and sits with her labrador in a beautiful bushland setting.

Nominated by: Dementia Australia

Anne Tudor has contributed in many ways – locally, in Victoria, nationally and internationally – to increasing dementia awareness and understanding about the importance of inclusion and empathy in the community. Anne’s wife Edie Mayhew was diagnosed at age 59 and died of complications from younger onset dementia in 2020.

From 2011, Anne and Edie committed together to sharing their story to help others, to make a difference to the lives of people living with dementia, their families and carers. They became active and engaged members of the Younger Onset Dementia Reference Group for Alzheimer’s Australia Vic. In 2013 Anne supported Edie to be an inaugural member Alzheimer’s Australia Advisory Committee, now called Dementia Australia Advisory Committee. In 2017, when Dementia Australia formed, Anne joined the National Dementia Advocates Program and is still an active member.

Between 2013 to 2017 Anne, with Edie, presented their experience of dementia with an openness that resonated and had impact at numerous significant conferences and forums; in major media features; participated in research; and contributed to policy papers, reports and submissions that influenced change and policy at all levels of government. In October 2019 Anne was a compelling witness at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, sharing her advocacy and experience with dementia as Edie’s carer within the aged care system, and as an LGBTI couple accessing the system and services.

In 2016 Anne and Edie were the driving force behind Bigger Hearts – the grassroots, community-driven campaign to inspire the citizens of Ballarat to commit to making their regional city dementia-friendly. This led to the establishment of the Bigger Hearts Dementia-Friendly Alliance, Ballarat in 2017. The Bigger Hearts model is now influencing the thinking and approach of many Australian communities with inclusion in the national Dementia-Friendly Communities program.

Launched in June 2021, Anne and Edie were the inspiration in the development of Australia’s first Dementia-Friendly Forest and Sensory Trail in Ballarat’s Woowookarung Regional Park. Together with the Alliance, Parks Victoria, people with dementia and care partners, the Trail offers a gentle and inclusive sensory experience and is Anne’s proudest accomplishment.

Anne and Edie’s legacy is the resonating impact of many years of dementia advocacy across all levels of government and the wider community.

Read more about Anne.

Promotion of Multiculturalism Award

John Thuy, 69, from Ashburton

John wears a beautiful traditional jacket in aqua and gold, he smiles at the camera

Nominated by: Australian Vietnamese Arts Inc.

John came to Australia from Vietnam as a Colombo Plan Student in 1970. After a long career in electrical engineering, in 2010 John actively engaged in arts and cultural matters, volunteering to promote multicultural and social connections among Vietnamese seniors in many organisations across Melbourne and overseas.

John has been tirelessly organising community programs that help seniors build social connection, self-confidence and friendship, using traditional Vietnamese arts & culture as a vehicle. Together with healthy and active aging programs such as healthy eating, gambling harm prevention, chess, chronic illness awareness, singing and dancing, John is always thinking of new ways to bring people together to reduce social isolation, support local artists and showcase Vietnamese arts and culture.

John’s achievements are at the core of what the promotion of multiculturalism means: enhancing the feeling of belonging, sharing appreciation of different cultures, improving inclusion and social harmony between groups of different gender, age and culture.

Read more about John.

Veteran Community Award

Veronica Hassing, 85, from Burnside

Veronica wears a navy shirt, she sits on a chair and holds a box with poppies on it, she smiles at the camera

Nominated by: Melton City Council

In memory of her father who served in WWI, Veronica has been a very positive contributor to the veteran community, including the Caroline Springs RSL since its inception in 2014. She is a charming and brilliant ambassador poppy seller for Anzac and Remembrance Days.

In 2020 to meet the challenge of COVID, she turned her garage into a pop-up poppy selling outlet to raise vital funds for RSL welfare work. She has a deep affection and commitment to the cause of returned service personnel and has extended this with her volunteer work for Carers Victoria where she has been given life membership for her 14 years of weekly volunteering to make life better for family carers of people who have a disability, serious illness or age-related condition.

Her community endorses her as a generous person who is selfless with her time and who always tries to lift the spirits of those around her.

Read more about Veronica.

Ageing Well Award

Aunty Frances Gallagher, 94, from Brunswick

Aunty Frances has red through her dark hair, wears glasses and smiles at the camera.

Nominated by: City of Darebin and Trevor Gallagher

Aunty Frances is a dignified Gunditjimara woman who grew up on the Framlingham Mission in western Victoria. Her life has been an extraordinary journey, exemplified by her commitment to culture, social justice and life-long learning. She received her Visual Arts Diploma from RMIT at the age of 87. Bundoora Homestead Art Centre hosted a retrospective exhibition of Aunty France’s paintings in mid-2019, a culmination of work created since taking up her painting practice in her 80s.

She is highly respected for her work as an Elder, in both supporting and mentoring young people and in advocating and caring for Elders, particularly those isolated or dealing with health issues. Numerous services now in place bear the mark of her many years of involvement in their establishment and operation.

Aunty Frances is now a resident at Aboriginal Community Elderly Services in Brunswick, a service which she played a major role in establishing. She maintains her indomitable spirit, continuing to inspire those around her.

Read more about Aunty Frances.

COTA Senior Achiever Awards

Leo op den Brouw, 67, from Mallacoota

Leo wears a bright orange SES uniform and looks at the camera

Nominated by: Sarah Hollis-Bennetts

Leo has long been highly respected in his hometown of Mallacoota as an exceptional community leader on many fronts. On New Year’s Eve 2019 a huge out of control bushfire devastated the Mallacoota township and his response in the aftermath brought him state-wide and national recognition.

This award particularly recognises his work of bushfire recovery. He is the volunteer commander of Mallacoota SES. During and following the bushfire, Leo has been integral to ensuring collaborative local solutions have been at the heart of his community’s recovery.

A product of that is the Mallacoota and District Recovery Association actioned within the first week following the fires. Leo advocates that local problems have local answers and the post fire recovery work reflects that. The community ownership he champions inspires many to participate more, to achieve more, and to give more.

Trevor Eddy, 71, from Box Hill North

Trevor wears a check shirt and a navy jacket and smiles warmly at the camera

Nominated by: Greenlink Box Hill Incorporated

Trevor is a committed and successful advocate and volunteer for numerous community organisations in Whitehorse and beyond. Trevor provides vital practical and administrative support for many organisations and individuals, generously sharing his expertise and enthusiasm to solve problems and make things happen.

Trevor is President and Chairman of the Burke & Beyond Association, which provides services for Victorians with a disability. Trevor is the Treasurer and Public Officer of Greenlink Box Hill, an indigenous nursery he joined in 2010 as a volunteer business consultant, where he has since become an important hands-on member responsible for maintaining infrastructure, financial activities, capital projects and day-to-day activities. Trevor is also the committee of management Secretary and Public Officer at Clota Cottage Neighbourhood House, President and Treasurer of the Doncaster Community Garden in Manningham, Victorian President of NAB Retired Employees, Chair of the RMIT Accounting and Bookkeeping Advisory Board, and the Advisory Board of the Australian Graduate School of Leadership.

Valerie Donlon, 74, From Nunawading

Valerie has lovely side swept grey hair and wears a patterned scarf around her neck, she smiles at the camera

Nominated by: U3A Nunawading

Valerie has volunteered at Eastern Volunteers as a driver, with AMES as a tutor, at WIRE as a telephone support worker and since retiring nine years ago in a multi-faceted role at U3A Nunawading including four as president.

Valerie is recognised particularly for her response to COVID-19. She was instrumental in setting up over 100 Zoom classes to maintain member participation, establishing a Facebook group and producing monthly newsletters to keep members connected during isolation.

Valerie actively promotes positive ageing, exploring and advocating for opportunities for older people to be important and active in their community. She is a great communicator.

Joan Newman, 93, from Waratah Bay

Joan stands on a beach, she wears a bright red vest and white shirt, she has her arms crossed and smiles at the camera.

Nominated by: Marge and Drew Arnup

Joan is a very active member of the Waratah Bay community, respected in particular for organising the annual Easter community Family Fun Day. This event is a celebration of what community is all about. Joan oversees everything - insurance, sponsors, catering, music, publicity and engaging volunteers to present beach activities, sports and treasure hunts – the whole shebang.

In daily life Joan is a Fish Creek Op Shop volunteer, she knits children's jumper/toys for donation to charity, works on the annual Cancer Daffodil Day stall and Biggest Morning Tea, and looks out for her neighbours, delivering meals and support when they are unwell or need a chat.

And at 93 she is still getting up at 4am in the morning to bake dozens of her famous chocolate eclairs for weddings and other local celebrations.

Joan is inspirational because her age does not get in the way of what she does. When life has thrown her curve balls she tosses them right back.

Agnes Kean, 77, from Springvale

Agnes has short dark hair and wears a blue shirt and cardigan, she looks up at the camera with a smile on her face.

Nominated by: Interfaith Network of the City of Greater Dandenong

Agnes is a founding member of the City of Greater Dandenong’s Interfaith Network, where she serves as a representative from the local Baha’i Community.

Agnes fulfills numerous roles in the Network as a volunteer and is highly respected for her genuine manner in the way she welcomes, accepts and listens to others from all walks of life and diverse cultural and religious backgrounds.

Agnes promotes respect and tolerance for the integrity of others beliefs, cultures and traditions. Her no nonsense, no fuss attitude has seen her resiliently push through with her volunteer commitments whilst meeting a few of life’s challenges along the way.

Floreena Forbes, 83, from Ascot (Bendigo)

Floreena wears a bright red jacket, she sits behind a radio microphone and has headphones on.

Nominated by: Anne Conway OAM

Floreena Forbes has been part of Australia’s country music scene for most of her life as a performer, band leader and concert organiser.

She still performs regularly at local country music shows where she maintains the following that she built up over many years of performing and touring with her own band, Tumbleweed.

Floreena creates a positive different to her community through her many volunteering commitments, in particular her work in the music and community radio sectors. She hosts a weekly country music program on local Phoenix FM and mentors and trains many community members.

She deals with some chronic conditions in a purposeful manner and takes every opportunity get out into the community to support community fundraising and to perform at aged care facilities.

Floreena also runs an annual concert to raise money for a little-known genetic condition called The Australian Nieman Pick disease. These shows are always sold out with a waiting list of people who would like to go and over time she has raised in excess of $20,000 through her efforts. Floreena has also built and maintains her own web page where she promotes many other country music artists and their shows.

Brenda Todd, 80, from East Brighton

Brenda wears a blue and red floral top and stands in front of a bookcase, she smiles at the camera.

Nominated by: Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

Brenda has been a volunteer counsellor for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre for eight years, using her highly developed skills as a psychologist and psychotherapist to support people seeking asylum, many of whom live with the stress of perpetual uncertainty.

She transitioned seamlessly to working with them remotely during COVID, which has been a time of great need.

In tandem with this contribution she has also shown great commitment to improving the lives of others through her other community activities and volunteer roles with Grandmothers for Refugees, the Brighton Bayside Life Activities Club and Brighton Theatre Company.

Thi Thinh (Tina) Nguyen, 66, from Avondale Heights

Tina wears a purple blouse and sits at her computer, she has vases of flowers behind her and smiles at the camera.

Nominated by: Australian Vietnamese Arts

Since arriving in Australia as a refugee in 1982, Tina has actively supported the community through a range of programs and charity work. Tina is passionate about supporting parents and children to adapt to their new lives in Australia and has played a vital role in connecting families to information and support services.

Tina has volunteered in the development of Brimbank VISION (Vietnamese Information Services In Our Community), organised parenting skills programs and free English classes, and has assisted over 1000 people through the Australian citizenship process.

Tina also brings people together to share culture through dance with the Nang Hong dance group for children she formed in 1994 and the Au Co Dance Group she created in 2011 for Vietnamese seniors and middle-aged women. Both groups have enjoyed great success and praise for their performances at many functions, festivals and events.

John Fox, 69, from Timboon

John wears a casual shirt and jacket and smiles at the camera.

Nominated by: Timboon and District Healthcare Service

John is a very active volunteer across a range of organisations and services in the Timboon area. During COVID he stepped up without hesitation to ensure continuation of services. As a Meals on Wheels volunteer he took on the shifts of older colleagues at that time, ensuring that isolated community members were supported with a chat and a smile. In country Victoria, community transport volunteers are vital and his reliability and capacity to respond to last minute requests to provide transport for medical appointments is much appreciated.

John acknowledges a personal journey from severe depression to recovery through his community volunteering and participation and this drives his care and commitment and serves as a pathway model for others.

Ken Mansfield, 84, from Highton

Ken wears a grey wooly jumper and smiles at the camera

Nominated by: Lisa Cunningham

Ken has been involved in sport all his life and over the past 15 years has achieved great personal results in cycling. He competes weekly with the Geelong and Surfcoast Cycling Club and was a foundation member of that club in 1977. At 70 he rode across the Nullarbor from Perth to Melbourne raising funds for the Fred Hollows Foundation and at 76 he rode solo around Tasmania and from Sydney to Brisbane and there-by completed the individual rides to achieve his objective of riding around Australia and raising funds for organisations such as MS and Give Where You Live.

Beyond cycling, at 70 Ken took on the gruelling Kokoda Trail, having convinced the tour organiser that he had the necessary fitness and stamina to complete the walk which certainly inspired others, some half his age, to do so.

Ken is not just an active participant and competitor. He is recognised for the huge amount of volunteering he does to support community sports clubs and events in the Geelong region. He provides a mix of expertise, commitment and generosity in this work and helps and inspires many.

In 2021 he was recognised by Highton Rotary for his 45 years of membership where he has committed many hours of volunteering, including initiating the long-standing fund raising event – Barwon Banks Fun Run, and his 40 years of volunteer involvement with the Lorne Pier to Pub event.

Greta Vallance, 74, from Alexandra

Gretta has chin length hair and wears a bright red scarf. She smiles at the camera.

Nominated by: Veronica Hendrickson

Since retiring to Alexandra in 2013, Greta has had a very significant volunteer involvement with social and community groups, where her skills have made a huge difference to each of the organisations. Greta is fearless when it comes to trying new ways and new things.

Greta is able to motivate people to take on a role or try something new whilst pledging and giving support along the way. She is a ready listener who welcomes and encourages all points of view and opinions and she is an inclusive and generous community leader.

She promotes and advocates for change through the lens of ‘let’s make this even better’. Greta is recognised locally for her ability to motivate people to take on a role or try something new as she always gives support along the way. In doing so, Greta illustrates the essence of what it is to be a community leader.

A good example of the impact she has made is her passion for the University of the Third Age. She was Secretary of the Murrundindi East U3A and is now the President. Her ideas and vitality have enhanced the overall profile of the U3A that today offers 39 different courses and activities throughout the year to the local senior community.

Thoa Tran, 62, from Sunshine North

Thoa wears a pink dress, pink glasses and smiles brightly at the camera. There are surgical scrubs hanging behind her.

Nominated by: Australian Vietnamese Arts Inc

Thoa Tran generously shares her creativity and skills with her community. As an active member of Australian Vietnamese Arts Incorporation (AVA), Thoa has performed traditional dances at numerous cultural festivals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Thoa found new ways to stay connected and give back through her beautiful sewing skills.

Thoa joined Rona Scrubs, a group of volunteers making scrubs for people on the pandemic front line, in May 2020 and over many late nights produced more than 500 sets of uniforms for nurses and doctors. Thoa continued to produce scrubs after this initiative ended and went on to sew and donate over 1000 cloth masks for the Australian Vietnamese Women's Association and Indochinese Elderly Refugees Association Victoria.

During the pandemic, Thoa has also taught hand crafts to aged care residents in-person and remotely, and shared important wellbeing and COVID-19 vaccination information by producing two Vietnamese language videos. Recently Thoa has also volunteered at the IPC Health vaccination clinic in Melton to support people receiving their COVID-19 vaccine.

Des Galgut, 67, from Doncaster East

Des stands against a blue background and looks at the camera

Nominated by: Doncare

As a Doncare volunteer for the past 10 years, Des has made a significant contribution to the community of Manningham. Des cares deeply for the community, in particular senior residents, and generously shares his time, energy and resources to support people to stay well and connected.

Des served as Treasurer on the board of Doncare for eight years and is now actively involved in a range of programs. In 2011, Des initiated the Winter Warmth program which now assists up to 200 vulnerable pensioners to meet their heating bills each winter with the support of Bendigo Bank.

Des knows how important keeping in touch online is for many older people is and he has been integral to the development of a new IT for Seniors project, where he will volunteer as a tutor. In addition, Des is working with Doncare to develop a scheme to enable isolated seniors to access Netflix. Des funds many of the costs associated with these projects. Understanding the important emotional connection seniors have with their animal companions, Des has launched a fund to enable Doncare to meet vet bills and food costs and he also funds animal care for women and children escaping family violence.

Lois Thwaites, 80, from Yarra Glen

Lois has a lovely grey bob hairstyle, wears a green cardigan and smiles at the camera

Nominated by: Healesville University of the Third Age

Lois is a key member of Healesville U3A and is recognised for her contributions and her enthusiasm to provide opportunities for everyone to get involved. Lois runs a dynamic and successful theatre group. As the director, producer and writer of all performances, Lois creates a fun and welcoming environment for everyone of all abilities and experiences to participate.

Lois has a unique rapport with people as a trusted leader and friend, and is admired by all. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lois kept in touch with the entire group, phoning, texting and emailing members and continued writing scripts, designing costumes and discussing props. Through her leadership, Lois plays an important role in giving members a sense of belonging and social connectedness.

Uncle Frank Laxton, 82, from Ballarat

Franks wears a blue shirt with Indigenous patterns and stands up against a yellow background

Nominated by: Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative

Uncle Frank Laxton is an extraordinary community leader who has supported Aboriginal people towards, culture, health, employment and secure housing over most of his adult life and into retirement.

Uncle Frank’s volunteering has been vital for Ballarat’s very diverse Aboriginal community. Ballarat was a key location for orphanages where Stolen Generation children were placed, and is now home to people from many different places of Country. Transgenerational trauma still affects the community today.

Uncle Frank shares his cultural knowledge and stories with humour and passion, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Uncle Frank is known for his work with one of the community’s most marginalised groups – Aboriginal prisoners. In this role, Uncle Frank provides emotional, cultural and practical support to guide Aboriginal prisoners towards health, healing and connection to the community. Uncle Frank’s dedication, care and compassion changes lives.

Reviewed 26 February 2024

2023 Victorian Senior of the Year Awards

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