Laurent Hayez, the father of missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez and niece Lisa Hayez speak to the media last year.
Laurent Hayez, the father of missing Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez and niece Lisa Hayez speak to the media last year.

’Time, energy, compassion’: Amazing efforts of volunteers

VOLUNTEERS who give their time to any worthy cause improve their communities in the process.

The Far North Coast has no shortage of generosity and those efforts have been recognised with the 2020 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards.

A host of Northern Rivers volunteers, many of them from the Byron Shire, were honoured at a ceremony, which was 2020 held virtually for the first time, due to the pandemic.

The event saw about 100 special guests, volunteers and community leaders gather virtually.

The awards are held annually by the The Centre for Volunteering and were supported by the NSW Department of Communities and Justice and ClubsNSW.

The Northern Rivers region's 2020 NSW Volunteer of the Year is Byron Bay Community Association president Helen Hamilton, who founded the Byron Community Pantry, a COVID-19 response initiative, and has been involved with Liberation Larder.

The region's other award recipients are:

 

Young Volunteer of the Year: Aidan Yourell, Evans Head

BASED in Evans Head, Aiden has been a leader on the beach as a volunteer with the Evans Head Surf Life Saving Club.

He has completed more than 200 hours of volunteering, teaching surf safety to young nippers and keeping the waters safe for beach goers.

 

Adult Volunteer of the Year: Brittani Nicholl, Pottsville

North coast surfer Brittani Nichols dedicates much of her time outside the water helping to raise awareness for people living with Crohn's disease.

She has been a volunteer ambassador for more than a decade with the Australian Crohn's and Collitis Association, raising money and awareness and becoming a role model for young people learning to live with the disease.

 

 

Helen Hamilton.
Helen Hamilton.

 

Senior Volunteer of the Year: Helen Hamilton, Ewingsdale

Helen is a relentless volunteer for the Byron Bay Community Association. She led the effort to turn the old Byron Bay Hospital building into an important community resource, helped establish the Liberation Larder community meal service and founded the COVID initiative the Byron Community Pantry.

 

Volunteer Team of the Year: Looking for Theo Hayez Search Team

The 80 team members of the Looking for Theo Hayez Search Team have led the community response to help find the missing 18-year-old Belgian backpacker, who went missing in Byron Bay in 2019.

The team has maintained its work over the past 15 months and also worked to help Theo's family cope during this most difficult and traumatic period.

 

 

Sheri D'Rosario and twin sisters Jaclyn and Renee Scott were among those helping to search for Theo Hayez. Mechielsen/The Australian
Sheri D'Rosario and twin sisters Jaclyn and Renee Scott were among those helping to search for Theo Hayez. Mechielsen/The Australian

Gemma Rygate, CEO at the Centre for Volunteering, welcomed the contributions of these volunteers.

"Volunteers from across every region of NSW have continued to give their time, energy and compassion in the face of enormous adversity over the past 12 months," Ms Rygate said.

"This is what the Australian spirit is all about. Helping others.

"Helping your community and never giving up.

"I couldn't be more proud of the region's volunteers and their incredible resilience and spirit.

"We are just so glad that technology allowed us to still come together to say thank you."

NSW Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward said volunteers are "the essence and flavour of our regional communities".

"They're the people raising money for vital causes, they're there for us in terms of emergency and they're the friend on the end of a phone breaking the cycle of isolation," Mr Ward said.

"We can't put a price on volunteers.

"These regional awards ceremonies are an opportunity to thank all our volunteers and to recognise the best and brightest."

ClubsNSW CEO Josh Landis said volunteer efforts were vital to clubs across the state, so supporting the awards was a "natural fit".