Celebrating community spirit

by JAMES POYNER
9th November 2020

IF THERE is one thing that the townships of Warrandyte, North Warrandyte, Wonga Park and Park Orchards do well, it is community.

A big component of our community spirit is the efforts of volunteers, and Community Bank Warrandyte is once again honouring our community heroes with the Community Spirit Award.

In 2019, the award recipient was wildlife carer Maxine Rosewall who has spent more than 20 years rehabilitating injured wildlife from her home in North Warrandyte.

Our world has shrunk in 2020 and our everyday lives and habits have seen significant disruption.

But, throughout the pandemic, the communities of Warrandyte and its surrounds have maintained its connectivity, compassion and camaraderie.

To be Warrandytian means to be part of this community and you will be hard pressed to find a member of our community who has not donated their time, energy or expertise to a local cause, club or event.

Community Bank Warrandyte Director, Claire Jones, told the Diary how our altruistic nature contributes to Warrandyte being a special place and why the Community Spirit Award is an important signifier of these works.

“Warrandyte is a unique place to live and is incredibly special because of all the work so many in our community do voluntarily.

“I think the importance of this process is actually to acknowledge all the great work these volunteers do within and for our community, not only the recipient.

“And how having people like them around is such a great asset for our community,” she said.

Claire went on to discuss how Coronavirus affected how priorities changed and how local volunteers came through.

“People’s plans suddenly changed (almost overnight) during the pandemic.

“What was acceptable beforehand — sporting games, concerts, festivals with crowds, fundraising at a sausage sizzle suddenly became unacceptable.

“Volunteers and organisations had to pivot and change their plans and the way they operated.

“This required a lot of thought and extra work, which for volunteers, when they’re trying to maintain paid work — suddenly from home — with kids and partners there as well — trying to navigate different ways of interacting with their colleagues or fellow volunteers was a big ask.”

Despite the tough year, the community came out in force during the 2020 Community Spirit Award nomination period.

The nominees and their contributions are described below, then read on to discover who was crowned this year’s ultimate winner.

 

Nominee: Warrandyte Festival Committee

Nominated by Warrandyte Festival Committee member Phil Ashfield, for the ongoing efforts of the wholly volunteer run Festival Committee.

Phil added to his nomination how important it was to nominate the Festival Committee given the current crisis.

“While COVID-19 is currently restricting our ability to be able to put on a festival in the current environment, once things are back to normal, no other event will have the ability to bring the community back together just like the Warrandyte Festival will be able to.”

The Diary spoke with Warrandyte Festival Committee President Jamie Ferguson, who described the challenges of putting on the annual event and told us what the nomination means to him, and the rest of the committee.

“I think our biggest challenge each year is ensuring that we create a vibrant event that has all the traditional features that people love but also some new surprises.

“All these take so much input by the committee and many other community members.

“Each year there are new challenges…bushfires, huge rains, and the odd global pandemic.

“While they all create some pretty difficult and unique circumstances I’m always so thankful for the way the committee comes together and sorts stuff out.

“It’s a great privilege to be nominated for an award like this.

“I see so many people doing extraordinary things in a volunteer capacity in our community…many without the same pay off at the end that the festival gives us,” he said.

 

Nominee: Dick Davies, on behalf of Warrandyte Community Association(WCA)

Dick Davies was nominated by current WCA President Carli Lange.

Dick has been the linchpin of many WCA projects including Be Ready Warrandyte, Warrandyte Riverside Market, the Creekside and Riverside retirement villages, as well as speaking for the WCA, and in turn the community, at Council, on both sides of the river.

As part of her submission, Carli wrote: “Dick Davies has been an outstanding and inspirational community leader in Warrandyte for many decades.

“He has worked selflessly on so many projects which have provided continuing benefit to the community, from the Be Ready Warrandyte fire preparedness program through to the establishment of the Retirement Housing in Co-operative and the Community Market.

“It is hard to think of anyone who has made a greater and such long-lasting contribution to the community.”

On receiving news of his nomination, Dick requested that his nomination be on behalf of the Warrandyte Community Association.

Dick told the Diary: “It’s all a bit embarrassing, but it is an opportunity to celebrate how much so many people do to make Warrandyte a vibrant community,” he said.

 

Nominee: Martin Rakuscek

Nominated by Greg Warren for his work with the Warrandyte Junior Cricket Club and Warrandyte Junior Football Club.

Working in Team Manager roles, Martin has been integral in expanding junior participation in cricket and footy.

In his nomination for Martin, Greg noted: “Martin was never a cricketer, but has two boys who are now playing in our Senior teams… and about three years ago we convinced him to ‘pull on the whites’ and play in our Father/Son side.

Like everything he does, he got involved and became a valuable member of the team and had a bit of fun (and he’s still playing !!!).

“Martin is extremely well liked and respected throughout our club and the broader community.

“He sets a tremendous example for all club members and his involvement at our club has ensured that we continue to grow, play sport in the right spirit and gain respect for our club in the community”.

Martin told the Diary what he enjoys most about volunteering at the sports club and what it means to be nominated.

“The best part of volunteering at both sports clubs is seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces when they meet up with their mates for training, and game day.

“Seeing them build life-long friendships outside of school and having fun is a great part of being part of the Warrandyte Community.

“Everyone here loves where they live, and enjoying the great outdoors whether that is playing outdoor sport or just walking along the Yarra river.

“Being nominated for the award was a surprise, as most of us volunteers don’t do this for awards.

“Giving time to such a great community provides its own rewards through the friends you make along the way, and seeing the kids grow up to be fine,” he said.

 

Nominee: Tim Dawson

Tim was nominated by Nigel Kelly for his role as a Sports Chaplain and Committee member for Park Orchards Football and Netball Club.

Nigel writes: “During his time there he has supported and provided welfare to the club’s players, club officials and supporters with great care and commitment.”

Tim spoke to the Diary about the importance of having a person, in a community, who you can turn to for support and advice.

“I believe it’s important that everyone, no matter what age or gender, has the opportunity to turn to someone other than their family if they face a crisis.

“Over the past five years, I’ve worked to build relationships with everyone who is connected to the club so that in a crisis they know that there is someone to turn to for help.

“Often this spreads into the community too.

“Matters that I try and help with and support extend to job hunting, stress, injury, being dropped from a team to mental health, depression and suicide.

“I also have the opportunity to influence leadership and training of the young players.

“I believe that no man, women or child should ever walk alone in this life and I truly hope that the little I do in my community makes a massive difference

“Park Orchards Football Netball Club is a wonderful place to be a part of, and has a fantastic set of core values and morals,” he said.

 

Nominee: Lisa Ryan

Nominated by Judith Lightfoot for her five to ten years of voluntary service.

“Lisa shows virtue of good citizenship.

“She has touched and enriched the lives of others, particularly those who are vulnerable or less able to help themselves.

“Lisa has shown ongoing initiative, leadership and dedication.

“She has devoted herself to sustained and selfless voluntary service and has earned the respect of her peers and become a role model in their field,” Judith wrote.

 

Nominee: James Harris

Nominated by Anderson’s Creek Primary School Principal Sue Dyos for his role as School Council President for the last four years.

Sue writes: “Having worked with many Presidents over the years, James certainly gives above and beyond the expected role and continues to both support and lead many school activities.

“Through his positivity, enthusiasm and leadership skills he continues to inspire, lead and promote community and connectedness within and beyond the ACPS school community.”

 

2020 Community Spirit Award Recipient

On November 9, in what would usually be a packed room at the Warrandyte Sporting Group complex — but due to COVID-19 was a little more discreet this year, Community Bank Warrandyte announced the recipient of this year’s award as … (envelope please)… The Warrandyte Festival Committee.

The Diary spoke with Jaime Ferguson, who spoke on behalf of the Festival Committee.

Jamie accepted the award, on behalf of the Festival Committee.

“Amazing! I’m very proud of our committee.

“We are extremely thankful for the support the Community Bank Warrandyte has provided us and many other local organisations over many years.

“We’re looking forward to putting on a special event next year in whatever capacity is possible and sharing celebrations for making it through this year with the whole community,” he said.

Arguably the community event of the year, Warrandyte Festival weekend sees Warrandyte and the surrounding townships at their best.

It’s delivery, the music, arts and events on offer draw thousands of people and even though it is organised by volunteers, the scale, efficiency and professionalism in planning are not compromised.

Festival is a time for celebration, for catching up with old friends, making new ones and seeing some ripper live music.

The Festival is, in many ways, the embodiment of volunteering in Warrandyte.