2017 Premier's Volunteer Champion Awards

For most of his young life, Jake had been in out of foster homes and school attendance had been patchy. It wasn’t until he met volunteer Elizabeth ‘Joy’ Ferguson that his life got on track.

‘She is very passionate about her causes — the young people here have her support and she is always thinking how she can help students in need.'

For most of his young life, Jake had been in and out of foster homes. At one stage, with no home to go to, he was sleeping on friends’ couches. School attendance had been patchy. It wasn’t until he walked through the doors of Diamond Valley Learning Centre and met centre volunteer Elizabeth ‘Joy’ Ferguson that his life got back on track.

Volunteers support learning

For the past five years, Mrs Ferguson has supported disadvantaged students in the centre’s Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning program (VCAL).

VCAL is a hands-on option for students in Years 11 and 12 that offers practical work-related experience, as well as literacy and numeracy skills. Importantly, it also offers students the opportunity to build personal skills that are important for life and work.

Known for helping young people develop their skills and self-confidence, Mrs Ferguson formed a consortium of local Rotary clubs to support the centre’s re-engagement program for young people who had left education.

With Mrs Ferguson’s support and encouragement, Jake finished Year 12 and, with his new-found confidence, compared an end-of-year function. ‘I call him my star — he has turned his life around,” Mrs Ferguson says of Jake.

‘He has a job and, with his VCAL qualification, is doing a bridging course so he can go to university next year.’

Recognising our champion volunteers

Mrs Ferguson’s support and mentoring of young people like Jake was recognised with a Premier’s Volunteer Champion Award in 2015, after being nominated by Diamond Valley Learning Centre training coordinator Simone Imwood. ‘She’s like a dog with a bone — she never gives up,’ Ms Imwood says.

‘She is very passionate about her causes — the young people here have her support and she is always thinking how she can help students in need. For Jake, Mrs Ferguson is the heart of the centre’s school.‘She helps out everyone — all the new kids coming in — she’s very dedicated,’ he says.

Mrs Ferguson also teaches young people to drive as a volunteer with the Transport Accident Commissions L2P program.

Nominate a champion volunteer

Nominations for the 2017 awards close Monday, August 14, at 5pm.

The Premier’s Volunteer Champions Awards acknowledge and celebrate the extraordinary contribution of all volunteers in Victoria.More than 1.5 million Victorians take part in formal volunteering — that’s more than a third of the population Up to 60 volunteers will be recognised with awards, with many to be found in our schools, kindergartens, childcare centres and TAFEs.

They are the people who volunteer their time to help students get a great education. ‘When people are volunteering to spend time and show they care, it means a lot more to these young people,’ Mrs Ferguson says.

To nominate a volunteer or for more information, visit: Premier's Volunteer Awards