2021 Award Winners – Volunteers (5) of the Year

The last 18 months have been unusually frustrating with COVID lockdowns and reduction of event competition.

PaddleNSW greatly appreciates the efforts of our club office-bearers and volunteers who have done amazingly well to keep our members connected and safe.We usually award a single Volunteer of the Year, however given the circumstances, we are awarding FIVE PNSW Volunteers of the Year in 2020/21.

In no particular order, our first winner is LYNETTE WILSON from Wagga Bidgee Canoe Club

Lyn has supported WBCC since joining the club over seven years ago. In her first year with Wagga Bidgee, Lyn joined the committee and has continued to support the club as a member of the club executive until last year’s AGM. Lyn’s roles have included Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Lyn is also an active social and recreational paddler within the club and has provided considerable training and support to new paddlers through her involvement in the club’s induction and training programmes. Lyn still attends club meetings despite stepping down from her executive roles and has taken a strong leadership role in the club’s social paddling activities. Lyn’s 2020 Four Rivers Challenge encouraged not only far greater participation from club members, including those new to the club, but also saw participants extending themselves over further distances than their usual paddling activities. An amazing feat during COVID times.

Well done and thank you Lyn.

Our second PNSW Volunteer of 2020/21 is ANNETTE MATHEWS from Sutherland Shire Canoe Club

Annette volunteers at every club race, time trial and event including being the club house coordinator since 2017. In 2020 she volunteered to learn Webscorer to become one of SSCC’s time trial organisers and regular timekeepers. In 2021 Annette became SSCC’s Vice President. One of her many achievements in this role was to introduce a new approach to managing trial paddlers. In the past 12 months, Annette has leveraged her Paddle Guide experience to paddle with over 30 trial paddlers giving them a safe and enjoyable on-water experience resulting in the majority of their trial paddlers joining the club. Covid has played havoc on their races but Annette takes a very active role in planning and running all events: including the 20 Groynes Community Paddle; club-hosted PNSW Harbour Racing Series event and PNSW Woronora Marathon. Many paddlers may recall the Morrison Cup at which Annette was IRB / Checkpoint B volunteer. She and fellow SSCC club member Mark were on the water in an IRB for many hours in thunderstorms, hail and darkness. Annette is also a PNSW Harbour Racing Committee member, and generously volunteered her time to assist the State Office at the Sydney Boat Show (which was ultimately cancelled). She recently became a member of Sutherland Shire Council Sports & Active Communities Sub-Committee representing SSCC, PaddleNSW and the broader paddling community in the Shire.

We are indebted to Annette and so many volunteers like her.

Our third Volunteer of the Year is SIMON WILKES from River Canoe Club

Simon become President of our club approximately five years ago. He is extremely passionate about paddling. But he is as equally passionate in sharing this love with everyone in the community. He is always available to help and willing to assist anyone within the club, no matter their skill level.His professional and “can do” attitude has seen our membership doubling since he became President. He is a wonderful promoter of anything to do with paddling. People are drawn to his enthusiasm and his desire for everyone to kayak. Nothing is an obstacle to Simon to get people out on the water.

But Simon has done so much more than just grow the membership of our club. Simon is all about community. He has organised very large “Clean up Australia” days/weeks for the Cooks River. Over 1200 people have attended these events. He was instrumental in starting up “The Mullets”, a group within the club, who clean the river every month. He not only joins in, but helps with funding, purchased canoes for clean ups., litter picker uppers etc. Speaking of rubbish, Simon applied for a $90K grant for the club to work with the EPA to oversee a “Cooks River Litter Prevention Strategy”. This is a year long project, where the club is working with government and the local community, to create a long term plan to halve the waste that goes into the Cooks River. What a wonderful way the club can to do something positive for our local waterway and also demonstrate to our community, what environmentalists kayakers are!

Another of Simon’s skills is overseeing the financial situation of our Club. We are situated on prime Sydney real estate and have been very lucky to have paid virtually no rent for over 50 years. Recently, Council requested payment of a more realistic rent for our premises. Simon spent many days meeting with Council to negotiate a rent that we could afford. Simon not only achieved this for us, but also future funding from Council for further upgrades on the clubhouse. Without his skilful negotiation skills, we could have been homeless! Simon also has organised many other upgrades for the club house over the years. He is constantly contacting his contacts/friends and club members to repair various bits and pieces i.e. broken kayak racks, windows. etc. He organised bathroom renovations and the installation of new automatic doors for the clubhouse. He also hired environmental architects to offer their thoughts/suggestions on practical ways to make our club house more environmental friendly. Water tanks, solar panels are on the cards…But not only has Simon organised internal upgrades, he was successful in getting a grant for a beautiful mural to be painted on the external walls of the club house by indigenous artists. We now look absolutely magnificent, and are a focal point of the river.

Whilst doing all of the above, Simon has also organised many club paddling events such as paddling trips interstate and overseas. He is always very encouraging of people to get out on the water and attend group paddling activities. He also constantly supports other club members to take leadership roles within the club and plan kayaking trips and events. He always does this in a friendly and encouraging way. He has organised many training sessions to assist club members to navigate the complexities of organising and facilitating a kayaking event. Simon also navigated the constantly changing restrictions due to Covid with great professionalism. He constantly emails members with new Covid updates. It has meant everyone knows what has to be done in a safe way when paddling within the club.He has been instrumental in creating a club culture that is professional, inclusive and friendly. He also leads a keen and enthusiastic committee which works with him to make it a fun and welcoming organisation to belong to.

Well done Simon, and thanks RCC of NSW (anonymous) for the nomination.

Our fourth PNSW Volunteer of the Year is GAVIN RAYWARD from Big River Canoe Club

Through Big River Canoe Club, Gavin instigated and organised the M.A.D. (Men Against Depression) Paddlers initiative to provide men, aged between 35 and 60 with a series of opportunities to connect socially with other men, whilst also being physically active and enjoying the outdoors together. As a volunteer, Gavin:

  • Sought grants to purchase the required paddling equipment
  • Organised a series of scenic, challenging paddles in the Clarence Valley area.
  • Facilitated open discussion sessions during the paddling outings, dealing with depression.
  • Discussed supporting family members with mental health issues
  • Facilitated post-paddling, social gatherings where the participants could develop their social connections and share their stories.

Some testimonials from participants included:”The best mental health program that I have attended”; “I appreciated the opportunity to participate in the paddling sessions ….I wasn’t sure how I would cope physically or mentally but found paddling with the group to be helpful”; “MAD paddlers was a classic way to immerse fellers into the mighty Clarence – just being on the water in a yak facilitated time to not only get to know blokes, but to also have meaningful conversations with blokes.” Some participants have continued to paddle with the club on a weekly basis and, along with their friends and family are also being encouraged to rise to the challenge of paddling the Clarence 100. Gavin has brought to the forefront the benefits of paddling on mental health and has changed the lives of many in the process.

Outstanding effort Gavin Rayward.

Our fifth PNSW Volunteer of 2020/21 is DON JOHNSTONE of Lane Cove River Kayakers

Don played a significant role on the PNSW Marathon Committee for many years, being the Handicapper for the Marathon Series, validating all entries, managing creation of start Lists, emails to entrants prior to the race, validating results, managing promotion/relegation, and updating/emailing results to all paddlers. In addition to WebScorer, he managed a very complex spreadsheet (which he developed) to keep track of paddler performances, and allowing the Marathon Rules to be applied fairly and consistently.

Every Marathon participant, and indeed all hosting clubs, owe considerable gratitude to Don and his selfless efforts.

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