Published on 09 June 2020

Volunteer advocate honoured

City of Onkaparinga’s Michael Feszczak was one of four winners at last night’s SA Volunteer Awards, which honoured the state’s volunteering “superheroes”.

Michael – council’s HR Business Partner, Volunteer Management – took out the inaugural Excellence in Volunteer Management Award, which recognises the dedication and commitment of volunteer managers who support and facilitate the engagement of volunteers.

He was joined by three other winners, with the awards recognising the valuable work that volunteers, volunteer managers, community organisations and businesses contribute to the South Australian community:

  • Ghan Kebab House in Kilburn, which started a soccer team for Afghan youth, won the Premier’s Award for Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Jennifer Howard, who founded the Safe Pets Safe Families organisation to help domestic violence victims took out the Joy Noble Medal, SA’s highest distinction for an individual volunteer
  • The Archie Badenoch project, which offers school groups cruises along the Port River in a historic 40-foot workboat, won ‘The Andamooka’ Community Project Award

Michael Feszczak, who oversees City of Onkaparinga’s 33 volunteer programs, said in his acceptance speech that it was an honour to receive the inaugural award, and he paid tribute to council’s 600+ volunteers.

“[My role] is one of those jobs that requires so many different skills,” he said.

“We’re HR managers, communication officers, welfare officers, trainers, administrators – we’ve got so many different hats.

“And it’s a great job from that perspective because there’s so much variety and there’s a challenge as well.

“As volunteer managers we can help the community because I’m a big advocate for volunteering as stepping-stone into employment.

“That’s where I started. My first role in Australia was as a volunteer and through that I got employment. That can impact on lots of different people.”

This year, the ceremony for the awards – presented annually on Volunteers Day – was held virtually, with South Australia’s Premier Steven Marshall paying tribute to the state’s more-than one-million volunteers aged 15+, who contribute about $5 billion annually to the state’s economy.

“Volunteers are superheroes,” Premier Marshall said, highlighting the state’s surge in volunteer registrations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When it matters most, South Australians are willing to roll up their sleeves to help out.

“I’m always amazed by the modesty of the volunteers I meet. They consider themselves everyday people [and] it’s their overwhelming dedication generosity and commitment to helping others that makes them heroes.”

Michael’s award win was one of several honours bestowed upon southern suburbs residents over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.

Willunga’s Peter Wadewitz – managing director of BiobiN and Peats Soil, and an ambassador for council’s ON Business Partner Program – was awarded an OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia) for service to the organic recycling industry.

Mary Dittmar, who has volunteered with Fred’s Van Christies Beach (which operates from Wardli Youth Centre) since 2002, was awarded an OAM in recognition of her service to the community through social welfare initiatives.

Pip Forrester, Director of McLaren Vale Food Company and a previous chair of City of Onkaparinga’s Economic Development Forum, was awarded an AM (Member of the Order of Australia) for significant service to the tourism and hospitality sectors, and to the community.

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Michael Feszczak was one of four winners at last night’s SA Volunteer Awards