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Neighbour Day founder, Andrew Heslop of Double Bay,has been named the 2012 NSW Volunteer of the Year in recognition of his dedication to encouraging better relationships throughout communities across NSW and Australia at a prestigious function held today, Wednesday, 5 December 2012 – International Volunteer Day – at the NSW Leagues Club, Sydney.
The annual Award program recognises the efforts and achievements of the millions of volunteers across NSW.
Forty eight regional individual, youth and senior volunteer winners and 21 regional volunteer team winners (pages 6-12), gathered from across New South Wales for the announcement of the 2012 NSW Volunteer of the Year winners by The Hon. Victor Dominello, Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Aboriginal Affairs, Member for Ryde is Patron of the NSW Volunteer of the Year Award.
Andrew is the founder of Neighbour Day, Australia’s annual celebration of community. It is supported through a wealth of community, local government and media partnerships that run the length and breadth of the country. Andrew started this event in 2003 when the body of an elderly woman was discovered in her home two years after she had passed away. While Andrew did not know the deceased he was appalled by the apparent ease in which the world had left her behind. Neighbours had watched piles of mail, store catalogues and newspapers build up at her front door but they did nothing.
Widespread local and national media interest followed and it was this coverage that prompted Andrew to suggest a ‘National Check on Your Neighbour Day’ in a Letter to the Editor in The Age published on 17 March 2003.
On Sunday, 30 March 2003 the first Neighbour Day was observed. It generated surprisingly widespread media coverage and support, primarily because of the simplicity of the idea and the ease with which Australians everywhere could take part. Importantly it also brought to prominence a major issue faced every day by senior Australians.
On the last Sunday of March each year, Neighbour Day breaks out with street parties, barbecues, festivals and other social activities to encourage residents to get together.
Since 2003 the evolution of Neighbour Day has been quite remarkable. What started as a warning to check on elderly neighbours has grown into a much wider annual celebration of strong communities and friendly streets. People of all ages participate because everyone everywhere is a neighbour no matter where you live or your personal circumstances.
These were the words written by Andrew for the Regional Ceremony which he was not able to attend:
“I accept this award and dedicate it to the memory of Elsie Brown who was my inspiration in founding Neighbour Day in Melbourne in 2003, and my late neighbour Clive Tayler. Wherever we live, whatever our circumstances, our neighbours are there for us in good times and in bad. Too often we forget that a friendly smile and a ‘how are you today?’ can mean the world to a single person living alone, who has no other interaction with their community. It doesn’t take much effort to keep an eye out for an elderly or vulnerable neighbour, who could easily be our parent, grandparent or friend. Thank you for awarding Neighbour Day and I this honour - because the community you want really does start at your front door.”
Andrew received a $1,500 NFP donation, a trophy and a prize pack.
“Andrew is a deserving winner of the Award for his tireless dedication to strengthening our communities,” Lynne Dalton, CEO, The Centre for Volunteering, said. “Volunteers are the bedrock on which local communities sit, and these Awards provide a rare opportunity for us to thank the people who work day in and day out to better our communities”.