Four Northern Victorian residents have been recognised for their outstanding volunteering efforts, during the Victorian Premier’s Volunteer Champions Awards.

At an awards ceremony at Government House, Girgarre’s Wendy Burke, Beechworth’s Iris Mannik, Alexandra’s John Sharwood and Wodonga’s Riley Briese were recognised for their exceptional volunteer work.

Labor Upper House Member for Northern Victoria, Jaclyn Symes, congratulated all four recipients for representing Northern Victoria and dedicating their time to volunteering in the community.

They join 60 volunteers across the state who were formally recognised at the ceremony, spanning support for a range of different communities and causes as well as a range of services and activities.

The Premier’s Volunteer of the Year Award went to equality advocate Riley Briese, for helping change the landscape of care and support for young transgender people in country Victoria.

Mr Briese is the founder of Gateway Health Gender Service and received the Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Trophy at the ceremony and $10,000 for his charity of choice.

“We are proud of Riley, Wendy, Iris and John for their incredible commitment to volunteering and strengthening our community,” Ms Symes said.

“Northern Victoria is a great place to volunteer and I encourage more people to consider getting involved.

“The benefits of volunteering are endless and can help people make new friendships and learn new skills.”

The Volunteer Champions Awards celebrate the extraordinary contributions of all Victorian volunteers, in areas such as health, sport, education, culture, community, environment, science and animal welfare.

The Andrews Labor Government is investing $145,000 in 2018-19 to investigate ways to strengthen and diversify the volunteering sector, to build on the remarkable contribution volunteers make across our community.

There are more than 1.5 million volunteers across Victoria, contributing $23 billion to the state’s economy. For more information on the winners, visit volunteer.vic.gov.au/awards


Premier’s Volunteer of the Year, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Award

Riley Briese Gateway Health


An outstanding advocate who established the Gateway Health Gender Service, Riley’s work is contributing towards a changed landscape of care and support for transgender people in regional Victoria. Over the past four years, Riley has spent countless hours co-facilitating events and his contribution has improved the lives of young transgender people in the Wodonga region and beyond.

Riley has educated service providers across the state to understand some of the challenges and opportunities of being a transgender man in a regional area

Wendy Burke

Girgarre Community Group

For more than 10 years Wendy has been working tirelessly to ensure elders in the community receive relevant medical attention by undertaking the role of Care Coordinator, ensuring appointments and transport are organised. Wendy makes sure that all clients have their trips booked well in advance and coordinates their appointments to ensure the least amount of waiting and travel time occurs. Wendy also prepares monthly three-course meals for up to 20 people,and assists in weekly meal preparations and various fundraising activities.

Iris Mannik,

Keep Australia Beautiful Committee, Australia Day Committee, Beechworth community

From successful grant seeking, to assisting with the start-up of the local information centre for tourists, Iris assists in attracting tourists to Beechworth and making it a great place to live. She has contributed to the Keep Australia Beautiful Committee, Australia Day Committee, Beechworth Harvest Festival, Beechworth Golden Horseshoe Festival, Beechworth Chinese Lantern Festival, Beechworth 150th Anniversary celebrations, and she set up and co-ordinated the Beechworth Chinese Cultural Centre. Iris is also Secretary of the Beechworth Lions Club

John Sharwood,

Kellock Lodge Alexandra

A dedicated leader and board chair, John is on hand almost daily to support staff and residents at a residential aged care facility and oversaw the reconstruction of the facility. John is also a current member and chair of a local rural fire brigade and contributed significantly to emergency services in the 2009 Black Saturday fires. John has held various board positions over many years including with Landcare and Rotary, and has been the custodian, curator and gardener of a cemetery since 1991.