Exceptional community contributions recognises at the Volunteer of the Year Awards 2018

Dedication, direction and a unified sense of community.

This is what a group of winners had in common at the 2018 NSW Volunteer of the Year awards, held on August 15 at Tradies Gymea.

St George and Sutherland Shire volunteers were recognised for their outstanding contribution as part of an annual event run by the Centre for Volunteering.

The senior and young volunteers of the year, Emily Jane Miles of Narwee and Louise Temperley of Sutherland, respectively, provide free professional attire and career support at Dress for Success Sydney.

The volunteer team of the year is Tradies Gymea, The Sutherland District Trade Union Club. The team of 119 gave up almost 3000 hours of volunteering to 27 community organisations last year.

But the big gong went to overall regional winner and adult volunteer of the year, Paul Signorelli of Blakehurst, of Biaggio Signorelli Asbestos Foundation.

Mr Signorelli is an advocate for charities including Care Flight, Camp Quality, and St George and Sutherland hospitals.

He also owns Doltone House, which hosts more than 1000 charities annually.

“There’s a saying that you see the marble but not the quarry,” he said. “There’s so much behind-the-scenes work that goes into volunteering. Sure I could stay home and enjoy the fruits of my labour but I love helping people who need it,” he said.

A decade ago he established the Biaggio Signorelli Foundation, which is dedicated to funding early detection, treatment, care and a cure to asbestos-related illnesses. In 2008, his father died of mesothelioma. The foundation has helped raise more than $10 millions towards vital research.

“The day my father passed away was a light bulb moment,” Mr Signorelli said. “I lost my best friend. He came to Australia as a young migrant working with transformers. Most of those employees died because of asbestos exposure. 

“His last words to me were you can’t save me, but you can save others. This was his dying wish.”

Mr Signorelli is now focusing on a campaign called Lives Over Levies, which aims to promote better education on the safe the disposal of asbestos, particularly from home renovators.

“It’s about launching awareness of illegal dumping and encouraging councils and the government to lower levies to avoid it from happening,” Mr Signorelli said.

“The state government gave us $100,000 to start up and we’re got great sponsors on board.”

He said he was humbled being among the winners.

“I actually felt like giving my award to someone else when I heard their stories,” he said. “I’m fortunate that I have 600 staff and can raise money because of my profile to have influence in the industry. But my heroes are those who are underprivileged themselves and build their time on compassion.”

Former NSW premier Morris Iemma nominated Mr Signorelli for the award. Mr Iemma was the chairman of the foundation for almost 10 years.

“I knew Paul from my days as local MP, and grew to know his whole family as he expanded his business,” Mr Iemma said.

“He is an immensely successful businessman and Doltone House is probably the number one events management company. But beyond that, Paul has boundless energy and passion bordering on obsession in  never forgetting his local reach, and has always been driven with a sense of community.”

NSW Minister for Volunteering, Ray Williams, said the state's 2.1 million volunteers contributed more than $5 billion to the NSW economy every year. 

“Nominating local volunteers for an award or a certificate is a special way of saying thank you,” Mr Williams said.

“The fact that so many nominations were received this year is recognition of the amazing effort of volunteers across NSW who help build stronger communities.”

Chief executive of the Centre for Volunteering, Gemma Rygate says all recipients made an enormous contribution to the community.

“Volunteers from across the area give their time helping in schools, hospitals, for sporting clubs, the environment, and with so many community based organisations,” she said.

“They all give so much without asking for anything in return.”

The awards are mainly supported by Department of Family and Community Services NSW and ClubsNSW.

The winners will represent their region in November at the NSW final.


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