Billabong High School student wins top NSW Volunteer of the Year award for the Murray region

YOUNG VOICE: NSW Volunteer of the Year for the Murray region was won by Billabong High's Holly Johnson, 14. Picture: ELENOR TEDENBORG

YOUNG VOICE: NSW Volunteer of the Year for the Murray region was won by Billabong High's Holly Johnson, 14. Picture: ELENOR TEDENBORG

Holly Johnson missed her favourite subject at school on Tuesday, but it was all worth it after she received the Murray region Volunteer of the Year award.

The 14-year-old Billabong High School student had to forego visual arts to attend the ceremony at the Albury Club.

Holly is a strong advocate for human rights and volunteers with Amnesty International.

Raised in Gerogery, Holly said she didn't expect to win the student category, let alone the overall region-wide gong, in the 10th annual NSW regional Volunteer of the Year awards.

“I was born and raised in a rural area and I only started forming my own opinions when I started volunteering, it grew my self-confidence,” Holly said.

“I started to get a voice, I barely spoke in year 7 and 8.

“I wasn't a very confident person and it was just a new opportunity - I'm all for taking new opportunities.

“I think there are things that need changing, including basic human rights.”

Holly, who is in year 9, also hoped to start a UN group at her school and encouraged more young people to get involved.

It would come in addition to her time spent at UPA Jindera Gardens Hostel nursing home and Kiltearn House Hostel in Culcairn.

“Volunteering is something I want to keep doing, but I'll have to fit it in with my schooling,” she said.

“It keeps my confidence up and I feel an obligation to do it, not forced, but it feels good at the end of the day.”

The Murray region's Senior Volunteer of the Year went to Lavington's Lindsay Cutler.

Mr Cutler got into volunteering through the Lavington Lions Club.

He has run the Life Education NSW van, which goes to schools in the Albury area, for about 13 years.

“It has a huge impact on the kids,” he said.

“By the time they get to year 6, it gives them information to make wise lifestyle choices when they get into their teenage years - from ice to alcohol.

“Hopefully, they are equipped to deal better with it because of those teachings.

“The money spent now is really good investment for future years for the primary school children.”

Mr Cutler said volunteering was a fulfilling role.

“You need givers in the community, you need contributors, unless you do, you won't have a balanced community,” he said.

“Basically I enjoy doing it, that's why we all do it.”

The Volunteer Team of the Year went to the Thurgoona and District Lions Club, while Naomi Burch, of Moulamein, won the adult volunteer category.

Each winner will go on to the State gala awards ceremony on December 2.

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