Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pride of Australia Awards

Friday 24th Oct was one of the most rewarding days of my life. Here is the story...

IT would have been hard to miss the buzz that gripped Annerley soccer fields in June this year, when 10,000 people gathered for World Refugee Day.

The Volunteer Refugee Tutoring and Community Service, or VoRTCS (pronounced vortex), organises the yearly festival to coincide with World Refugee Day on June 20, and it's hard to believe the organisation's growth has culminated in such a large event.

VoRTCS started with just 18 tutors and five refugee families three years ago, but has grown to more than 650 tutors and 250 families today.
Pride of Australia, Peace category
VoRTCS - Claire Schneider, Ian Tanner,Julie Tobler, Corey Monaghan, Melissa Greeben and Heather Davidson

Finalists: Shyla Bauer, Roy Chamberlain and Tony Bower-Miles

The festival highlights the diverse group of cultures and people Australia is blessed with, but is just an offshoot of the major service that VoRTCS provides - free in-home tutoring and English language support through the Refugee Tutoring Program.

Since 2005, the tutoring program has paired volunteers with refugee families across southeast Queensland, bringing Australians together with refugees not just for education, but also to increase understanding between cultures and assist refugees in the huge adjustment to an Australian lifestyle.

VoRTCS President Claire Schneider leads a diverse team who represent Brisbane, from Deception Bay in the north to Sunnybank in the south, and west to Ashgrove. Ms Schneider was jointly awarded the Pride of Australia Peace prize with team members Ian Tanner,Julie Tobler, Corey Monaghan, Melissa Green and Heather Davidson.

The award was looking for an Australian or group of Australians whose selfless, tireless and largely unacknowledged actions have enriched or improved the quality of life for a local community.

Clare Schneider said that while tutors put personal time into the families, they consistently say they feel like they're the ones getting rewarded.

"They feel they get more out of it than they give, and we couldn't do it without our volunteers," she said.

VoRTCS aims to assist and encourage refugee families to take up the educational, social or vocational opportunities available to all Australians.

Heather Davidson, Julie Tobler, Ian Tanner, Claire Schneider, Corey Monaghan & Melissa Greeben from VoRTCS. The winners of the 'Peace' category.

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