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Taronga National Volunteer Week Awards recognise the achievements of our volunteers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in their commitment to our organisational vision and values.   

Category: Be supportive and enthusiastic

This award acknowledges volunteers who go above and beyond to support our people and show outstanding enthusiasm in the execution of their role.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo 

Winner -  Elke Weinbrecht & Lesley Abraham

Elke graduated as a Volunteer Guide in 2011, and since then has been involved in nearly every activity.  As well as Early Morning Walks and Booked Walks, Elke has assisted at Giraffe in Focus, Animal Watch, Behavioural Enrichment and any events held.

Thank you Elke for all your hard work.

Lesley & Elke TWPZ Volunteers

As Lesley has done for the last many years, she has given over and over again of her time and experience for the Zoo and the Volunteers.  She has given me much appreciated support in my role as secretary and is always available for so many more roles such as Chairperson of the Committee, early morning walks, water testing, animal watch, in fact, can be relied on totally in every aspect.  She is a much respected member of the volunteers.


Highly Commended - Leonie Saville and Stephen Hollier

Leonie Saville has been assisting with the content and photographs for facebook for a over 6 months and during this time has not only supported the marketing department but provided great assistance when developing content.  Leonie’s skills in photography have really assisted our department providing an amazing collection of stock photos but also allowing us to engage with facebook followers online.  Leonie is provided a set list for photos but will often see a great photo opportunity whilst she is out in the Zoo snap it and suggest content for a facebook post. 

Whilst Leonie only works 4 hours a week in our department this short period of time saves us a great deal of time overall and allows us to concentrate on other aspects of our role whilst Leonie captures amazing photos.  Leonie has also started working on video content as well to help build the Zoo’s online video content.

Leonie is a valuable asset to the marketing team and we would be lost without her amazing photography and writing skills as well as her knowledge of the animals that call the Zoo home.

Leonie Saville & Stephen Hollier - Volunteers TWPZ


Over the past few school holiday periods, Stephen has gone above and beyond in providing animal encounters at the Savannah Visitors Plaza. Stephen has made himself available for many days of the school holidays and this has provided an extra experience to all visitors as they arrive at the Zoo. As Taronga Western Plains Zoo doesn’t have any reptiles on display, people are extremely excited to be able to touch them through these encounters. Whilst we have a number of volunteers who also contribute to this program, Stephen has gone above and beyond in his availability and has shown enthusiasm towards training and delivery of this visitor experience.


Category: Accept and take responsibility

This award recognises volunteers who go out of their way to accept and take responsibility which results in excellent customer service for our visitors and builds positive, strong relationships between our people.

Winner -  Bob Coverdale


Bob has been a Volunteer Guide for 12 years, and brings a wealth of experience in many volunteering activities to both the general Volunteer Programme and Education programme.  As a presenter on Birds, Bob has inspired us all to take the time to observe and research our bird life.  Bob has also organised and participated in the Animal Watch activities on Meerkats and White Rhinos, and other animals as required.


Additionally, bob co-ordinates the Water Testing activity for Streamwatch NSW, and enters our data onto the data base.  His team have recently been invited to participate in Waterwatch Snapshop Autumn sampling on the Macquarie River, by Regional CMA (to be held ¾ May 2012).


Thank you Bob for your leadership, and inspiration.


Highly Commended - Bob Browne and Sue Ryan


Over the past few school holiday periods, Bob has volunteered his time to drive the bus for the Zoo Adventures school holiday program. Bob has made himself available almost every day to drive the bus, which has gone above and beyond our expectations. Through this he has been extremely reliable and his duties have included collecting and returning the bus and cleaning it ready for the guests at Zoofari Lodge. In addition to this he has driven the bus around the Zoo as part of the children’s morning tour. This has allowed the Education team to offer an extended experience to the children in the Zoo Adventures program, as they have been able to access areas of the Zoo that would not be accessible on foot.


Having a volunteer available to drive the bus certainly enhances the product that we are able to offer and extends our customer service opportunities to the children participating in this program. Bob is always ready to lend a hand and a smile and is extremely supportive of the staff delivering the program.


We had two kids go home to their parents this week and when asked what they did during their day at Zoo Adventures, they replied, “we spent the day with Rachel and Bob”. Considering Bob only spends 2-3 hours in the morning with them, he obviously made quite an impact.


Sue Ryan has been a Volunteer Guide for 8 years and on the Education Committee for 7 years.


In 2012, Sue became one of our presenters, giving power point presentations on Australian animals, Mammals, Ungulates, &  Primates, and workshopping Chew and Poo, and our final “who am I quiz?”.  These were done very professionally, and appreciated by our trainees.  Her assistance on the Committee was also highly appreciated, and contributed to the success of the programme.


Sue is also involved in EMWs, Animal Watch, Behavioural Enrichment and a number of other of our activities.


Thank you to Sue for her contribution this year, we are indebted.


Category: Show dignity and respect

This award pays tribute to volunteers who are committed to being honest, accountable, and transparent and who treat each person as they expect to be treated.

Winner -  Greg O’Mally


Greg graduated as a Volunteer Guide in 2010, and since then has participated in a range of volunteering activities, always willing to fill in for others at short notice, and undertaking Duty Officer, as well as Volunteer Guide.


Greg deals very efficiently and respectfully with all our visitors, and can be relied upon to visit Aussie Walkthrough on a regular basis.


We appreciate Greg’s contributions to the Volunteer Programme.


Highly Commended -  Neil Lander


Neil has been a faithful volunteer for 10 years, and actively involved in guiding EMWs and taking Coach tours.  Neil is often called on to take Booked Tours and Coach Tours at short notice, as he lives not too far from the Zoo. 


Currently, Neil has given us the benefit of his knowledge and experience on the Education Committee, and as a Mentor has inspired our latest intake of trainee volunteers.


We greatly appreciate the extra research and in-depth knowledge Neil has, and his ability as a Mentor.


In appreciation, thank you!


Category: Innovate and take initiative

This award highlights volunteers who stand out from the crowd because of their willingness to use their initiative or embrace changes that will lead to the realisation of our Vision.

Winner -  John Powning


John Powning has been a Volunteer at TWPZ for nine years, and has involved himself in all our activities.


This year John has continued diligently with his project on the Zoo History, completing several books from records and articles published by Dubbo Daily Liberal.  These are most saught after in our Library, by both volunteers and keepers, and provide much information and entertainment.


We congratulate John on his persistence and meticulous work.


More recently, John drew to the Volunteers attention, and the Administration Staff, the much photographic material from the beginning of the Zoo, up to more recent times, was stored in tubs and filing cabinets in the ‘Big Shed’.  As a photographer with an interest in the history of the Zoo, and acknowledging the importance of archives, John encouraged the Volunteer Committee and the PR department to take some interest in preserving this material, and having it transferred to digital  format to take us through into the next phase of our history.


Future generations of Volunteers and zoo staff will be glad to continue to have access to this material.  Thanks to John’s foresight and leadership, the Volunteers are now embarking on a programme, with the support of TWPZ Management,  to transfer this photographic material to an electronic data base, to preserve images, which might otherwise be lost through deterioration, and difficulty of storage.


Well done, John !


Highly Commended - Tom Gray and Janne Doyle


Tom is a youth volunteer who shows initiative and is a helping hand when last minute changes need to be made. Tom is a mentor to younger Y@TZ volunteers- he leads by example and takes time to encourage and support all his peers. Tom always displays a positive, ‘can-do’ attitude; always leading by example. Over the holiday periods Tom assists with the ZOO ADVENTURES- ROAR&SNORE and MEET & GREETS programs. His dedication ensures that visitors have an extraordinary experience and leave understanding more about the Taronga conservation message.


Tom is experienced handling a variety of animals and is comfortable displaying them for guests and explaining their unique features. Tom is friendly and approachable always willing to help out in any way. Tom undertakes numerous shifts (throughout the holiday periods especially) and has shown flexibility and a willingness to start early or finish late when unexpected changes arise- his focus is the zoo guests and people willing to learn. Tom’s mature attitude makes him a delight to work with.




Janne Doyle has been a Volunteer Guide for 10 years in that time has participated in every activity at some stage.


In 2012, Janne took on the role of Chairperson, Education Committee, and has been activity involved in all aspects of the training, as well as in the Volunteer Committee. We have been able this year to run a five day course for trainee Volunteer Guides, using our own volunteers, and a number of keeping staff have provided talks at exhibits.  We thank Janne for her council and leadership.


In additional to guiding EMWs and taking Coach Tours, Janne collects and collates our statistics, joins the Water Testing group, attends Behavioural Enrichment and other events, and gets involved in Animal Watch.


We congratulate Janne for her fine effort in 2012 !



Category: Clear and simple 

This award celebrates those volunteers that are committed to finding effective, creative, clear and simple ways of carrying out their role.

Winner - Kristy Ryan


Although Kristy is my daughter I would like to nominate her as I see her enthusiasm and love the zoo at home as well as when she is on the premises. She carries out her volunteering to the best of her ability and has taken on roles such as being on the committee and organising the nursery volunteers and also being on the Education Committee and being involved in the last training program, early morning walks and generally helping both Zoo staff and other volunteers id and when the need is there.


Highly Commended  -  Julie Miller


The reason I am nominating Julie Miller for a volunteer award, is because of her amazing and inspiring dedication and passion for assisting Taronga Western Plains Zoo team in any possible way they she can.


Julie is always bright, bubbly, enthusiastic and a very easy person to work with, and undoubtly can be trusted to work on her own, assisting with Meerkats, and White Rhino observations amongst many other skills, that she contributes with.


Julie is a dedicated and reliable person all of the time, and in particular over the easter period Julie volunteered several days in a row, in any area of the zoo that was requested whilst still working almost every day at her paying job, and her cheerful and friendly attitude never dimmed.