The inaugural Herald Weekly Times Heart Volunteer Awards supported by the Powercor Country Festival have been announced.

This exciting new initiative recognises the selfless work of dedicated volunteers across four categories, including sport, community, emergency responders and environment.

Geelong star Tom Hawkins surprised Community winner Andrea Vallance. Check out the video above!

Learn more about Andrea and other award recipients below. Each are shining examples of the army of volunteers who are the beating heart of rural communities.

Allan Croucher won the sport category in this year's Herald Weekly Times Awards. Credit: Herald Weekly Times.

SPORT WINNER: Allan Croucher, Tangambalanga

Allan has been a volunteer for the Kiewa-Sandy Creek football club for more than 50 years and is deeply involved in the community.

Allan is undoubtedly one of the club’s most dedicated volunteers, and says he gets a lot of “satisfaction” out of the volunteer work he does in Kiewa and Tangambalanga.

In addition to his work with the footy club, which plays in the Tallangatta and District Football League in North East Victoria, Allan is also involved in the local Lions Club.

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COMMUNITY WINNER: Andrea Vallance, Nirranda

Andrea is a dairy farmer and Ambulance Victoria volunteer emergency officer who is also the coordinator of Timboon P-12’s careers program.

Andrea Vallance won the community category. Credit: Herald Weekly Times.

Not only does she find time to respond to emergencies in her Great Ocean Road town of Nirranda, the 58-year-old mum of three is also working hard to guarantee there’s another generation of volunteers, which is why she has been honoured as winner of the Community award.

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Janice Wilson has co-ordinated Clean Up Australia Day events since 2014. Credit: Herald Weekly Times.

ENVIRONMENT WINNER: Janice Wilson, Rochester

Janice has co-ordinated Clean Up Australia Day events in Rochester since 2014.

She organises a group that meets at least twice a year to remove leaf litter and plastics from the Campaspe River.

Her enthusiasm for multicultural harmony has spilled into her environmental volunteerism, where many of the Clean Up participants are migrants to Australia.

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Allan Smeaton is a member of the Orbost SES unit. Credit: Herald Weekly Times


Allan is a member of the Orbost SES unit. He was one of the quiet heroes of the recent East Gippsland bushfires.

His Orbost unit was responsible for helping with evacuations, manning the relief centre on the East Gippsland town’s oval and taking care of people who had nowhere else to turn when they were told it was too late to leave.

Allan stepped into a leadership void, and was there for the people when they most needed someone to show strength and compassion. Not only did he man the relief centre every day during the fires, but he continued to workday after day during the clean-up.

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Powercor have kindly donated $1000 to the winner of each award and another $1000 to the organisation of their choice.