Top treasurers awarded for hard work and financial wizardry

Posted on 12 Aug 2021

By Matthew Schulz, journallist, Our Community

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Australia’s best community treasurers come from a range of not-for-profits and every corner of the map, but all are committed to good budgeting, time-saving tech, and the adaptability needed to ride out the uncertainty caused by the global pandemic.

The winners of the 2021 Commonwealth Bank Not-for-profit Treasurers’ Awards have been revealed to celebrate the end of Not-for-Profit Finance Week 2021, where the program includes a series of free webinars designed to help groups manage their funds.

Each won $5,000 for their organisation for their response to this question centred on the pandemic: "What have you done to creatively innovate or transform your not-for-profit to deal with the challenging environment"?

The four winners have also revealed their top tips for surviving turbulent times with the nation’s 600,000 not-for-profits in a special report for Our Community Matters.

Don’t miss their practical wisdom to help your organisation adapt to covid-19 uncertainty, tame the technology, fine-tune your governance and reporting, and keep your financial strategies focused on the mission.

The 2021 winners are:

Liliana Almeida (Community services and advocacy)
Portuguese Australian Women’s Association, Melbourne

Harry Edwards (Housing and homelessness)
The Sanctuary – The Hills Women’s Shelter, Sydney

Catherine Pazvakavambwa (Sports, arts, and culture)
RTR-FM community radio, Perth

Paul Ruberry (Education)
Graceville State School Parents and Citizens Association, Brisbane

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The Commonwealth Bank's Julienne Price, launching the awards at the Communities in Control conference in May 2021.

The awards also recognise an army of treasurers nominated by their organisations with a certificate of thanks and a listing on an annual honour roll.

The Commonwealth Bank’s head of not-for-profit sector banking, Julienne Price, said the awards were richly deserved by individuals who were some of the sector’s hardest-working volunteers.

“These awards provide an opportunity for us to say thank you and to show our collective appreciation for the immense contribution community treasurers make to their own groups, the not-for-profit sector as a whole, and Australian society.

“It’s wonderful to see more than 1500 treasurers recognised in the 2021 awards, and to be able to publicly recognise the thousands of people who contribute so much of their time and effort to looking after all things financial and to keeping the sector viable and sustainable.”

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Our Community managing director Denis Moriarty. Picture: Penny Stephens

Our Community group managing director Denis Moriarty said the winners demonstrated proven solutions for groups wanting to cope with covid-19.

“As a treasurer myself, I know the massive commitment that is involved. These financial leaders inspire us all with their passion, dedication, professionalism, and can-do attitude towards their causes. I hope we can all learn from them,” he said.

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Catherine Pazvakavambwa, treasurer of community radio station RTR-FM in Perth, couldn't disguise her thrill at the prize.

Winners gain recognition, respect, and cash for their communities
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Catherine Pazvakavambwa, or Cat Paz to the listeners of Global Rhythm Pot on RTR-FM community radio in Perth, heard she’d won the $5,000 prize for community treasurers while driving on the freeway in a huge rainstorm, and wasn’t sure she had heard right at first.

“You might have heard me scream a little,” she said.

The prize money had already been pegged to pay for repairs to essential transmission towers, she said.

Graceville Primary School Parents and Citizens Association treasurer Paul Ruberry, in Brisbane, said, “The money will make a big difference to our little primary school.”

“There’s a lot of projects just begging for funding such as books, reading materials and classroom technology.”

Harry Edwards, the treasurer for The Sanctuary, which provides emergency accommodation for women escaping domestic violence in northwest Sydney, said the funds would go to 24-hour frontline services at the six-bedroom shelter.

“The money will go towards just helping keep a roof over the head of those that are looking to escape domestic violence,” he said.

And Portuguese Australian Women’s Association treasurer Liliana Almeida said the prize money would “go a long way” towards training members and volunteers in areas such as business, IT, resilience, and leadership.

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Winner of the Housing and Homelessness category Harry Edwards from The Sanctuary - The Hills Women's Shelter in Sydney's north-western suburbs.

Being a treasurer is not just about the money
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Our prize winners are living examples that one of the keys to getting the most out of your treasurer is picking the right person to start with.

There’s a few telling characteristics.

All our award-winning treasurers, both this year and in the past, love the gig and find juggling figures a breeze.

Ms Almeida said, “It comes naturally to me. I just find it easy, and I love dealing with figures.”

She said that would-be treasurers for smaller organisations shouldn’t underestimate their capabilities.

“Honestly, if you can use a calculator, are good with a spreadsheet and can count money the rest of it's easy. I find that it's no different than budgeting for your own home finances. You’ve got to pay your mortgage, and you've got to pay your bills within what you get paid. Take a chance and remember that there's always someone there to support you, because no-one’s going to throw you right into the deep end.”

And while they’re not paid for their work, our winning treasurers have the satisfaction of knowing they’re making a difference where it counts.

“I know the decisions I’m making are benefitting my organisations, and that my committee has confidence that what I’m doing is working,” Ms Almeida said.

That’s not to say that there’s not more to learn, and Ms Almeida said she was among those to “jump online” for the free offerings during Not-for-profit Finance Week to “develop my skills a bit more. There’s certainly a lot of regulations and rules to keep on top of.”

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Liliana Almeida from the Portuguese Australian Women's Association encouraged those with financial nous to consider taking up the treasurers' mantle.

Mr Ruberry said would-be treasurers should consider, “If not you, then who?”

“It’s a job that’s got to be done, and sometimes you need to be the person that steps forward.”

He said that as the father of two young students, he felt that helping the school was “a great cause” and said “it’s always easier to put in an effort and to help if you’re working towards something you believe in.”

“It’s a joy to work to make their schooling experience better and richer.”

And he said that while he’d had professional experience managing budgets and IT projects, working as the treasurer had been a new experience which had given him new skills with an enthusiastic and like-minded community.

Anyone considering the role, he said, should “jump in and do it”.

He said Our Community was among many organisations providing online resources, and that past office holders were there to “help you get up to speed”.

“There’s heaps of help out there.”

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Paul Ruberry has applied many of the skills from professional life into his work with Graceville State School.

Ms Pazvakavambwa said she was proud to be part of a community station that had pioneered great local music in Perth, was now at the heart of arts and culture in the city and was committed to “bringing the voices that you don’t hear on the mainstream stations”.

Ms Pazvakavambwa urged would-be volunteers to follow their heart and to get involved in organisations they cared about.

“Join an organisation that interests you, because that will keep you motivated to commit to it, because if you join an organisation where you don’t know what it’s about, you won’t enjoy it, because volunteer time is precious and the minute that volunteers start to look at the time they’re spending, you’ve lost them.”

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