Helicopter landing signals launch of ‘workplace giving program’

Published 31 August 2010

workgiveThe landing of a Westpac rescue helicopter on a sports field at the University of New England yesterday marked the launch of a program at the University that will make it easier for staff members to give money to the charities of their choice.

The new program allows them to make donations to any recognised charity through the University’s payroll – receiving a tax break at the same time.

Yesterday’s event marked the culmination of two years of planning for the program by James Simmons, the Manager of Client Services within UNE’s Human Resources Services Directorate. Mr Simmons explained the origin of the program: a rescue operation in 2007 when a Westpac helicopter lifted a UNE staff member, Brendan Heywood, and his companions from a rock ledge in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. Mr Heywood was so grateful for his rescue that he sought to have donations to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service deducted from his pay – a request that led to the development of the University’s “Workplace Giving Program”.

The Chancellor of UNE, Richard Torbay, and the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jim Barber, who were there to greet the Westpac helicopter, both paid tribute to the efforts of Mr Simmons and his colleagues in establishing the program. They also expressed their strong support for the work of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service throughout the region, and their appreciation of the University’s relationship with the service in the context of the “Workplace Giving Program”.

The Business Manager of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, Mr Phil Williams, and the service’s Special Projects Officer, Mr Barry Walton, were there for the landing of the helicopter – their presence gratefully acknowledged by the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor.

Dr Torbay said that he had been “a very proud member” of the Westpac Helicopter Advisory Committee ever since its establishment in 1995, and “a passionate supporter” of the service – a service that performs more than 1,200 rescue missions a year. “I’m very proud, as Chancellor, to be part of this ceremony today,” he said. Professor Barber, also speaking on behalf of the University, said: “We want to support the service because our heart is in the region.”

Dr Geoffrey Fox, Chair of the UNE Foundation, was also present for the landing of the Westpac helicopter. He explained that donating to the Foundation – an independent organisation that raises and disperses funds for scholarships, prizes and projects at UNE – was among the options open to staff members planning their “workplace giving”.

After the helicopter landing ceremony, a lunchtime barbecue on the lawns of “Booloominbah”, attended by staff members from across the campus, saw the official launch of UNE’s “Workplace Giving Program”.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows UNE’s James Simmons (centre) with Westpac Rescue Helicopter pilot David Davies and the service’s Special Projects Officer Barry Walton.