August 'Community Hero'

19-Sep-2013 1:55 PM

A 72-year-old Moe woman who has dedicated most of her adult life to help support carers across Gippsland has been named the August winner of a 3AW and Villa Maria Community Hero award.

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Each month since February, an inspiring individual who has overcome the odds to achieve their dreams, or who makes a positive difference to their community, has been chosen to receive a Community Hero award.  The initiative – run by Villa Maria and top-rating radio station 3AW – aims to ensure unsung heroes receive the recognition they deserve.

Jean Tops knows first-hand the struggles faced by carers.  Three of Jean’s four children have disabilities, and her experience as an unpaid carer including a lack of on-the-ground support is what inspired her to begin the fight for a "better deal" for those struggling in similar situations.

Jean is the Founder and President of the volunteer-run Gippsland Carers Association (GCA), established 15 years ago to provide peer support, information, education and advocacy to more than 26,000 family carers across Gippsland and beyond.

“I just think that family carers in this country get a very raw deal,” Jean said.  “They contribute $42 billion a year to the national economy but they get virtually no support in return.  It is just very upsetting to me to think people can give up their entire lives, as I have done most of my adult life, to caring for others without an inadequate amount of help in return.”

Jean also hosts two Carer Forums for GCA each year, updating carers on relevant issues from government departments and services, and is actively lobbying to see a funded, peer-to-peer Carers Support Network for the entire Gippsland region become a reality.

Jean’s friend Axella Johannesson – who nominated her for the award – described her as an “humanitarian and a true hero”.

Jean said she was “over the moon” to receive the award.  “I’m ecstatic to think that after all these years somebody out there appreciates the work that I do.”

Villa Maria Executive Manager Marketing Rebecca Ryan said Jean was a fantastic example of the type of community-minded and inspiring people the organisation and 3AW wanted to acknowledge.

In recognition of her achievements, Jean has been given $1,000 thanks to Mercedes Benz Melbourne, and Axella has received an exclusive $250 Mercedes Benz gift as thanks for her nomination.

Nominating is easy.  To find out how visit:

The Gippsland Carers Association is looking for volunteers and financial support to help continue its vital work.  If you can help, please call visit:


Interviews and photograph opportunities are available upon request.

Media enquiries: call Cassie Zlonzak on (03) 9855 7729 or 0406 382 560.

Media contact

Cassie Zlonzak
Communications Adviser

Telephone: 03 9837 6629

Fax: 03 9837 6668

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Villa Maria is a not-for-profit, values-based organisation providing quality services and life enhancing opportunities for older people and children and adults with a disability, their families and carers.

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