28 January 2023

Wagga's 2023 Citizen of the Year says volunteering is 'win-win'

| Chris Roe
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Alan Pottie

Wagga’s 2023 Citizen of the Year, Alan Pottie. Photo: Chris Roe.

Wagga’s 2023 Citizen of the Year, Alan Pottie is humbled by the recognition of his years of volunteering for cancer awareness and fundraising but says he’s still figuring out what the new gig entails.

“I asked Dallas (Mayor Dallas Tout) at the ceremony, and he said, ‘Well, there are certain things that we’ll send you and certain ceremonies, but it’s what you make it’, so I’ve been pondering that,” he says.

“I think if there’s one thing this award gives me, it’s a platform to encourage volunteering because it’s really such a win-win for all the people who do it.

“You’re with really good people, and that’s uplifting, you get skill sets from other people and it helps you to stay young if you’re a bit older.”

Award ceremony

Alan Pottie was named 2023 Citizen of the Year for his outstanding commitment to Wagga Wagga’s Relay for Life, helping support people with cancer. Photo: Wagga City Council.

Alan is a cancer survivor and is passionate about connecting people impacted by the disease and fundraising through the annual Cancer Council Relay for Life.

He recognised the value of volunteer support networks after being diagnosed with tonsil cancer in 2010 when he was 52.

“You start with the diagnosis, which is just, ‘Yeah, you got cancer’. Now, what does that mean? Am I gonna live or die? And you think, I hope someone knows something about this,” he explains.

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“That’s where Cancer Council came in for me because it’s somewhere people can go, which is a one-stop shop rather than going to Dr Google, which can just send you into a minefield and you start thinking you got everything!”

Alan says the advice and emotional support he received from cancer survivors made an enormous difference and it was something that continued beyond treatment.

“When you start treatment, you just go straight into it and you don’t think about anything else, but then all of a sudden, it’s finished, and it’s like you fall off a cliff,” he says.

“You’re not going to treatment, you’re not seeing the regular medical people that you saw all the time.

‘Then you go back to work, and suddenly you’re ‘normal’, but you’re not mentally normal yet and you think differently about life.”


The popular chariot races will return for the 2023 Relay for Life. Photo: Chris Roe.

Looking ahead, Alan remains committed to the Relay for Life and will begin preparing for the 2023 event soon.

He also plans to advocate for an expansion of valuable peer-support initiatives like the Cancer Council’s Cancer Connect.

“There’s a database of about 200 of us around the state that have had some listening training, empathy training for peer support and someone can just ring up and then have three or four confidential phone calls with a survivor who can just have a chat and share their experience,” he says.

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“But it’s only for survivors, it doesn’t happen yet for carers.

“I think that would be really valuable for carers because they have nowhere to go and often no one to talk to outside their family who understands what they are dealing with.”

While cancer advocacy is Alan’s focus and reflects his life experience, he says that everyone has something unique to offer the community.

“If there’s anything I can encourage people with if they are considering volunteering, it’s to find something you’re passionate about it,” he says.

“Then find a way to use that to volunteer and then hopefully you’re not giving something up, you’re actually doing something you want to do but you can give back at the same time!”

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