Local heroes – Doug Stinson

15 December 2016 | Emma White

Doug & Lesley Stinson

Ballina local hero Doug Stinson, pictured with his wife Lesley, is out to inspire you to volunteer.

8th – 14th May is National Volunteer Week so this week we are featuring stories about some of the amazing people who help Cancer Council NSW beat cancer.

After a long and rewarding career in hospital management Doug Stinson planned on a peaceful retirement in picturesque Lennox Head in NSW’s Northern Rivers region.  Life was pretty good for a while.

“I suppose if I were to tell you my story, I retired relatively early and I moved down here to Lennox Head on the beach – a beautiful spot. I figured I could walk along the beach and go fishing everyday and life would be pretty good for me!”

“So after about six months of walking along the beach and not catching any fish, swimming and playing in the sun I thought – there’s got to be a bit more to life than this. I’ve got to be doing something a bit more useful! You’ve got to have a bit of a challenge – you’ve got to have something that you’re trying to achieve.”

Armed with renewed resolve, Doug set out to make a difference by volunteering in the local community. His list of committees, events and fundraisers quickly became longer than most people’s Sunday groceries list. Doug soon realised he’d gone from one extreme to the other, especially in such a short period of time, and had to consider scaling his volunteering activities back a bit in order to get the most out of it.

“I’d already been involved in community organisations and volunteering, so I sort of went up a level and got much more involved in volunteering – to the point that six or eight months later my wife said to me: ‘This is ridiculous! You’re retired and look at your diary, it’s full every day and you’re constantly going somewhere, doing something – you’re getting yourself stressed!’

I was President of an organisation called Ballina District Community Services Association at the time, which provides services to aged, youth, disadvantaged and disabled people in the community. It was all getting a bit stressful so I decided to give away the Association and stay with Cancer Council.”

Doug has been hugely influential in Cancer Council NSW’s Relay For Life. Aside from establishing the first Relay in Ballina and attending every year since 2003, Doug was also on the original NSW Relay For Life Taskforce committee and has even attended conferences about the event in the U.S.

“One year we were given the Australia Day Award for the Best Event of the Year with the Ballina Shire and the Relay Committee, and I thought that was great! The Relay was the Community Event of the Year. That was a pretty proud moment, I’m very pleased with that.”


Volunteers make a huge difference in local communities

Doug also chairs the Ballina Network Committee which helps people in the community with cancer and their carers. They produce a local radio program called Living with Cancer.

They are now working with FSG, a local community group, to create a Visitor’s Scheme where people visit cancer patients and just have a cup of coffee and a chat.

“We’ve embarked on a battle with the Ballina Shire Council about needing more shade in playgrounds for kids. We now have a committee between the Ballina Network Committee, our Cancer Network Committee and the Shire. And we meet and talk about ways the Shire can help us to develop healthy lifestyle.”

When asked about why Doug chose to dedicate himself to volunteering – as opposed to travelling, being a regular on the social scene, or joining a sporting club – his reasons are very heartening.

“As you get older, you find you get a lot more out of doing things for someone else than you do out of doing things for yourself. You know, you don’t ‘need’ anything. If somebody says ‘What do you want for Christmas?’ you sort of think, ‘I don’t know, I really don’t want anything.’

I was Executive Officer at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney at a very young age. I grew up in a caring industry and I suppose it was logical I get involved in something like that when I retired, and I’d always wanted to volunteer for something.

I could have gotten involved in the golf club, the bowls club, the tennis club or something else – I’ve done some of that in my life too but it just seems to me that the Cancer Council was such a great organisation to be a part of.”


Here are Doug’s favourite things about volunteering:

  • Continuing to do something useful with your time. Specifically, doing something meaningful for others rather than just focusing on yourself.

“By doing something for someone else, you find your problems start to pale in significance. It is very good for you to be a volunteer for yourself as much as for the people you’re volunteering for.”

  • Connecting with like-minded individuals you might not normally cross paths with.

“Just by virtue of the fact that you’re volunteering with a community organisation… you find lots of other volunteers and people with similar ideas and similar ideals and they become your friends. People who are wanting to do things for others.”

  • A sense of fulfilment and making a difference in the community.

“At the end of the day, you may be doing something worthwhile and you feel very satisfied that you’ve achieved something. A sense of achievement, I guess.”


Northern Region Volunteer of the Year Award

Doug recently took out the Northern Region Volunteer of the Year Award, and after 15 years of volunteering no one can deny he deserves it – except maybe Doug himself! 

“Sometimes I think the Awards… go to the wrong people. I think there’s a lot of other people who do a lot more than I do. You know, I get more out of it than what I put in!”

Feeling inspired yet? We couldn’t help but giggle at Doug’s closing words: “People often say, ‘Don’t sit next to Doug at any conferences or anything or he’ll have you on a committee real quick!’”


There are lots of ways to get involved with Cancer Council NSW