National Volunteer Week: Sandy Nieuwenhoven

Last updated 21 May 2024

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With National Volunteer Week upon us, we would like to recognise and thank our volunteers, past and present, whose contributions have made our sport what it is today. In the spotlight today is Sandy Nieuwenhoven, long-term volunteer and the APF's National Judging Officer.

National Volunteer Week

National Volunteer Week is Australia’s largest annual celebration of volunteering, providing an opportunity to highlight the important role of volunteers in our community, and inviting people not currently volunteering to give it a go.
National Volunteer Week 2024 Logo
Since the APF was established, it has relied heavily upon volunteers. So much has changed over the years, but the need for helping hands has not changed one bit. If we did not have the small army of volunteers that we do, the sport as we know it would cease to exist in this country. So much work is shouldered by those who seek no recognition and receive no payment. By law, the APF Board must be volunteers, with all seven Area Councils relying on volunteers. There are volunteers serving on APF Committees, and, of course, we have volunteers helping out around the drop zones. They are always willing to lend a helping hand, asking nothing for themselves, but doing what they do for the love of the sport.

This week is a time to recognise and thank our volunteers, past and present, whose contributions have made our sport what it is today.

Volunteer Spotlight: Sandy Nieuwenhoven

In today's spotlight is Sandy Nieuwenhoven.

Sandy started jumping in 2002 and is an Australian record holder in bigway formation skydiving. She has a silver medal in 8-way formation skydiving and regularly competes in 4-way competitions, holding gold, silver and bronze medals. Sandy has been on some high-profile demo jumps around Australia and is a positive force at the Lower Light drop zone in South Australia. Always smiling and encouraging, Sandy teaches those around her with her wealth of skydiving knowledge. It is an inspiration to see her dedicate so much time to ensuring others are having good, safe skydives.

Sandy Beach Landing

We caught up with Sandy to learn more about her skydiving journey and what volunteering means to her...

Quick intro, who are you and what is your job?

My name is Sandy Nieuwenhoven and I am a retired Medical Scientist, working for the last part of my career as operations manager for Australian Clinical Labs. My career has been varied, I started out completing an apprenticeship as a Fitter and Turner, one of the first females to take up the trade in the 1980s. I then studied engineering and landed a job as a draftsperson. After some maternity leave I went to work in a laboratory in Adelaide and did my Bachelor of Medical Science and my career grew from there. I took early retirement but need to be doing something, so volunteering with APF was one way to fill that. I also volunteer with the South Australian State Emergency Service as an operational member. You might see me in my orange overalls cutting down trees or sandbagging flooded areas.

How long have you been skydiving for?

I started skydiving in 2002 and I did my AFF course 3 weeks after doing a tandem. I was not the quickest at learning, completing 7 attempts at stage 4 and 18 AFF jumps in total before I did stage 9. I attained my AFF Instructor rating in 2018 after more than 1200 jumps. I am probably the most scared-of-heights-person I know, and I work really hard to make sure my students don’t know that.

Sandy in Biplane at Beer Bell Boogie in May 2006

What are some of your highlights from your skydiving career?

I have been on some really cool jumps; Avalon Airshow out of a C27J Spartan, Amberley airbase C17 all female jumps, Gold Coast Beach for World Parachuting Championships (WPC) 2018, Big Red sand dune at Birdsville, Dunk Island Spit, Bird Island in the Seychelles, and Australian 130-way National record. Most of all I love knowing that if I can face my fear and skydive, I can do anything.

Sandy Big Way by Michael Young

When did you begin volunteering for the APF?

I started volunteering with the South Australian Sport Parachute Club around 2004 as a committee member. In 2016 I joined the APF funding committee and a year later I also joined the awards committee. I did my APF judge course in 2017 and judged my first nationals in 2018. I have since attained my FAI rating and am now the National Judging Officer and the APF alternate delegate to the International Skydiving Commission. I was appointed Team Manager for the WPC in Tanay, Siberia in 2020 (although Australia withdrew from Tanay due to Covid travel restrictions) and 2022 at Eloy USA, which are also volunteer roles. A few years earlier, at the 2018 WPC in the Gold Coast, I volunteered as a general hand.

What initially made you want to get involved and what drives you to continue to volunteer?

I like doing things that make a difference in my community and helping those that need it, be it skydiving, SES or simply looking after my young grandchildren.

BruiseBrothers by Cullen Habel 

What is involved in being the National Judging Officer?

The NJO role encompasses a variety of things, including organising judges for States and Nationals, nominating judges eligible for World competitions and providing training opportunities for new judges. We have run 3 judging courses already this year and there are more to come! I also write reports for the APF with any judging-related news and assist with the organisation of competitions with relation to judging, briefing organisers on judging requirements and managing the judging software.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face volunteering?

The biggest challenge is finding people who are willing to help. People are busy and have regular jobs and families, so it’s not always easy to help out.

What are your aspirations for the APF moving forwards?

I want to grow and invigorate judging in Australia. It’s been a little quiet the last couple of years. I have some really good judges on my team who want to help and are keen to judge at as many competitions as they can. It is so rewarding to see new people coming through and I hope to see more when I run an FS/VFS course later this year.

Sandy and co by Steve Fitchett

Why should people consider volunteering for the APF in the future?

It’s about how it makes you feel as a person. I always feel good at the end of a competition, even if it hasn’t run as smoothly as I’d like. I like to see the faces on competitors when I hang a medal around their neck. Without volunteers the APF would not be able to continue supplying what it does and costs would increase. 

And finally, what is your favourite part about volunteering?

One thing I really like in the judging world is the entertaining way some teams say thank you. From a small gesture like a thank you note at the start of a competition round to a video made by all competitors when we were judging off shore for New Zealand. It made me feel appreciated. I also really enjoy the camaraderie with my fellow volunteers; we always try to make it as fun as possible!

Sandy at Nationals by Steve Fitchett

If you would like to find out more about judging, check out the APF "Judging Information" page. You don't even need to be a skydiver to get involved!

Thank you to Sandy for collaborating on this article and for her ongoing contributions to the APF.

If you would like to submit an article, or have a topic request for the APF Blog, please email

[Photo Sources: Sandy Nieuwenhoven, Anne Stanford, Michael Young, Steve Fitchett, Cullen Habel]