National Volunteer Week 2015

According to Volunteering Australia, 6.1 million Australians take part in voluntary work. That accounts for about 36 per cent of the population.

As we know, volunteers are probably the happiest people in the country. They get a great deal of satisfaction from helping others. They enhance the quality of their life and their health. They live longer and they learn new skills. They connect with new people. In terms of the benefits of volunteering, the list goes on: volunteers are happier and healthier, contribute to our community and really feel as if they are making a difference to their nation in so many different ways.

Aside from the many positive aspects volunteering can bring to someone's life, the value of volunteering to the Australian economy is just staggering. Volunteering in Australia is worth more than the mining industry. It is estimated to be worth more than $200 billion a year, which is why it is so important that we acknowledge and thank the volunteers who, each and every day—24/7—give to the community in so many different ways, be it at the sausage sizzle for the local school, be it helping out the soccer club—as friends of mine do—with refereeing, laying out boundaries and keeping score during soccer matches, be it helping out in the men's shed or be it helping out by selling raffle tickets at a sports function. Volunteers help out the community in so many different ways each and every day.

I come from a background where volunteering is taken very seriously. My mother was very much of the view that we were fortunate—that my sisters and I were very blessed and that we had to give back to the community as much as possible. My school holidays were spent in an old building above an op shop. I would be either serving in the op shop for the autistic centre of Victoria, walking around a table collating newsletters for the community or running off roneo in the old Gestetner machine, and that would be the extent of my school holiday activity. It was serving the community in a range of ways, be it serving behind the counter at the op shop, folding up clothing, doing window displays at the op shop, walking around the table collating the newsletter, stuffing envelopes or printing off the newsletter. That was just one way my mother got us involved. We were also involved in Meals on Wheels and a range of other volunteering activities. My mother believed that we were blessed in life and that we should help out others who were not as fortunate.

Most people who volunteer do so without ever being publicly recognised, and Canberrans are truly altruistic. ACT volunteers contribute over $1.5 billion to the ACT economy annually. Every retiree I know in the ACT is a volunteer. In fact, they have multiple volunteer roles. They have their grandchildren, and they are helping out with them by picking them up from school or dropping them off to activities, and then they are usually juggling about three or four voluntary roles throughout the week. In fact, they say to me that they are busier as retirees —as volunteers—than they were when they were working.

Two weeks ago more than 350 Canberran volunteers gathered to celebrate the 2015 ACT Volunteer of the Year Awards, which recognise the important work that volunteers do in our community. This year a record 83 Canberrans nominated for the awards for community service. I would like to send my congratulations to the 2015 ACT Volunteer of the Year, 22-year-old Sophie Hope. Sophie volunteers with Lifeline and headspace, provides foster care for animals for the RSPCA, and is also on the ACT Refugee Action Committee. I would also like to congratulate long-time volunteer Mary-Anne Kitchen, who was recognised in the category of community health for her work with Palliative Care ACT, where she has volunteered for 15 years. I would like to congratulate the 2015 ACT volunteer team of the year, TADACT Skilled Project Volunteer Team. TADACT stands for Technical Aid to the Disabled ACT, and its team is made up of more than 60 skilled volunteers who donate their time, knowledge and expertise to enable people with disabilities to live independent lives. Thank you for your service to the community, congratulations on the award, and to all Canberrans: continue volunteering.

Download a copy of this speech.

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