Emma's Speeches in Parliament

Volunteers build resilient communities

November 30, 2018

The theme of International Volunteer Day, on 5 December, is 'volunteers build resilient communities'. The more than 8.7 million volunteers across Australia make an enormous contribution nationally and in my community on the Central Coast of New South Wales, from fighting fires and clearing storm damage, to helping vulnerable people in crisis, to running sports clubs and keeping people safe on our beaches, and along the way helping to build resilient communities. The recipients of this year's New South Wales Volunteer of the Year Awards for the Central Coast give some idea of the breadth of volunteer work and the value of their contribution in our community. The Young Volunteer of the Year, Madeleine Clark, volunteers at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance's Tuggerah therapy centre. Madeleine, who is studying speech pathology, uses her skills to assist young children in bonding with their parents and in developing social and cognitive skills, via the Mini Musician Group and School Readiness Program.

The Adult Volunteer of the Year for the Central Coast, Christine Lavers, has spent 25 years helping to keep the Umina Surf Life Saving Club afloat, working at carnivals, registration, officiating at events, and promoting beach safety.

The Senior Volunteer of the Year, and overall volunteer of the year for the Central Coast, is Barbara Galvin, who founded, and volunteers with, Shirley Shuttle Cancer Outpatient Transport Service. Over the past decade, Barbara has personally contributed and raised funds to buy four vehicles to transport cancer patients to their treatment, and home, all around the Central Coast.

Finally, the team of 20 volunteers at We Care Uniting was recognised as the Volunteer Team of the Year for the Central Coast. We Care Uniting collects and distributes essential care and safety items to vulnerable children across our region. I'm pleased that my electorate office is one of the several collection points for donations for this valuable service.

As many volunteers will tell you, volunteers can benefit just as much from volunteering as those that they help. It is increasingly recognised that a sense of belonging improves wellbeing. Volunteering can be that connection between you and the community. Jo from We Care Uniting told me that she feels like she is making a difference through volunteering. She said, 'I feel like I'm making a change to someone's life and I think I'm making a difference to people around me.' This feeling is shared by Karen Hickmott, who coordinates the Stingray Nippers Inclusion Program run by Toowoon Bay Surf Life Saving Club, which provides one-on-one support to children with disabilities for joining Nippers on the Coast. Karen told me, 'It means the world to me to be able to pull together a team of volunteers that enables children with additional needs to participate in an iconic community activity.' And volunteers like Bob Ihlein from The Entrance Men's Shed, who took up volunteering when he retired, joining the shed movement, which works shoulder to shoulder to support their members and the wider community. Bob told me that being retired and with plenty of time on his hands he decided to join the local men's shed. As a member of the shed movement, he said, 'I volunteer my time to help other shed members, and we, as a shed, all volunteer our time and expertise to help our community, which is very gratifying.' And Chris Miles, secretary of the Wyong District Netball Association, who started volunteering with the Kanwal Netball Club in 1978 and has been on the executive of the Wyong District Netball Association since 1983. Chris has been recognised with both the Wyong Shire's award and New South Wales Premier's award for volunteering, but she tells me that it is the friendships she has made that mean the most to her. Today, Chris said to me: 'It is the friendships you make and the sense of achievement. If people don't volunteer, then that school or sports club wouldn't make the same achievements without us. When I started volunteering, everybody volunteered. Our parents volunteered—it keeps you young.'

While volunteers often look like superheroes, the truth is that they do need support. The truth is that we need to do more to help those who are helping others. Many volunteer organisations rely on governments to help provide their services and it can be extremely disheartening for volunteers working with a program that is successful, supporting vulnerable people and supporting our community, only to find that their funding has been cut or won't be continued. Funding of community services in our community should be sustainable, should be focused on collaboration rather than competition, should support local and diverse service provision and should recognise that not-for-profit organisations are often better placed than for-profit corporations to provide these crucial frontline services.

Finally I would like to give a shout-out to the SES, who helped my sister when she was 39 weeks pregnant and a flash flood left her stranded at home. I'm pleased to let the SES know that my sister and her new baby are now doing well. Thank you.