National Volunteer Week

May 11, 2017

It's National Volunteer Week. Did you know over 95% of people who volunteer report that volunteering makes them happy? It was a pleasure to speak in the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly about just a handful of the excellent people and organisations in the ACT who have made a real difference in strengthening our community including Orange Sky AustraliaFearless Comedy Gala 2017The Fearless InitiativeACT PolicingPegasus Riding for the Disabled of the ACTBelconnen Arts CentreBelconnen Community CouncilBelconnen Community Service and Radio 1RPH. If you're looking to volunteer yourself you can get in touch with Volunteering and Contact ACT.

Here's my speech or you can read the transcript below.

 I also thank Mr Coe for bringing this discussion to the chamber and praise the tireless work and generosity of volunteers in the ACT. Volunteers in our community give their time and skills for free to support organisations and causes which could not otherwise exist. Volunteers are absolutely critical to the delivery of community services in Canberra, from supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged community members to raising money to fund research and raising awareness about public health issues. I extend my wholehearted thanks and admiration to those people who contribute to building our connected and caring community through volunteering.

I echo the congratulations of my colleagues to the winners of the 2017 Canberra region volunteering awards, which were announced last night. I am in awe of the amazing work of each and every one of the volunteers who were nominated for an award. These people see a gap in our community and mobilise to fill that gap of their own volition. I would like to make special mention of Orange Sky Laundry—Minister Stephen-Smith also mentioned this during question time—which received the ACT innovation award last night. I am a keen supporter of Orange Sky Laundry, and I am so pleased to see that they continue to be recognised, including being recognised within the ACT, for their very hard work.

Orange Sky Laundry started with an ingenious idea between two friends to fit a van with two washing machines and two dryers and travel around the streets of Brisbane offering a free laundry service to the homeless. But what Orange Sky Laundry is actually about is the conversations that can be had while the laundry is completed. Steeped in notions of dignity and respect, Orange Sky Laundry is the first of its kind in the world and now has services in 11 Australian cities, including Canberra. Orange Sky Laundry is a testament to what can be achieved with a generous spirit and a good idea.

I would also like to make special mention of Juliet Moody, the founder of the Fearless Initiative and winner last night of the thought and leadership award. The Fearless Initiative unites comedians against family violence through charity comedy events. Its work has encouraged people to speak out about their own experiences of family violence and has united people to make a difference. On a day where we are remembering the life of Jayson Hinder, it is important to note that the Fearless Comedy Galawas something he helped to get off the ground.

Also last night, the volunteers in policing program won the Canberra's choice award. This was an award voted for by the community. There are 49 police volunteers in Canberra and the program has contributed over 200,000 volunteer hours since the program first commenced in 2001. These volunteers provide front office assistance, fingerprinting and role playing, as well as catering for members who might be involved in a missing persons search, for example.

Volunteers come in many forms, and all deserve our recognition. Volunteers may doorknock to raise money, help out at a local school or a charity shop, work on the board of a local community group or provide professional skills on a pro bono basis, to name just a few examples.

In my electorate of Ginninderra the not-for-profit charitable organisation Pegasus relies on the efforts of volunteers to bring joy and excitement to the lives of young Canberrans with a disability. Rather than focusing on disability, Pegasus aims to extend participants' abilities by creating a welcoming and accessible environment in which they can learn to interact with ponies and horses. Pegasus relies on volunteers and donations to keep putting huge smiles on kids' faces as they build confidence and strength and improve mobility with their new equine friends. Their open day each year is a highlight on many people's calendars. I was sorry to miss it this past weekend, but I understand that you, Madam Assistant Speaker, had a very good time there.

I would also like to take a moment to mention the hard work of the board members of the Belconnen Arts Centre and Belconnen Community Service and the committee of the Belconnen Community Council. I know each of these organisations very well. They support a huge range of community services in Belconnen and inject life into our local arts scene. The board and committee members offer their time and skills for free to ensure that these community organisations continue to meet the needs of Belconnen residents and enhance our broader community.

It is widely recognised that not only does volunteering deliver invaluable services to the community but volunteers can also benefit from their altruism. Volunteering provides opportunities to gain new skills and knowledge, connect to the community, build self-esteem and develop personal relationships with a wide range of people. Ninety-six per cent of people say that volunteering makes them happy, and I can testify to this, having experienced these benefits for myself. One example is that since early 2009 I have volunteered for Radio 1RPH, or radio for the print handicapped. I know other members too, like Mrs Dunne, have a very long association with the organisation.

Each fortnight, on Sunday evening, I read the newspapers over the air so that those who are not able to read the newspapers themselves do not miss out; or they can read along with me to enhance their reading skills. It feels great to help out my community, but I have also benefitted. I have developed radio and speaking skills, which I would not have done otherwise, I have learnt how to pronounce many difficult words and I have had the pleasure of meeting so many interesting people at the station over the years. Again, like my other colleagues, I would encourage anyone who is able to reach out to their local community organisations and experience how inspiring and gratifying volunteering can be.

Volunteering and Contact ACT is funded by the ACT government and is the peak body for volunteering in the ACT. It is the key source in the ACT for volunteering information and referral to Canberra's volunteering services and programs. ACT government employees are also entitled to three days of paid community service leave in a 12-month period. The contribution volunteers make in delivering community services in Canberra cannot be overstated. Again I thank the opposition leader for bringing forward the discussion today. The commitment and creativity of volunteers in Canberra is a testament to their humanity and generosity, and it makes me so proud of my city.