Senate debates

Thursday, 13 May 2010


National Volunteer Week

9:00 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak tonight on the terrific efforts of volunteers around Australia and, in particular, those in Tasmania. As senators are aware, this week is National Volunteer Week, a time to recognise the fantastic efforts of all of our volunteers. The theme for this year is ‘Volunteering: now, more than ever’, so I feel that it is fitting to mention some of the volunteers that Tasmania is privileged to have within our community, particularly those who have contributed over many years. Australian communities have over 5.2 million volunteers who give up their time to help others, all of whom are essential to our society, especially to our smaller communities. These volunteers are estimated to contribute over 710 million hours of volunteer assistance—a truly remarkable effort, for nothing more than positively contributing to their communities. In order to give a full understanding of what volunteers mean to their respective organisations, I have gathered information about some wonderful Tasmanians to share with you this evening.

Firstly, there is Tasma Lapham, who has been volunteering for over 80 hours each week to assist the North Launceston Football Club. This commitment dates back to 1976. Her initial involvement began with one son playing junior football with the club. Since those early days when Tasma and others like her rolled up their sleeves and began to work for no monetary return, this proud club has grown from a club struggling financially to a strong and stable club with membership in the Tasmanian state-wide league. From Tasma’s first days making sandwiches for over 80 players, she has added many other facets to her input at the club. Tasma has now served for 15 years as a member of the board, but this does not excuse her from catering duties at the end of the final training session or her weekly Wednesday bingo management duties at the Launceston country club. As with each of the people I draw to your attention tonight, Tasma does not expect anything in return for nourishing these young, sometimes disadvantaged, players and helping them through difficult times in their lives. This lady does not measure success in premierships. She takes pride in what these young men achieve on and off the field. To Tasma, friends and friendships are highly valued, and she feels that the volunteers get more out of helping the players and the club than they ever give. She is a true example of the incredible amount of nourishment and support that is given to our community by thousands of volunteers.

Who would have thought that one of Tasmania’s biggest hearts would beat in tiny Alberton in the state’s north-east, which has a population of only four people? Jeffrey Harper has two passions: the local Lions club and Community Transport Services Tasmania. This man has been assisting the frail, disabled and elderly to get out of their homes and into the community for over 12 years. Sometimes, three or four times a week, Jeff will drive 34 kilometres to get the community transport vehicle and then drive these people to wherever they need to go. It is sometimes as far as Hobart, making this a round trip of more than 520 kilometres. Such friendship and care for the clients is mirrored only by the pride that he takes in maintaining the CTST vehicles, which is an example of the way that volunteers such as Jeff are invaluable to Australian communities. It is people such as Jeff who help to make our communities strong.

The president of the Launceston General Hospital central auxiliary is certainly following in the family’s footsteps. Margaret Moore AM is proud to relate that five generations of her family have volunteered in this organisation. Margaret and her husband, Colin, currently work with a team of over 80 like-minded individuals whose primary goal is to raise funds to purchase equipment which improves the care and treatment of patients at the Launceston General Hospital. With a turnover of approximately $500,000 last year, the input from Margaret and her co-volunteers is highly significant and an extremely valuable contribution to society.

While we are focusing on some individuals and their stories, one who comes to mind is our own federal Labor candidate for Bass, Geoff Lyons. He reminds me that when people wish to assist others in society they are often not limited to one particular area. Many volunteers find themselves donating their time and skills to a variety of organisations. Geoff Lyons is a prime example of such socially motivated people. Listing Geoff Lyons’s achievements within the Bass community in this forum would be far too difficult. At last count, he has volunteered for at least 16 groups in the last 12 months, from working with sporting clubs such as surf lifesaving, netball and football through to being a member of the board of the aged-care facility Peace Haven as well as being a justice of the peace. It is not only in the last 12 months that Geoff Lyons has been volunteering. He has had many years of association with volunteer groups. His involvement is not superficial, unlike his opponent’s. His knowledge of his community and its challenges is why he will make an outstanding federal member for Bass after the next election.

It is not only the older generations of Australians that are volunteering. Many of our younger generations are also getting involved. The Rural Youth Organisation of Tasmania is an excellent example of a group of young people, all between the ages of 15 and 30. This group puts together an agricultural field day every year, which runs for three days. It is called Agfest and was in fact held last week, from 6 May to 8 May inclusive. Agfest boasts an impressive 700-plus stalls and over 75,000 visitors each year. This is an outstanding effort for a group of young people, clearly showing the dedication and hard work of volunteering that they all contribute in their spare time. It is not only this but the fact that these young people have the chance, through their volunteer work, to gain lifelong skills and friendships. It is people like these young volunteers who help to strengthen our communities and make them special. No matter how big or small—whether it is reading to children at the local school, visiting the elderly in nursing homes or helping out at the local football or netball club—every effort counts and is appreciated greatly.

Through these examples it is clear that helping our mate is still dominant in today’s society, and these people do so with enthusiasm and pride. During this week especially, it is important to pay special attention to these efforts and to acknowledge the wonderful work that these volunteers in each of our communities give to our country and to our state. I would encourage more Australians, and in particular more Tasmanians, to give of their time.

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I remind senators that legislation committees will meet to consider budget estimates in the weeks beginning 24 and 31 May. Details of individual hearings will be available on the Senate website.