NATIONAL VOLUNTEER Week took place from May 16 to May 22, and this year’s theme was “Better together” – exploring how volunteering binds our communities and makes for a better society.
National Volunteer Week is a fantastic opportunity for government and communities to recognise its volunteer organisations and for those same organisations also to put themselves in the spotlight for a change.
So often, volunteers in the community go unnoticed as often the service they provide makes someone else the focus of the attention.
The Victorian State Emergency Service (SES) is one of these volunteer organisations in which the actions of its volunteers are often only highlighted as a response to tragedy.
As part of National Volunteer Week, communities across Australia were encouraged to participate in Wear Orange Wednesday on May 18 and use the hashtag #WOWDay and #ThankYouSES on Social Media as a way to thank and celebrate the work of SES Volunteers who serve their communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week through storm, flood, road crash rescue, and much more.
In recent years, the team that produces the Manningham & Nillumbik Bulletin and the Warrandyte Diary has witnessed and reported on the efforts of local SES teams who have assisted communities of the Yarra Valley and Ranges after severe storms and floods.
As part of WOW Day 2022, M&N Bulletin spoke with Manningham SES member Jen Selmore about what it means to be a member of Manningham SES and why she keeps turning out.
“We all have our reasons for joining Manningham SES as a volunteer — many along the similar lines of helping the community, giving back, learning new skills and supporting those in need.
“But why do we stay and dedicate so much time to a volunteer role?
“If you ask any SES units, they all have several members who have been there 10 years, 20 years, some even 30 years!
“We stay for our team, for the good we do that you can tangibly see out in the community, sometimes for the thrill and potential — there is nothing better than a successful result from a boating rescue or land search for a missing person.
“The specialised skills we are exposed to are incredible.
“It’s funny to think many of us started as complete novices — desk workers with somewhat low practical skills but with time, patience, lots of training, and ongoing practise, we are now capable chainsaw operators and can set up temporary repairs on your roof to stop rain getting in, and will search for you if you get lost during your hike or day out on the water, and have the skills to assist with other agencies to get successfully get you to safety.
“Being able to attend requests for assistance, especially during times of crisis, and actually first-hand seeing how you are directly helping someone is a feeling like no other,” she said.
M&N Bulletin thanks SES and other emergency agencies for the efforts of their volunteers in keeping communities safe.
“Better together” in Nillumbik
In addition to Council’s many volunteers, thousands more people throughout the Shire contribute their time to a range of community groups, services, facilities, clubs, causes and organisations.
Mayor Frances Eyre said National Volunteer Week is a time to appreciate the selfless contributions of all our volunteers.
“Nillumbik benefits from high rates of volunteerism, which is a wonderful reflection on the sense of community that runs through our Shire.
“On behalf of Council, I’d like to thank, recognise, and celebrate the volunteers who do such great work in Nillumbik.
“From our L2P driving program through to Community Transport, Friends Groups, and In-Home Family Mentoring — to name just a few — our volunteer programs are broad-ranging and something we should all be truly proud of,” she said.
As part of National Volunteer Week, Nillumbik Council puts the spotlight on one volunteer and one organisation to highlight some of the volunteering that helps make the Shire a community.Linda Hagen is a volunteer with Council’s Community Transport team and helps out with the Social Support Group as a volunteer driver and group assistant.
Linda enjoys her volunteering roles and says what she loves most is “meeting people and hearing their stories about the area, and helping those who are vulnerable and lack transport options”.
She encourages others to explore volunteering and help make a difference.
“The more people get involved with volunteering, the better we can be,” she said.
Nillumbik Council also put on a special volunteer celebration event for the volunteering community; some photos from this event have been printed with this story.
You can read more about Nillumbik Shire Council’s Volunteer celebration event in June’s Warrandyte Diary.
Volunteering in Manningham
Manningham Council also held a volunteering appreciation event at the end of National Volunteer Week, and we will have more on that in June’s Warrandyte Diary.
Don Hughes volunteers for several community groups, including Warrandyte RSL, Warrandyte Historical Society and Warrandyte Scouts. He is a volunteer contributor for Warrandyte Diary and spoke to M&N Bulletin about being a volunteer.
“Many local groups have a diverse range of opportunities to volunteer.
From a young Joey scout who serves you a cuppa and a scone at the market, through the parent running out the water bottles at a footy match, to the volunteer bar staff at the RSL, the opportunities are broad.
Fundraising often underpins many of these groups.
Our Op shops capture much of the ‘tourist’ dollar that can be injected towards worthwhile community priorities.
Spectacular results can be achieved through volunteerism, such as our very own wonderfully run Warrandyte Festival.
Our volunteer Fire Fighters and Emergency Service volunteers work alongside career professionals providing an ultimate level of safety and protection for our community.
For many of us, available time is a huge issue.
However, much can be achieved by even the smallest offering of assistance.
There are innate rewards of satisfaction, coupled with the gift of learning and sharing knowledge in volunteering.
All of us can make a difference.”
There are opportunities to learn new skills and connect with your community through volunteering.
If you are inspired by this feature to volunteer but don’t know where to start, visit easternvolunteers.org.au which encourages and supports volunteering in the community in a range of areas including aged care, environmental, sporting and community organisations.
If you are part of an organisation desperate for more volunteers, contact us at M&N Bulletin to see how we can help spread the word.