Recognising our volunteers’ efforts – The Land – Op-ed

May 23, 2024 | News

Since the birth of our nation, Australians have faced daunting challenges and extreme adversity that have strengthened the fabric of our society.

Our First Nations survived the extremes of drought, fire and flood, teaching through generations to become the oldest continuing culture in the world.

The First Fleet learned to tame the harsh landscape, build infrastructure and produce food and fibre for a fledgling nation. Australian soldiers from the Boer War to today forge a powerful bond of camaraderie, leaning on one another for survival and solidarity.

Through the ages, Australians have embraced values of mateship, compassion, and empathy.

Can modern Australia, with all its diversity, navigate today’s challenges with compassion and resilience, especially in the days of social media feeding dangerous social divisions?

Some claim Australians no longer have a common compass that guides our Nation’s heartbeat and defines what it means to be a citizen of our country. I categorically reject this way of thinking.

As the Shadow Minister for Emergency Management, I have seen first-hand the way Australians of all stripes and backgrounds come together in times of trauma, stress and uncertainty, irrespective of the cause of the crisis. At the core of this response lies a shared desire to help others.

Whether it’s strangers stepping in harm’s way to protect fellow shoppers at Bondi; rescuing people stranded on rooftops in Lismore amid the worst flooding on record; aiding farmers to rebuild fences or feed livestock after fires; or volunteering to offer food and shelter during disasters – Australians have a reputation for lending a hand in times of need.

I believe one of our country’s greatest strengths has been, and is, our volunteering spirit.

Regional communities run on volunteers. From the footy club to the drama society, the school canteen to the hospital auxiliary, without these individuals much of what we take for granted may disappear.

Research has found volunteering provides a sense of purpose, relieves stress, and increases self-esteem. Volunteering fosters relationships and drives connections in the community. There is no better feeling than working with others for a common goal which can make the difference between a good and a great community in which to live.

Whether it’s joining emergency management teams like the State Emergency Service or Rural Fire Service, or pitching in at the school, Lions clubs, Rotary, sports clubs, or even jumping into the mix with a political party, there are countless opportunities to lend a hand.

This week is National Volunteer Week. Volunteering Australia provide resources and information about opportunities to volunteer at a place near you.