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Belconnen Community Service and Step Up for Volunteering

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I rise today to express thanks to Belconnen Community Service, or BCS, which serves ACT residents in my electorate of Ginninderra. BCS coordinates with community members and other organisations to deliver a broad range of services to individuals and families in the Belconnen region, with the focus on supporting self-determination and reducing social isolation.

Concerned with the entire Belconnen community, BCS encourages people to volunteer both for their own programs and also for other organisations. It was my privilege a few weeks ago to meet participants in the Step Up for Volunteering program sponsored by BCS.

Participants took a walk around Lake Ginninderra to celebrate volunteers, and a number of local community organisations were set up along the route to provide information about volunteering opportunities.

I hope that many of those who participated on the day – and many, many others – will take advantage of opportunities to get involved in serving their community. Unfortunately, many people seem to think that they are too busy. But the fact is that, no matter how busy we are, we can always find time to volunteer.

I recently read about three high school boys who volunteered their time once a month as puppeteers for children at their local hospital. Like many students, these young men have lives filled with studies, sport, helping at home and socialising with friends. But they have learnt that just a few hours one day a month can make a real difference by bringing a smile to a child’s face.

‘It’s not like it takes special people to be able to give service’, one of them said. ‘It’s not difficult, and it’s not necessarily very time-consuming... I don’t think enough people give service’, he added.

For those who genuinely think that they are too busy to be volunteers, I offer the following statistics. Data from Roy Morgan Research reveal that, on average, Australians aged 14 and over currently spend more than 18 hours per week watching television and over 13 hours per week using the internet at home. At the same time, the latest numbers from Volunteering Australia indicate that the median time Australians spend volunteering each week is just over one hour.

Excessive TV and internet use have both been linked by research to depression, and of course we are all well aware of the effects that hours of sitting have on physical health. Volunteering, on the other hand, is positively correlated with both physical and mental wellbeing.

One of the most important links between volunteering and wellbeing is how it provides a more realistic and balanced context for our personal lives. As one wise teacher has noted, quote, ‘When we are engaged in the service of our [fellows], not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves!’

Volunteering enriches and lifts not only the giver and the receiver but the entire community.

It is clear that Belconnen Community Service understands this reality, seeking to build and empower all the residents of Belconnen by encouraging a culture of active volunteering. For this I am thankful, and I encourage all Canberrans to choose today, if they haven’t already done so, to make time and space in their lives to serve others.

Thank you.

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