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The Importance of Recognising and Valuing Volunteering Across the ACT

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I am grateful to Mr Milligan for bringing this matter of public importance before the Assembly today. I doubt any of us rally grasp how many people in Canberra are engaged in volunteering … or just how much they actually do. We would only start to see the big picture if all the volunteering just stopped. The resulting disruption would be unmistakable. So many aspects of our daily lives are touched by generous volunteers who give of their time, their talents and their passion.

To offer just one example, the ACT is filled with vibrant community organisations that support and serve tens of thousands of people. Virtually all these organisations are led by volunteers who spend hours in dedicated service. And these visible volunteers are supported by armies of everyday community members whose less-seen labour is necessary to getting anything done. Every time that I attend a cultural event hosted by one of our multicultural community organisations; visit a temple, mosque, synagogue or other place of worship; help to launch another street library; take my family to a community fair or school fete; or spend an afternoon with a group of enthusiastic scouts, I catch a glimpse of these numerous unsung volunteers. I am so grateful for what they do!

In fact, I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank every volunteer in this community. Some, like those I just mentioned, serve within the framework of a faith group or community organisation. Others simply serve the people around them in informal ways. For years, one of my elderly neighbours in Charnwood would take my bins to the kerb and bring them back in again just to be thoughtful. I am grateful for people like this retired school teacher, for those who volunteer to help a struggling student, for those who keep an eye on the pensioner down the street, and so on.

Paid work often occupies large parts of our waking hours, but most human endeavours are quiet acts of volunteerism. I am grateful to have been taught from a young age the value of serving. And I am grateful for the good things that a lifetime of volunteering in my community has brought to me and my own family. As a wise man once said, ‘As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness’.

It is important, Madam Speaker, to recognise the extent of volunteering around us as well as the value that volunteering brings not just to our communities but to those who choose to serve. Volunteers enjoy greater physical and mental wellbeing and face less social isolation. Youth who learn this important lesson early in life have far better outcomes as adults.

I want to also thank Volunteering ACT for the incredible work they do. I wish to note that Volunteering ACT are opening nominations for the Canberra Region Volunteering Awards with the next week, and I join with my Liberal colleagues in encouraging people to nominate volunteers for an award. We should all do everything we can do to raise the profile of volunteering as a way of life. Thank you.

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