More than five million Australians volunteer each year. These volunteers contribute more than 700 million hours of community service to many areas of society including health care, the arts, sport, the environment, education, emergency services and social justice.
The City of Whitehorse is fortunate to have a vibrant volunteer community. Many of the groups and services that operate in Whitehorse could not do so without the support and effort of our volunteers.
Whitehorse City Council engages more than 500 volunteers in many different roles and programs including food services; arts and cultural events; homework support; Walking School Bus; and networks and committees that contribute to areas such as disability, parklands, youth, faith, reconciliation, and sports and recreation.
Below, you can read more about some of our wonderful volunteers and explore the many reasons why they contribute their time to support our community.
Alexander has been volunteering for the Bellbird Dell Parkland Advisory Committee since September 2003, when he saw an advertisement the Whitehorse City Council placed in the Leader Newspaper for “local residents to do volunteer work such as planting, mulching and weeding for our parklands.”
Alexander says “I thought it would be a good way of doing something worthwhile for the community,” but the social aspect of volunteering also appealed to him, the thought of “getting to know the people in our locality.”
“It’s almost nine years now since I first started with the group,” he says, “and I enjoy and look forward to it.”
Anne has been a member of the Bellbird Dell Advisory Committee for eight years. She first got involved because she was interested in environmental issues; choosing to help “maintain and enhance the reserve, making it a space the community wants to come to, to protect and improve the bushland habit that is so vital for the survival of our native flora and fauna.”
She mentions the great satisfaction that has come from “as a group, being able to tackle and overcome some of the challenges that we face. It has been most rewarding to see the Dell look more and more beautiful and welcoming with each passing year, to see new species of birds we have not seen before.” The group now organise planting sessions and habitat education for a wide variety of local schools, clubs and community groups.
Anne recommends volunteering to everyone considering it, mentioning a spectrum of advantages from contact with like-minded people to sharing a delicious home-made morning tea. “The last eight years have flown,” she says.
Annette’s life-long experience in sporting and athletic clubs and the Scouts and Guiding movements made her a natural fit for volunteer work with the Whitehorse Sport and Recreation Network, which provides a forum for Council to receive “advice and guidance on the future of sport and recreation development within the City of Whitehorse”.
“One of the fun things we do each year is review and judge nominations for the Whitehorse Sport Awards and the Australia Day Trophy... to see a young child build confidence in themselves and make good friendships, right through to master level; sport and recreation can become part of your life and a great love.”
Annette is enthusiastic about the benefits to a whole family from involvement in community support: “it enriches our lives both physically and mentally”. She urges anyone who would like to be involved with the Whitehorse Sport and Recreation Network to let Council know.
Annette worked in the health industry and was used to “daily contact with people from all walks of life” so she knew when she retired that she would need something to occupy her time. She “knew a little about Meals on Wheels because both my parents had been involved with this organisation in their own area so I decided I would apply.”
Eleven years later “I enjoy chatting with the clients and enjoy seeing their faces light up when we arrive as we may be the only people they see in a day.”
Volunteering for Annette is, and always has been, a family affair. “I followed in my parents footsteps by doing some form of volunteering from an early age” with Kindergarten and school Mothers’ groups and a variety of service groups. “I now deliver meals together with my husband,” she adds.
“I would like to see more of our younger members of the community volunteering, as the more you give the more satisfaction you receive.”
Former City of Whitehorse Councillor Bernie Millane believes it ‘essential for citizens (and therefore residents) to be actively involved in the democratic process that lead to decisions affecting their lives...I believe people understand my willingness to stand tall and have my say. This is why I volunteer.’
Bernie volunteers for the Whitehorse Reconciliation Policy Advisory Committee and Whitehorse Friends for Reconciliation group as well as a host of other community groups and organisations: from his local Neighbourhood Watch to the Whitehorse Community Friends of OECUSSI Enclave working for democracy in Timor-Leste. He started some of the groups he volunteers for and feels good about ‘being able to utilise what skills I have acquired and my life experience’.
He says volunteering is a great example of local democracy at work, providing the opportunity to help and assist people or organisations that often ‘fall between the gaps’. He says Whitehorse has a wealth of skills and knowledge because of the diversity of age groups and cultural backgrounds in the City which form a very ‘”rich” community resource’ so if you’re thinking about volunteering, ‘take the next step and do something about it!’
Cath has given service at the Carrington Rd Dining Room for the last 28 years. She mentions the wonderful opportunity for social interaction that such a position gives her, opportunities for “meeting people, greeting people” whom she might otherwise never meet. “You get more back out of volunteering than you give,” she says.
She says that “talking with the customers is a highlight” of her role. “Don’t hesitate to volunteer,” she says, “it gives you a reason to get up in the morning.”
She still volunteers three days a week and very rarely misses a day. She greets the customers as they come and they all, without exception, love her.
Cath's mission is to make each person welcome with a smile, and to chat to them. She often notes that she may be the only person that they weill speak to for the day.
Dilnaz cites the large number and variety of people prepared to lend a hand to her family when they came to Australia as a reason for her long involvement in volunteer work (current projects include the Whitehorse Interfaith Network and the Human Library Project but she has also been involved in planning events such as Spring Festival and Harmony Day).
“Volunteering allows me to meet so many different people from all walks of life... it is such a humbling experience as I am privileged to share in the life experiences of so many lovely people who have contributed so much to our beautiful country.”
She emphasizes that “volunteering has also enriched my life as I have learnt new skills – to manage diversity, to enhance multiculturalism and to promote the benefits of being Australian and living in a democratic society”.
Frederick joined the Halliday Park Advisory Committee in 1988 in response to a Council call for residents to get involved in the development and maintenance of the park. He’d been a long time user of the park with his family and had ideas about what could be done to help people “engage in family activities like ball games, kite flying and picnics and just enjoy the open space.”
“Being part of the team involved with the production of a master plan was rewarding,” he says. “Playing a direct role... seeing it take shape from a grassed area devoid of facilities to one that benefits and caters for people of all age groups, gave me a feeling of satisfaction. It also allowed me to interact with members of the local community and other volunteers.”
Frederick, who has volunteered at the Whitehorse Historical Society and the MCG, urges people who “have the time and interest and wish to make a contribution... and are comfortable with the knowledge that they’re helping to create history: cross the Rubicon and become a volunteer.”
Gulzabeen has volunteered in many capacities “ever since I can remember” but formally “in a variety of capacities for the past 22 years.” Currently volunteering with the Whitehorse Interfaith Network and the Vermont South Community House, Gulzabeen traces her interest in volunteering to her family upbringing and her Muslim faith.
“Voluntary service is viewed as an integral part of daily life in my tradition,” she says, “rather than a burdensome obligation or an elective activity. It is a means to actualise Islam’s ethics of inclusiveness, compassion, sharing, respect and personal responsibility. From an early age my family have kept me engaged in various community based activities.”
“I believe it’s crucial in keeping the community together,” she says, citing the many ways partnerships benefit programs and society at large. “Participation, ownership and empowerment are all critical to a world of peace and understanding. It’s interaction of citizens across all groups, whether they are defined in terms of class or in terms of ethnicity and race. The WIN and the Community House embrace diversity and are inclusive, they work towards a harmonious society.”
After volunteering for a variety of organisations for a total of 52 years John is in a position to get a lot back!
He has volunteered a wide variety of organisations: Whitehorse’s Disability Advisory Committee, the Disabled Motorist’s Association, the Scoot Wheel n’ Move Disability Action group, the EDAR Disability day centre, square dancing clubs, water polo and swimming clubs, the Dutch Ethnic Community newspaper, the Taxpayers Association and the Silver Spinners wheelchair dance club. He is currently involved with no fewer than seven clubs.
John volunteers because of “the enjoyment of belonging to a group; seeing, guiding and assisting it to prosper in its existence while I’m part of it... I’ve met many lovely people along the way.”
Having a qualification in accounting has enabled John to take the role of group Treasurer, an essential role. “It’s where I am the most useful and wanted” he says.
Kaisha started volunteering with the Antonio Park Primary School Walking School Bus Program four years ago “so that my children are able to walk to school most days.”
The program, she says, has many benefits for everyone who takes part. “The opportunity to provide an active lifestyle for our children through walking to school, we hope, will ensure a healthy, active lifestyle as adults.” In addition to modelling healthy living and providing opportunities to be active, however, the program also provides great social contacts.
“I enjoy meeting other parents and chatting to the children on the way to school to provide my children with an opportunity to meet other children and adults within the school.”
Leila started volunteering as a delivery driver for the Meals on Wheels service 40 years ago when a friend suggested doing a round together. In that time she has had three different friends do the rounds with her. “I find it hard to believe that I started helping so long ago”, she says. She began because “after my four children started school I felt I had the time. It seemed ideal”.
As a delivery driver Leila sees the immediate benefit of the service. “People are very grateful for the service and it is very satisfying to be greeted with their thanks and to have a little chat as a friend. In some cases we may be the only person they see all day”.
Leila says “I recommend people offer their help, it only takes a couple of hours out of your day”.
Margaret answered an advertisement in the local paper for Meals on Wheels delivery drivers five years ago, but had a connection with the organisation long before that: “I used to bring lemons to Meals on Wheels as I used to do aerobics next door”.
She says, “I love it. I do it three times a week and I really do love it because people are waiting for me to come to their home, have a bit of a chat, tell me their problems. One lady I used to take meals to lives in a nursing home now but I still visit her once a week”.
Margaret sees volunteering as having a double benefit. “If people are lonely and don’t know what to do with themselves, but don’t know how to go about meeting people, all they have to do is ring up and enquire”.
Margaret has been volunteering in one way or another since her teen years, which she attributes to growing up in a family with values that included working with the community and “putting something back”. This includes 22 years as a board member and two terms as president for major disability-advocacy and service organisations. For the last five years she has been an active part of the Whitehorse Disability Action Committee. Her interest in disability issues was sparked by the experiences of a family member when she was growing up.
“I enjoy volunteering”, she says.“The social and emotional satisfaction from the service element. The involvement with others of similar interests and commitment, and the use of my skills. I enjoy initiating something when a need is identified, developing it, seeing the governance and ‘big picture’ aspect develop”.
Another key aspect of volunteering, Margaret says, is “supporting and mentoring younger people entering volunteer roles”.
Mary has volunteered for the Blackburn Creeklands Advisory Committee for more than 20 years, and has also worked with the Blackburn and District Tree Preservation Society for more than 8 years. When asked why she volunteers, Mary gives a simple but strong answer: “Because I wanted to”.
She goes on to explain that “living close to the Creeklands, volunteering gave me the opportunity to help the environment.” Her favourite part of her volunteer work is “being out in the open spaces”.
“I chose to volunteer for the Whitehorse Youth Representative Council because I think the opinions of young people are really important for our community”, Natasha says. “Many people my age are engaged in the community and want to create a better place for everyone, but don’t have a particular outlet through which to do so. The WYRC gives young people a voice and way of initiating positive change, which is what I believe volunteering is all about.”
Natasha says volunteering has opened up a wide range of further opportunities, allowing her to develop her own skills and knowledge while benefitting others. “It’s rewarding for all involved... I love having the constant opportunity to meet like-minded people who have real passion for helping others.”
“As a volunteer you and your ideas truly are respected and valued”, she says, “and you will be helping a fantastic cause; bettering your community. What more could you ask for?!”
Peter’s election as a City Councillor led to his involvement with the Blackburn Lake Sanctuary Advisory Committee in 1984, but he says he has “always been a volunteer for one thing or another”, having seen his mother demonstrate volunteer work’s capacity to strengthen community connections.
“I enjoy helping people appreciate our bushland parks and get great satisfaction when they say ‘I didn’t know that’... or ‘I’ve really enjoyed the visit and I’ll be back’. I’ve enjoyed learning the history and about the people before me who enabled us to enjoy this unique bushland... I have learnt to appreciate other volunteers”.
Peter enjoys using his skills to support others. “In my role as secretary I can support and encourage our volunteers... it’s enabled me to be aware of and contribute to the direction of our community and keep abreast of Community needs and issues. I have had opportunities to learn new skills and meet a wide range of interesting people, many of whom have become firm friends”.
Perry started operating as his wife’s driver for the Meals on Wheels program eight or nine years ago, but it is a role he was well prepared for as “my previous occupation was as a driving instructor.” His wife asked him to accompany her while she made deliveries prior to his retirement. “Now, as was then, we would both deliver meals.”
“I found this to be enjoyable, as on many occasions there would be sufficient time to talk to the resident.” He goes on to state the important role the program plays in being aware of recipients’ wellbeing in addition to the actual meal provided.
He sees a potential problem in the services’ future, however: “We, the current volunteers, are of an ageing population,” he says. “A way must be found to get ‘younger’ people involved, or all personal contact will be lost.”
Philomena is embarking on a three-year term for the City of Whitehorse’s Disability Advisory Committee (DAC), having already completed an initial two-year term.
She says volunteering is a great way to meet new people and to help make a positive change in the community, especially with something like the DAC which allows “people with a disability to be listened to” regarding community issues.
She cites the interesting issues the committee deals with and the opportunity to learn from fellow committee members as further benefits of volunteering for the Whitehorse DAC. “It is a worthwhile thing to do”, she says, “it will help you be more aware of what is going on around you”.
A Year 10 school volunteering curriculum program tapped Ruby’s love of giving to others: “I enjoyed volunteering so much I greatly exceeded the ten mandatory hours and continue to volunteer up until this day”. Ruby is a member of the Whitehorse Youth Representative Committee and also volunteers for the Box Hill Hospital Patient Library Service.
“I visit each patient and offer them reading material... however it’s not about giving away the most magazines, but rather the time and heart taken to give a patient a cheerful smile... someone once said to me, sometimes it is the small things you do for others that they are most grateful for. Many of us are unaware of the impact we can have on others”.
Ruby’s message to prospective volunteers is inspiring: “the reward you will gain is far more worthwhile than money, power or status. For me and many others, being a volunteer brings with it the greatest thing... the ability to inspire, to live a selfless existence and to help those who are in need”.
Stephen started volunteering for the Meals On Wheels service 2 ½ years ago after his company of 34 years moved overseas. He asked the Volunteer Coordinator at Council about opportunities to “put something back into the community” and finds he really enjoys his new role.
“It gives me great satisfaction to know my small contribution (two hours a day, twice a week) enables older people to stay in their homes or units”, he says. I get to talk for a few minutes with the clients ... knowing I am probably the only person they may see that day.”
Regular topics of conversation include “old times” and “how we can put the world to rights, or just the weather.”
More seriously, Stephen says “Do it. It might not suit all people but you never know until you give it a try; there are many areas where help is needed.”
Susan says she grew up in a family with a strong commitment to volunteering, so she has been involved in endeavours like tuckshops, fetes, readings programs, science clubs and the Aboriginal Advancement League “most of my life I think!” A particular love of the environment led to her association with Blackburn Lake Sanctuary’s Education Program in 1984, and later its advisory committee. Susan has also been involved in her local Neighbourhood Watch since it was launched 25 years ago.
“Being part of the Education Program seemed an obvious way to help conserve the sanctuary, which was pretty ‘well worn’ in those days. I enjoy introducing children, and adults too, to experiences and ideas they may not have had before; seeing the bushland through their eyes is amazing and very enlightening. I love hearing comments like ‘Mum, stop hogging the microscope!’”
Susan says volunteering is a great way to make friends, mentioning the shared interests their volunteer work gives herself and her husband, Peter. “Since we have both retired, we are able to ‘tag team’ with many activities.”
Tanya started volunteering with the Walking School Bus program at Antonio Park Primary School in 2012.
“The Walking School Bus is valuable program to help children walk to school safely and it simply could not be run without parents volunteering to be a ‘bus driver’ or ‘conductor,’” she says. “My son has been walking with the bus for a while so I thought it was important to be involved this year, so I can give something to our school community. The more parents that are involved, the more the responsibility can be shared around.”
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