Legislative Council

MATTERS OF INTEREST: National Volunteer Week

May 10th, 2017

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I rise today to talk about National Volunteer Week and the contribution that volunteers make to our society. On Monday, I attended the launch of National Volunteer Week at Government House, and I know other members of parliament were there as well, certainly the minister Zoe Bettison, the Hon. Michelle Lensink, Kelly Vincent and many others. If you were here in Parliament House on Monday, you would have noticed that the pipes and drums went past, leading the parade along King William Road.

Here are some facts and figures about volunteering in South Australia. More than 920,000 South Australians have declared that they volunteer to assist schools, sporting clubs, community events, arts and cultural activities or social services. No doubt much of that volunteering is individual and informal, but there are also thousands of groups involved as well. It is estimated that South Australians are contributing around 1.7 million volunteer hours each week, and this volunteering effort is valued at around $5 billion each year.

Research has found that 95 per cent of volunteers relate their volunteering to feelings of wellbeing and greater health and happiness, hence the theme of National Volunteer Week—Give Happy, Live Happy. I am wearing my orange SES rescue tie today as part of Wear Orange Wednesday, and certainly our emergency services workers are a group of volunteers who we do acknowledge, and many have acknowledged their important work in this place over many years.

I have noticed that, when people start to drift into the area of naming volunteer groups, inevitably you leave out people, because you cannot have 920,000 South Australians volunteering and cover all the bases. As a result, the groups tend not to be mentioned and certainly that was the case at the launch of National Volunteer Week. Everyone, from the Governor down, declined to point out any particular groups or individuals because that would have meant leaving others out. No criticism at all—that is just the way it has to be when you have so many people, but I thought I might just take the opportunity to put on the record a couple of the groups in my local area that have touched my life in recent times, and you can translate this list I have to just about any neighbourhood in South Australia.

When I catch the train, I always enjoy the garden that has been maintained by volunteers—a group of retired people who have been looking after it for many years. In fact, I will name one person: at Glenalta station, David Collins retired recently. He had been looking after that garden single-handedly, possibly for two decades—a very long time—and now there is a local community group seeing if they can find people to take over. Friends of Parks do a fantastic job in our bushland areas. I am a member of three or four different parks groups. My local group is the Friends of Shepherds Hill, but other ones are Friends of Sturt Gorge, Friends of Belair, every Saturday and Sunday you can find these groups pulling weeds, poisoning olives and replanting native vegetation.

When I go shopping at my local shopping strip, the Blackwood Action Group has been beautifying the street, planting flowers in the garden beds and doing small things that just add that extra touch to make the place more attractive for visitors and shoppers. On a Saturday morning, I am often up at the local Lions' club shed and in fact, having lived in the same area for over 20 years, often I see items that I have purchased there. When I have finished my use of them, I have donated them back. Someone else has bought them and they have gone back. I reckon I have seen one particular fish tank at least four times over the last 20 years being recycled through the Lions' shed.

Another group of volunteers that had a big impact on me recently were the hospital volunteers at Flinders Medical Centre, including in the intensive care unit. This is quite a remarkable team of men and women who look out for people in a practical way while they are waiting to see or hear news about their gravely ill family and friends. Institutions, as we know, can be soulless or even frightening at the best of times, so I am very grateful that there are people who choose to help others at a time in their lives when they are most anxious and afraid.

We also have a lot of self-help groups out there, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, and there are also support groups for the friends and family of those people. We have groups helping people face bereavement, such as the Voice of Industrial Death, whose annual service many of us participated in last week, the Homicide Victim Support Group, Living Beyond Suicide, Compassionate Friends—in fact, dozens of groups operating in South Australia.

I am delighted to have been part of National Volunteer Week and I would like to thank all those hundreds and thousands of my fellow South Australians who freely give of their time, their energy and their passion to make our society better for all of us.

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