Page 4645 - Week 14 - Thursday, 24 November 2005

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order that says that the first person to rise gets the call. I do apologise; it is time for me to learn a bit more of House of Representatives Practice, Mr Pratt.

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (5.04): Thank you, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker. I thought we were fairly close in rising. I accept your explanation.

I stand today on this commemoration or this celebration of volunteer day to make a number of comments about Canberrans who volunteer in many walks of life. The volunteer ethic is a fundamental part of the fabric of a successful community. Governments must realise that and they must support volunteerism in every way possible. Volunteerism, after all, supplements government services and, if the spirit of that volunteerism is well respected and supported, the government’s burden can be lightened in terms of the delivery of essential services.

International and local NGOs provide an important voluntary capacity and many Canberran volunteers are serving with these organisations here and overseas. I even refer to those international NGOs which pay their workers a basic stipend, enough to work and live securely but not enough to make a living with savings. These people are perhaps paid a basic amount in compensation, but they volunteer to be deployed in harm’s way; they volunteer to go and help people and they volunteer to live and work toughly. I think we must celebrate those people as well.

In many ways, the wonderful volunteer ethic that underpins our society is steeped in tradition and sacrifice. Not only did our grandmothers and their ancestors volunteer mightily to serve our communities at home, but also their husbands volunteered to serve as soldiers abroad—I would stress, the ultimate form of volunteerism. Australian troops volunteered in volunteer armies to fight fascist oppression in World War I and World War II, and professional soldiers continue to do that.

We have, of course, people at home in the ACT who volunteer to put themselves in danger in support of their community colleagues. Although they are paid, I also include those emergency services workers and our police who volunteer to place themselves in harm’s way. Paid they may be, but they volunteer to work in that line of work, operating in harm’s way. I therefore call upon the government to ensure that it does not neglect our emergency services volunteers, not only because they serve their government as well as the community, but also because to retain their interest and their service they must be well-equipped and well-trained. They must be at least compensated to a reasonable degree for personal loss in the line of duty. The secret here, of course, is good government policy aimed at successful retention and successful recruitment. That is the only way we can attract and keep good volunteers.

I turn to our RFS agency. It is important that we properly resource the ESA to undertake regular and routine recruitment and then basic and later more advanced skills and leadership training activities. That is why I was concerned to raise in this place the fact that, over one quarter recently, the government’s recruitment of RFS volunteers had dropped 26 per cent, due apparently to a lack of resources. I was not comforted by the government’s response. I refer to Hansard of 15 November. Mr Hargreaves said:

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