Page 1856 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 4 May 2011

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Back in 1995 it was 31 per cent, in the year 2000 it was 36 per cent and it is gradually rising. Volunteers cite “helping others in the community”, at 57 per cent, “personal satisfaction”, at 44 per cent, and “to do something worth while”, at 36 per cent, as the reasons for volunteering. But what does this all mean? In short, Canberrans of all ages are very generous with their time and there is a strong desire in the community to help others and to make a significant difference.

We are as a government recognising this and we recognise the need to foster and promote the importance of volunteering. As we know, there is also recognition that the nature of volunteering is changing, which I have mentioned in this place on more than one occasion. There is increased population mobility and people have many demands on their time, resulting in the tendency for volunteering to occur in concentrated periods on an ad hoc basis aimed at particular projects instead of the traditional long-term regular commitment.

I would suggest that the latter will probably never occur again to the extent it did in the past, due to a number of factors, not just those I mentioned. One significant factor is the tendency for young people to be joining the volunteering ranks in greater numbers and that the bulk of volunteers are in the paid workforce. Research has shown that baby boomers as they retire are less likely to turn to volunteering in large numbers and, if they do, will commit, as I said, to one-off projects and periodic volunteering.

As I indicated earlier, 2011 is the 10-year anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers. To celebrate and recognise the role of volunteers, the ACT government is developing a set of principles, the volunteer statement, which will guide government’s understanding of volunteering in the ACT and represent a whole of government response to supporting and recognising volunteers.

The volunteer statement will emphasise and reinforce the value of volunteering to the achievement of the visions contained in the Canberra plan of a truly sustainable and creative city, an inclusive community that supports those that are vulnerable and enables all to reach their potential, the proud capital of the nation and a home of pre-eminent cultural institutions, and a place of natural beauty.

As we look to address the many challenges of the 21st century, for example climate change, volunteers will and do play an important part, for instance in protecting and restoring our environment and assisting the community to reduce its carbon footprint. Two great examples of what I am talking about are the SEE-Change organisation, which exists across Canberra now, working on the ground, carrying out and encouraging neighbours to carry out initiatives to improve this city’s sustainability, and one which was I was fortunate enough to help celebrate over the weekend when I, along with Keith Ashurst of Cafe Brindabella, planted the 200,000th seedling in the lower Cotter on behalf of Greening Australia.

Greening Australia and 7,000 volunteers have worked together to reach this milestone over the past seven years. Of course it does not stop here and their effort will benefit from a partnership with the centenary of Canberra as they seek to reach another significant milestone by the 10th anniversary of the 2003 bushfires. Cafe Brindabella

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