Page 2081 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 15 May 2013

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National Volunteer Week is celebrated from 13 to 19 May with Australia celebrating and thanking more than 6 million volunteers who contribute over 730 million hours of unpaid work to their communities each year to help others, and these figures are conservative. The ABS general social survey conducted in 2010 estimated 6.4 million adults, 36 per cent of the population, do voluntary work each year across Australia. It is appropriate, therefore, that the theme of National Volunteer Week is, “Thanks a million”. The week was officially launched on Monday evening at the Australian War Memorial by the Hon Mark Butler MP, Minister for Social Inclusion, a fitting place to recognise the volunteer effort. National Volunteer Week was first held in 1989 and was originally designed as a recruitment strategy and only more recently was turned into an opportunity to thank volunteers as well. This formally has been the theme for International Volunteer Day every year on 5 December.

In the ACT the highlight of National Volunteer Week are the 2013 ACT volunteer of the year awards held at Old Parliament House this morning. Unfortunately, due to the sitting of the Assembly, I was unable to join in the celebrations for the first time for a very long time. However, I take this opportunity to congratulate the 2013 ACT volunteer of the year, Peter Russell, whose volunteer role of 10 years with the YMCA of Canberra Sailing Club has seen him support scores of people with disabilities and help them enjoy sailing. I congratulate also the 2013 ACT volunteer team of the year—Lanyon youth and community volunteers, a group of 20 volunteers supporting their community through bus transportation of young people, working at the Lanyon food hub and emergency relief centre, working in the Lanyon Ladle community soup kitchen and assisting in child care.

The awards were hosted by Volunteering ACT and recognised the dedicated service of individuals and teams of volunteers in our community. This is also a way of shining a spotlight on this service not in any way indicating that any volunteer is in any way better or more worthy than any other. This year a special award was awarded to one of those who have given a half a century of service—50 years of voluntary service in Canberra.

Guest speakers for the event included Major General Michael Jeffrey, Patron of Volunteering ACT, and Natalie Howson, Director-General of the Community Services Directorate. As I said, the awards publicly recognise the contribution of ACT volunteers and celebrate their voluntary effort. The awards showcase an array of ACT voluntary work and acknowledge a number of very committed and generous skilful people who work tirelessly in our community to improve the lives of others in our society. People can get involved in the National Volunteer Week campaign by visiting Volunteering Australia’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and posting their own messages of thanks to 6 million volunteers around the country.

On Monday night, the official launch, I was privileged to launch a centenary project in the form of Volunteering ACT’s 100 volunteer stories campaign. This calls on organisations and individuals to share their stories of volunteers and volunteering which have made Canberra what it is today. Stories can be submitted by text, photo or video to Volunteering ACT or to any Community CPS branch across Australia.

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