Page 1476 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 9 May 2017

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MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (4.11): I thank those who have already spoken on this important topic this afternoon. It nearly goes without saying that the delivery of community services in the ACT is helped along tremendously by the contributions made by hundreds of dedicated, selfless volunteers. It has been estimated, in fact, that volunteers contribute over $1.5 billion to the territory’s economy annually. This means that almost every facet of the community sector benefits from the tens of thousands of hours that these volunteers freely give because they feel they are a part of the Canberra community and wish to contribute to and strengthen that community. I am personally so grateful to all of them.

Today’s matter of public importance is especially fitting because this is National Volunteer Week. National Volunteer Week is an annual celebration to acknowledge the generous contribution of Australia’s many volunteers. It is good to celebrate volunteers because, as we have already noted here today, they play a huge role in delivering community services here in the territory and across the whole nation. It is also good to celebrate volunteers because the act of volunteering itself is an important part of forming strong, resilient communities.

I would like to take a moment to elaborate on that last point. First, volunteering is strongly linked to physical and mental wellbeing, both of which are crucial elements of strong communities. A 2011 report prepared by the International Journal of Person-Centred Medicine notes that 96 per cent of volunteers say that volunteering “makes people happier”. On a local level, a 2013 report by Volunteering ACT found that 95 per cent of volunteers in the ACT say that volunteering is related to feelings of wellbeing. Research findings back up this subjective assessment. Just a few hours of volunteer work can measurably improve a person’s mood and are also positively correlated with increased health and longevity.

In fact the evidence on this point is overwhelming. Serving as a volunteer is linked to all of the following: it increases self-confidence, esteem and self-reliance; it helps counteract the effects of stress, anger and anxiety; it provides people with a sense of purpose; it strengthens homes and family bonds; it combats loneliness, social isolation and depression; it provides opportunities for people to discover and explore their interests, talents and passions; it helps with recovery from both physical and mental health issues; and it improves life satisfaction.

In short, volunteering not only helps deliver community services in Canberra but it essentially helps bring those same benefits into the lives of the volunteers themselves, strengthening all involved.

The benefits do not stop there. Volunteering also allows people to connect with their community, make new friends, expand friendship networks and boost social skills. At the same time volunteering in the community sector educates people about the variety of community services that are available. Those who contribute to the work it takes to run these services learn to be able to trust them and are in a better position to refer their friends to needed services and to do so with confidence.

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