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Media Release by The Hon Mal Brough MP

First Senior Volunteer signs up

Joint Media Release with:

  • Everald Compton, Chairman National Seniors Association

Australia’s first Senior Volunteer, Helen McLaughlin today signed up to lend her skills to Australian Indigenous communities. Mrs McLaughlin, who has worked in Indigenous Affairs for the last 30 years and retires next month, has set her sights on heading out and helping where she can.

Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, along with National Seniors Association Chairman Everald Compton, welcomed Helen’s commitment and determination to volunteer.

"Helen McLaughlin is well known to me and her commitment and determination to go volunteering in remote Australia proves the worthiness of this program," Mr Brough said. "The Senior Volunteers for Indigenous Communities is another tool supported by the Australian Government to provide practical assistance in Indigenous communities."

National Seniors Association Chairman, Everald Compton, said the initiative demonstrated the willingness of senior Australians to continue to contribute to society.

"This is the best example of practical reconciliation we have seen in Australia. This is using our skills to help others," Mr Compton said.

"This program is about building relationships on the ground – it’s Aussies helping Aussies," Mrs McLaughlin said.

"The last time I retired, I travelled all over Queensland and marvelled at the network of other senior Australians on the road – they are the people we want to volunteer and I encourage them to join me in doing so."

Any senior Australians interested in volunteering should contact Olivia Molaei at the National Seniors Association.

Senior Volunteers for Indigenous Communities

Questions and Answers

When is the initiative expected to start?
Our aim is to start preparing volunteers in February or March 2007.

How will the volunteers be selected for projects?
Volunteers will be matched against identified projects based on their skills, experiences and preferences for when and where they will be available.

All volunteers will have to have a police check before being considered for a placement.

Where will they be working and what will they be doing?
The volunteers will be working with local elders on projects identified by local communities and the National Seniors Association, in consultation with the Government.

The actual projects to be undertaken will be determined by a combination of the skills the volunteer/s have and identified areas of need in the community.

What type of projects do you see them undertaking?
The type of projects they could be working on range from helping communities develop business plans, supporting teachers and teacher’s aides in literacy work and teaching trade skills, i.e. building, plumbing and electrical.

How long will the volunteers be expected to stay in a community?
The length of any assignment will vary according to the individual project being undertaken.

Senior volunteers will build up long-term relationships with local elders. This will mean that they remain in regular contact after their first visit and make regular return visits to a community

Will the volunteers be given cultural awareness training before being sent to a community?
Yes. This will be arranged by the National Seniors Association and will be tailored to the needs of the location.

Who will pay for the costs associated with volunteering?
Not all the details for the scheme have been finalised. The training and information needed to volunteer will be provided through National Seniors Association. The Australian Government has contributed funding to establish the initiative. There may be some costs associated with travel and living expenses, but volunteers will be fully informed prior to formally committing.

Where will volunteers stay?
Accommodation for volunteers is yet to be determined, but will depend upon the community. In some communities suitable accommodation will be provided, but other communities may be more suitable for people who can provide their own accommodation (caravan or camping facilities).

How do I get involved?
Interested members should contact Olivia Molaei from the National Seniors Association on (07) 3233 9131.