Speech by Senator the Hon Ursula Stephens

Volunteer Awards Ceremony 2009

Location: Inaugural Longman Volunteer Awards, Morayfield


I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Gubbi Gubbi people, and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

Good evening and happy National Volunteer Week to you all!

Award ceremonies are wonderful occasions to be involved in. They are full of excitement, anticipation and celebration. And this one is particularly special as it is the very first Longman Volunteer Awards ceremony. So thank you for the invitation to be here this evening to share with you in your celebration.

Tonight’s ceremony is an opportunity for us to celebrate and acknowledge the outstanding contribution and achievements of all your local heroes who so generously give of their time and talents to enrich and strengthen your community.

Their volunteering stories are indeed inspirational. Some, like John and Anita, have founded arts and craft clubs and neighbourhood watch groups, others, such as Jurina and Ian, are tireless advocates for their cause, Thelma has suffered serious illness and recovered to volunteer once more, and others like Denise and Barry, volunteer 6 days a week, working more than the average working week! We’ll here more about these volunteers later on tonight.

These are passionate people whose gift to your communities is priceless and precious. And they exemplify this year’s National Volunteer Week theme ‘Everyday people, extraordinary contribution’.

This theme is not only a reflection of the extraordinary contribution of the emergency volunteers who worked so tirelessly during the horrific fires and floods our country suffered earlier this year.

It’s also a way to recognise the enormous diversity of our volunteers – these “everyday people” who we will hear more about tonight – who volunteer as board members, teachers, athletic coaches, BBQ chefs, carers for the aged and sometimes simply as people who are there in times of need.

These volunteers are the lifeblood of our community, without whom our community organisations and charities would struggle to survive.

One of the wonderful things about volunteering is that not only does it benefit the community but it also benefits the volunteers themselves.

As many of you here tonight would know so well, volunteering and helping others can be a heart-warming experience that makes us feel more connected to the community in which we live.

Just last Friday over a barbeque dinner with the Red Cross Australia volunteers in Broome, I heard the personal stories of Zelda, Felix and Joan about what volunteering meant for them – connection, friendships and enriching experiences.

It’s important to share our volunteer experiences, because it is often through hearing these stories that we become eager to lend a hand and become involved ourselves.

It’s also very important to find ways to welcome new people into volunteering, especially for people who are new to the community or may be vulnerable to marginalisation. By becoming volunteers themselves, volunteering provides ways in which people who don’t feel they belong, with a way to engage with their community.

So I encourage all you exceptional volunteers here this evening to become ambassadors for volunteering – spreading the good news of the benefits of volunteering to others, finding ways to welcome new comers and keeping Australia’s volunteering spirit burning bright.

Tonight is all about you, so let’s move on to the main event – the awards ceremony and celebrate the “extraordinary contributions” of all our volunteers here tonight.