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Speech by Senator the Hon Ursula Stephens

Awards Presentation, National Emergency Management Volunteers Photographic Competition

Location: High Court of Australia

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Thanks Alastair for your introduction.

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

It’s great to be here with the Attorney General, Robert McClelland, to present the 2010 Emergency Management Volunteers Photographic Competition awards.

I also acknowledge all the state and territory emergency service representatives today. It’s a testament to the great value of the work of emergency volunteers that we have so many of you here with us this afternoon.

Emergency management volunteers are a very special sub-section of our wonderfully diverse Australian volunteer movement.

I know that the Attorney General will be speaking to you specifically as emergency management volunteers, so I just wanted to say a few words to you as volunteers more broadly.

As many of you may know, today marks the start of National Volunteer Week.

This is a time to acknowledge and celebrate the amazing contributions of the 5 million strong Australian volunteers, of which you are a vital part.

Volunteering in Australia is infused by our distinctly Australian ethos of a “fair go” and the spirit of mateship and helping out.

This year’s theme for National Volunteer Week is “Now, more than ever.” This is a theme with many threads, but for me it points to the increasing diversity of the ways in which Australians can now volunteer.

Because volunteering is now no longer only about regularly turning up to help out at not-for-profit organisations.

From this beginning, volunteering has grown in diversity over the past decade or so. And we’ve now moved into a world where virtual volunteering is possible, where you can volunteer from your desktop, and even “micro-volunteering” that allows the time poor to volunteer in 10 or 20 minute commitments.

These changes bring with them opportunities as well as challenges, and the Australian Government is keen to ensure that we as a country are ready to make the most of them so that we can continue to see volunteering flourish into the future.

To this end, I have been leading the development of a National Volunteering Vision and Strategy, to outline a vision for volunteering in Australia and a framework for achieving that vision.

We have been working with the Attorney-General’s Department and other departments across the Commonwealth Public Services, as well as with state and territory governments, and the state volunteering peaks.

This work is timed to coincide with next year’s grand celebration of volunteering – the ten year anniversary of the United Nations Year of the Volunteer. The United Nations has asked all governments to celebrate volunteering and how it has changed in the decade since the International Year of the Volunteer in 2001.

Today’s photographic competition is one fabulous example of what we can achieve when business, government and the community come together to recognise how volunteering shapes our nation.

I congratulate the winners of the 2010 National Emergency Management Volunteers Photographic Competition, and thank everyone who entered.

You have given us an outstanding record of a group of people whose volunteering is beyond praise.

Thank you.