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Thursday, 5 December 2002
Page: 7277


Senator MASON (2:14 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Vanstone. Will the minister inform the Senate of assistance being offered to Australia's hardworking volunteers?


Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) —I thank Senator Mason for the question. Today is United Nations International Volunteer Day. In Australia, nearly one in every three people is a volunteer and they are all doing a great job all around Australia. We announce today $3 million worth of grants to volunteer associations for small equipment. These people are some of the best people I get to deal with in my portfolio. They do all of us a favour. Take, for example, the bush fire volunteers, who are going to be used all of this summer, for which we should already be grateful. But they are not greedy people; they want to give. Take, for example, the Tamworth and District War Widows Guild Club, who wrote in and said, `Thank you very much, but because of the age of members we do not wish to purchase a computer.' They said that they would be quite happy with $195 for an electronic daisy wheel typewriter. Take the Zeehan Country Women's Association in Tasmania, who have a weekly craft session, an annual arts and crafts exhibition and a few fundraising activities, and do catering for some funerals. They told us that a few tablecloths on their tables would make it a pleasure to work, and that listening to music would put them in a wonderful mood, so we bought them a couple of tablecloths and a Sony CD player/radio.

Opposition senators interjecting


Senator VANSTONE —I notice people opposite laughing. This is not a funny matter. These volunteers do a great job. There are the Lutheran Archives in North Adelaide, in my own state, where we paid for six months of taxi fares. Before you get hysterical and say this was a waste of money, this paid for three very old guys, in their 90s—Mr Hebart, Pastor Schirmer and Dr Meier, who speak Old German—to go into the archives and help translate some old Lutheran material. Then there is the Clarendon Ladies Bowling Club in my state. They got a small amount of money. You see, volunteers are not greedy people. They could have had up to $5,000, but they told us what they needed, and that was a large capacity stainless steel urn, an electric knife, a ventilator system for the kitchen and new curtains. One of the ladies wrote to us and said she had been in the club for 25 years and she did not remember the curtains ever having been replaced. So we are very pleased.

Let us turn to the Lake Wollumboola Protection Association. These people do a tremendous job in the Shoalhaven City Council area, but a lot of planting and digging equipment is made for bigger people, and a lot of their volunteers are women who are smaller than me, and so they needed more ergonomically designed spades and things; so we spent a small amount of money—just $285—buying them what they needed. We can turn to the Ensay Volunteer Drivers in Victoria. These people volunteer their time to drive people from Ensay to Sale or Bairnsdale for hospital appointments. They did not want very much at all. They only wanted a lightweight aluminium wheelchair. It cost us less than $1,000 and they were very pleased that the remaining money of the $5,000 could go to someone else.

Queensland was not left out. The Blackwater Community Centre gets a bit hot, and so they got an airconditioner, which was really good. The Poochera Central Area Sporting Complex got a ride-on mower. It gets hot in Poochera. You do not want to walk around with a hand mower there. The Swanpool Country Women's Association were very happy with a small equipment grant of $27 for a fan. One crowd sent us a cheque for 65c in return, because they did not want the money wasted. I only wish they were more volunteers in this country, that everybody did some volunteering and that everybody had the attitude of taking what they needed, being grateful for getting what they needed, and passing the remaining money on to others in need. (Time expired)