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Speech: Southern Adelaide Volunteer Award Ceremony.

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Senator the Hon Ursula Stephens

Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion Parliamentary Secretary for the Voluntary Sector 24 August, 2009


Speech - Southern Adelaide Volunteer Award Ceremony

Southern Adelaide Volunteer Award Ceremony Monday, 24 August 2009 Hackham Football Club


• The Hon Tom Koutsantonis, State Minister for Volunteers • Amanda Rishworth, Member for Kingston • The Kaurna people, traditional owners of the land on which we meet today.

Thank you Amanda for your introduction.

Good afternoon everyone. It’s great to be here at today’s Awards Ceremony, where we honour just some of South Adelaide’s volunteering heroes.

Volunteers really do have super powers. They give life to our community organisations and charities that help to make the world a better place.

So it’s important we let them know how much we appreciate the work they do.

Communities and organisations rely heavily on volunteers, not only in times of crisis and hardship, but to assist with their day to day operations.

Take the Hackham Football Club here for example.

I know they nominated two of their volunteers for awards.

Where would they be without the people who give their time for the club behind the scenes?

Volunteers take care of essential activities like setting up on game day, fundraising, organising training and working with the junior players.

I know if you look around you’ll see bricks, cement and wood in this room, but volunteers are what hold this club together.

So volunteers really are heroes, but try telling them.

I am always amazed by the modesty of all the volunteers I meet.

They are ‘everyday people’ who become heroes due to their dedication and generous commitment to helping people in need.

They give of their time to lend a hand, some more than once or twice a week.

Did you know that over 5.2 million people aged 18 and over volunteer in Australia? (1) And that they have been estimated to contribute around $42 billion to the economy each year?

This is very impressive. But of course, the financial contribution is far outweighed by the social benefits.

Because volunteering is a gift which keeps on giving.

It benefits the community and also the volunteers themselves.

We all know the great sense of fulfilment we get when we help others and give something back to our community.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of our charities and non-profit organisations, enabling them to continue their work of helping people in need and strengthening the community.

As the award recipients in this room demonstrate, volunteers work in so many areas of the community and perform a wide range of different activities.

They are in health and welfare, arts and culture, heritage, environment and conservation, sport and recreation, education, religion, human rights and emergency services.

Not only are volunteers giving people a ‘fair go’, they also bring communities together, and make a lasting contribution to a rich and diverse society.

In this way, volunteers play a crucial role in the Australian Government’s vision of an inclusive Australian community.

We call this our social inclusion agenda, which is all about ensuring everyone, regardless of their age, gender and occupation, feels included in their community and has the chance to be fully engaged in community life.

I strongly believe that volunteers are key players in our social inclusion work.

They reach out to people on the fringes of our society and help build their sense of belonging, their self confidence and provide the support to help people fully participate in the social and economic life of the community.

Although volunteers freely give of their time, volunteering is not cost-free.

The Australian government recognises this and provides financial support for volunteering in a number of ways.

We’ve provided $10.3 million over two years for 50 volunteer resource centres across Australia that help place and train volunteers.

But perhaps of most interest to you here today is the Volunteer Grants Program that supports community organisations to buy equipment and facilities that will help volunteers, such as tools, computers, microwaves, kettles, sporting equipment and uniforms. The grants also enable organisations reimburse volunteer fuel costs.

The good news is that organisations can now apply for these grants of up to $5,000 until the 25th of September.

There is $21 million worth of grants to be distributed across Australia this year and I encourage you all to apply.

One group in South Australia to receive a grant last year was the Mundoo Group of the SA Country Fire Service.

The Group provides emergency services for a rural community of 21,000 people in the 1800 hectares of the Fleurieu Peninsula.

It received $30,000 for fridges on fire trucks so that volunteer fire fighters could enjoy cool lunches and drinks.

When you’re hot and thirsty from back-burning and fire-fighting, I can imagine this makes a real difference.

But the focus today is on the volunteers here in the audience.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the award nominees.

Today is an important reminder of the need for us to take the time to recognise the significant contribution volunteers make in our community.

They enrich our communities and make us stronger and more connected.

I look forward to hearing the volunteering stories of all awarded here this afternoon.

I encourage all of us to become ambassadors for volunteering - let’s spread the word of the great work volunteers do in our community and aim to become a nation of volunteers.