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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 91

Ms KING (8:30 PM) —I am pleased this evening to recognise the strong community spirit that exists within my electorate and I would like particularly to note our volunteers. The last census stated that we have 22,565 volunteers throughout my electorate. These people are the glue that holds our community together. The contributions they continue to make are admirable and keep the wheels of our community turning. They deliver meals to the frail, the aged and people with a disability through the Meals on Wheels service, at times being a friendly face and welcome visitor for these people. They allow our visitor information centres to operate. There are many volunteers who put their lives at risk, voluntarily choosing to battle fires as CFA volunteers—people whom we have been in such desperate need of with the many fires our district has experienced over the past fortnight. I have noted five house fires in my electorate this month alone, along with two businesses also damaged by fire. In Ballarat, we have seen Lake Wendouree on fire. The once grand lake has in recent years completely dried up, to the point where the area is now catching fire. I certainly look forward to the day it returns to its past glory as one of Ballarat’s icons.

Volunteers work long, hard hours to assist those who need help. We have seen so many people who are elderly, disabled, sick or homeless receive support from volunteers. Of late, we have seen a new wave of families who have been hit hard by the economic crisis, families who have not sought help before. Volunteers are not just those we formally acknowledge. They are the unsung heroes of our community, the people who donate blood or who babysit or pet-sit for their friends and relatives. They are those who donate goods or money to charity organisations to assist people less fortunate than themselves and who donate countless hours to community sporting and recreational groups. Volunteering can be as simple as organising or attending a trivia night or offering to help out on a child’s school excursion.

Our government is a great supporter of our volunteers, and this is reflected through our commitment to provide funding to volunteer groups to acknowledge the inevitable cost of volunteering and to assist with these costs. Last month saw over $195,000 of government funding allocated throughout the Ballarat electorate through the Volunteer Grants Program. This funding will assist 43 community organisations throughout my electorate.

Last week I also had the good fortune to congratulate this year’s Australia Day Award recipients. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the award recipients in my electorate. From the city of Ballarat, the Citizen of the Year was Colleen Thompson, who is doing a remarkable job for survivors of breast cancer, and the Young Citizen of the Year was Gemma Abraham, who is only some 10 years old and is already a shining light in our community. The Community Activity of the Year was the fishing workshops run by Fish Care Central Highlands, which have been a challenging task for them in this very difficult drought. From the Moorabool shire, the Citizen of the Year was Ray Meadows, who is very well known to many of us throughout the Ballan community from his post office days but also through his enormous work for Rotary. The Young Citizen of the Year was Bethany Bajada and the Community Event of the Year was the community literacy project ‘In the land of Moorabool—we love to read’, which has been bringing reading to young people throughout Moorabool shire. From Hepburn shire, the Citizen of the Year was Johanna Van Oostveen and the Community Event of the Year was the Creswick Hospital Auxiliary ‘It’s a shoe thing’ exhibition, a fabulous event.

Award recipients do not expect to receive public recognition for the contributions they make. They give for the want of helping others. I particularly wanted to give them my recognition by placing their names formally in Hansard. It is for this reason—that they do not seek recognition—that these people are so deserving of the awards.

Another example of Ballarat’s voluntary work is the 3BA Christmas appeal, run by Ballarat’s local radio station and supported by residents and businesses. Last year the appeal raised a staggering $183,000 for local families in need. The money raised through the appeal provides support to around 4,000 families in the area by supplying Christmas food hampers and toys. The goods are administered by four community organisations: the Salvos, Ballarat Uniting Care, St Vincent de Paul and Anglicare. I find it inspiring that, even when our nation is feeling the impact of the global economic crisis, people in our community can come together to assist those in need. I hope and know that that community spirit will continue throughout my community as we hit what is going to be an extremely difficult year. The fundraiser through 3BA is a terrific example and certainly there are many more. I know that many people throughout my electorate and across the nation will continue to donate their voluntary hours in, again, what we know is going to be a tough year. I support all of those volunteer organisations within my electorate and commend their work to the House.