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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9208

Mr LYONS (Bass) (21:44): I rise in the House today to celebrate National Meals on Wheels Day, which this year falls on the 29 August. This annual celebration recognises the work of 78,700 volunteers at over 740 branches across Australia.

The very first Meals on Wheels service started in Britain during the Second World War and the organisation was established in Australia in 1952. For over 50 years Meals on Wheels has been offering a much needed service to the Australian community, providing meals to the elderly and disabled. The slogan for Meals on Wheels Australia is 'more than just a meal'. Indeed, Meals on Wheels provides much more than a nutritious meal. It provides comfort, certainty and friendship to the more vulnerable members of our community. I have heard from many of my constituents that knowing someone will be popping by for a chat, with a meal and a friendly smile makes a huge difference to their day. The service is also an integral part of allowing individuals to maintain their independence by staying in their own homes for as long as possible. Given Australia's aging population, this will become more and more important in the future.

National Meals on Wheels Day is about recognising the contribution of the organisation's staff and volunteers. Meals on Wheels has over 78,000 volunteers who deliver around 14.8 million meals to 53,000 recipients each year in city, regional and rural areas alike. Volunteering for an organisation like Meals on Wheels provides personal satisfaction, the opportunity to learn new skills, make friends and face challenges while making a real contribution to your local community. Having filled in at Meals on Wheels on a couple of occasions, I can say that it is very satisfying.

In my own electorate of Bass, the Meals on Wheels Service is provided through the local Australian Red Cross branch. They deliver to Beaconsfield, Burnie, Campbell Town, Evandale, Exeter, Georgetown, Launceston, Lilydale, Karoola, Queenstown, Rosebery, Bridport, Scottsdale and Westbury. In the last 12 months this group delivered over 74,000 meals. This is a very impressive feat for a group who number around 450. The manager of the Launceston service, Mrs Barbara Hill, says the local 'delivered meals' organisation is very fortunate to have dedicated and long-standing volunteers who deliver the meals to their clients in all weathers and always with a smile and a cheery 'Hello, how are you?'

The longest serving volunteer of this branch is Mrs Jacqueline Home. Jacqueline has been delivering meals since 1960 and still dedicates time once a month to the service. Indeed, there are many longstanding volunteers in the organisation. Hans and Geraldine Van Donselaar and Donald and Peggy Cleaver, for example, have been volunteering and delivering meals in their local communities for over 30 years.

Even as other volunteers become too elderly or ill to carry on, there is always another willing to fill in and assist. Charlie and Joan Hosking do several delivery rounds every month and are also about to fill in when needed, and have been since they started volunteering with the service in 1987. Likewise, George and Margaret Cook have been dedicated members since 1988 and, in fact, are the only members doing deliveries for church group St Mark's on the Hill.

Like many volunteers, Max Evans was looking for something to fill his days during retirement. With his neighbour Margaret Horder, Max has been delivering meals since 1996. By all accounts they have been a fantastic partnership, delivering meals five days a week, with Max doing the driving and Margaret making the deliveries.

I know that the 'delivered meals' organisation in Launceston are also grateful to have the support of Launceston Central, Kings Meadows and Launceston West Rotary groups, each of whom have been doing the deliveries on the third Thursday of every month since 1988. In the same year, the Seventh Day Adventist Church also started volunteering and is still delivering meals five times each month.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of the local volunteers for the time they dedicate and the compassion and caring they show by volunteering for this fantastic organisation. I encourage everyone to celebrate National Meals on Wheels Day on 29 August and recognise the individuals who provide this invaluable service to our vulnerable community members.