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Tuesday, 28 August 2001
Page: 30450

Mrs CROSIO (10:30 PM) —I rise in the adjournment debate tonight to praise the efforts of those people who really are the champions in my electorate of Prospect. I am talking about the people who work day in and day out to help and serve others. These people oftentimes have worked tirelessly year after year for no monetary compensation. The reward they get is the feeling that, at the end of the day, they have made a difference to someone else's life. In this year, the International Year of Volunteers, I want to place on the public record on behalf of my electorate my sincere gratitude for the important contribution volunteers and their organisations make.

One such organisation, of which I am proud to be the patron, is Meals on Wheels in Fairfield. This organisation does an absolutely fantastic job of providing not only meals to people in need but also companionship and a quality of life to many who are frail or elderly or who are ill and housebound. I have been associated with Meals on Wheels in Fairfield for the past 30 years and I am proud to stand up in the Australian parliament and say to them and to all the other volunteer organisations and individuals in my electorate: thank you, on behalf of our community.

In Australia alone we have around 2½ million volunteers. They are people from many different walks of life who give up their time to support local communities and to help their fellow citizens in various sorts of ways. It is a fact that volunteers deserve much greater recognition for the incredible contribution they make to our communities. They have managed to leave a lasting impression about the value and the positive impact that the great tradition of volunteering in this country has had, and I hope will continue to have, on the quality of community life. This year we should celebrate the outstanding contribution that volunteers make to a strong, cohesive society. In my electorate recently, the public were invited to nominate volunteers for an International Year of Volunteers Certificate of Recognition. My office has since asked the minister's office for more certificates. To date, we have issued just over 170 certificates, and we are still going strong. I would like to put on the record my special thanks to the International Year of Volunteers Secretariat at the Department of Family and Community Services for their enthusiastic and helpful response to our inquiries.

Mr Anthony —Good.

Mrs CROSIO —I am glad the minister is here to hear that. It is fantastic to see that so many volunteers in my electorate have been nominated. I believe it is a sign that their commitment is noted and that the community appreciates their valuable contribution. However, while I believe this is a massive response to the call for recognition of volunteers, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The number of people who have contributed to the building of community spirit in my electorate through volunteering would, over the years, run into the thousands. Whether these are the volunteers who work day in and day out helping those less fortunate than themselves, or the mums and dads who help their local school with their fundraisers or sport or in the canteen, they all contribute to building a sense of community and social cohesion.

Through their time and through their energy and talent, volunteers are the people who have made an invaluable contribution to the development of the community, but particularly in my electorate of Prospect. I am so proud of them. Under the Howard government, my electorate has suffered major cuts to important community services, like our child-care centres. We have a dramatically high unemployment rate as well as a high population of elderly citizens. Many people have been affected by the Howard government's policies and have turned to volunteer organisations or individuals for help. It is important that these volunteers keep up their good work and know that their efforts are greatly appreciated not only by those whom they help directly but also by those people who, although they may have no need of support or do not use the network of volunteers, at the same time just feel so proud in knowing that their community is one that has a large network of hardworking volunteers who give of themselves to help others.

In conclusion I would like to say thankyou once more on behalf of my constituents to all the volunteers in my electorate, to the individuals and organisations who too often do not receive the recognition they truly deserve. For their effort, I say: congratulations; for their tireless work, I say: please keep it up. Volunteer work, the dedication of one's time to the service of others—the elderly , the disadvantaged, the ailing and the hungry—remains today possibly one of the most selfless yet thankless acts an individual can do. While volunteer work may be unpaid, it carries its own rewards, and this is just one way, albeit just a small way, of showing recognition on behalf of the community to these quiet achievers. In fact, when I contacted the St Vincent de Paul Society, which works tirelessly in my community, they said, `No, we don't want to receive even a thankyou.' I said, `I think you deserve a thankyou. I think the volunteers who work in your centre day in and day out should have that thankyou.' They did not even want to give the names and addresses. So it was after some convincing that I said, `Look, these certificates are certainly going to go to your people. I will deliver them and you can distribute them.' It was only then that I was able to have the names of the volunteers, that wonderful group of people, who come on a daily basis to that organisation. It was with a great deal of pride that I delivered a large number of certificates to them—72, in fact—that they are able to distribute to their people individually. So there were no politics involved; it was a small way of saying, `We appreciate the work you've done. Congratulations and keep it up.'