Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

This week, make sure to thank any volunteers you see across New England because it’s National Volunteer Week, a time to recognise the unsung heroes in our community who give up their time for others. 

The largest annual celebration of volunteers, which takes place from May 20 to May 26, has a ‘Something for Everyone’ theme this year. As part of National Volunteer Week, local councils around New England will be celebrating volunteers in their area. 

According to Volunteering Australia, National Volunteer Week began in 1989 and is a chance to highlight the important role of volunteers in our community and invite people who are not currently volunteering to do so.

A Tamworth City Uniting Church op shop volunteer who has worked as a volunteer manager told the New England Times National Volunteer Week means a great deal.

“Many of our volunteers give their time at all sorts of places; they might work for the Red Cross, in the op shop, help people with disability; some people really fill these lives with it; I think it’s important to recognise these efforts,” she said.

“I know National Volunteer Week is tremendous for volunteers, it means a lot to them.” 

In her experience, people volunteer because they want to give back and are often spurred by being at a “loose end” and feeling lonely. However, the benefit to the community is also significant. 

“I spoke to someone who works at the hospital recently, she said it wouldn’t exist without volunteers. Groups come in and help with bookwork or make tea for the patients, work the front desk, even show people around who don’t know where to go,” The Tamworth volunteer said. 

“At the same time, it’s good for the volunteers as well because they get to be out there in the community, interacting with people.” 

Armidale Regional Council are holding the New England Regional Volunteer Awards this week. Applications have already closed, but the Centre for Volunteering has the NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards, which are billed as “a beacon of recognition for the quiet achievers of NSW.” 

These awards will be presented at 25 ceremonies across the state, one of which will be at Armidale in September. 

Anyone interested in volunteering or nominating a local volunteer for an award can find everything they need on the Centre for Volunteering website. For more on National Volunteer Week, check out the Volunteering Australia website

Volunteering provides huge economic benefits as well 

Aside from the satisfaction that individual volunteers can feel from helping others and the increased social connections they make, they also provide wider economic benefits. 

Gemma Rygate, CEO of The Centre for Volunteering, said volunteer contributions provide a staggering economic value, which she estimates to be in the billions of dollars annually. 

Gemma said the value of volunteering to NSW alone is worth $178 million every year. According to her, it only shows “we can’t survive without volunteering” because it “contributes so much to society.”

At the same time, she says there is a $5.50 return on every dollar invested in volunteering. 

“It’s not just always about the money though; volunteers make up one of the largest workforces in NSW; over 4 million people volunteer. They are essential for our communities to function,” Gemma said. 

The value volunteers bring to society is immeasurable Gemma says, which is why National Volunteer Week is so important. It provides a chance to highlight some of the issues around volunteering at the moment, such as the cost of living, which is impacting everyone but also impacting people’s ability to volunteer.

“We also get to talk about some of the great stories in volunteering and to highlight some of the people doing fantastic work in this space,” Gemma said. 

“National Volunteer Week allows us to recognise volunteers and give them the attention they deserve, even if only for a week,” she added.

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