By Julie Owens

25 May 2021

Last week was National Volunteer Week – a time to celebrate the almost 6 million Australian volunteers who work tirelessly to make our communities stronger.

Each year, these volunteers contribute 600 million hours to help others. This benefits the community, the volunteers themselves, and our economy.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated 520 million volunteer hours contributed in the 2012-13 financial year had an economic value of $17.3 billion.

Another way to understand the value of volunteers is to imagine Parramatta without them.

Imagine our community without volunteer-run sporting clubs like the Parramatta Memorial Swimming Club, which has been teaching kids life-saving skills and helping adults stay connected to the sport since 1964.

Or local bushcare volunteers like the Daranggara Corridor Bushcare Group, who help preserve our precious green spaces and protect native wildlife.

Or the NSW SES Parramatta Unit, who answered 107 calls for help from locals in the first five days of the NSW floods in March – in addition to helping flood relief efforts across Greater Western Sydney.

There are far too many fantastic organisations to name here - because Parramatta without volunteers is unimaginable.

This has become all the more obvious during the coronavirus pandemic, when volunteers have stepped up wherever the Morrison Government is absent.

Volunteers from local Rotary and Lions Clubs, Karabi Community Services and Jesuit Refugee Services – to name just a few - have been delivering food to hundreds of needy families, including many refugees and temporary visa holders who received no support from the government when they lost work last year.

Sadly, volunteering organisations have been supporting much greater numbers of people in need with fewer resources – and there was nothing in the Morrison Government’s latest Budget for volunteers.

In early-2020, two out of every three volunteers cut back their hours, including many older volunteers who had to self-isolate - leaving charities short by an estimated 12.2 million hours per week. Only around 1 in 4 organisations had been able to get volunteer participation back to pre-pandemic levels of activity by the start of this year.

Volunteers are the backbone of our communities, so one of the most important responsibilities of Government is to get behind our volunteer organisations and make sure they have the resources they need to continue their important work.

I will keep pressuring the Government to do more for our volunteers and I hope you’ll join me in thanking our volunteers for all they do to make our community stronger. If you think you’d like to volunteer yourself, click here for information on local opportunities.