Legislative Council: Wednesday, November 30, 2022



International Volunteer Day

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (15:54): I move:

That this council—

1. Notes that 5 December is International Volunteer Day;

2. Recognises the tireless work of volunteers across South Australia; and

3. Encourages all South Australians to thank our volunteers and show their appreciation for the contributions volunteers make to our state.

As the shadow minister for communities, I would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks and to recognise the remarkable contributions that South Australian volunteers make to our state every single day. International Volunteer Day is fast approaching on 5 December, and it is an international day of observance that was mandated by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985. Its full title is actually International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development, recognising how volunteers contribute to the achievements of the United Nations' sustainable development goals at local, national and international levels.

It is a wonderful opportunity for volunteer-involving organisations and individual volunteers to promote volunteerism and encourage governments to support volunteer efforts and strategies. International Volunteer Day is also marked and supported by the United Nations volunteer program, which contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide. There are currently over 10,900 UN volunteers deployed in the field, both in development programs and peacekeeping operations around the world.

This year, the theme of International Volunteer Day is 'solidarity through volunteering'. We know that volunteering brings a sense of belonging and community to individuals, increasing their wellbeing and helping them feel more supported and involved in their community. The theme of solidarity through volunteering takes this another step further and encourages us all to come together through volunteering to find common solutions to challenges, to work together for the common good and for the future of our society and our planet. Volunteering is where compassion meets solidarity. Both share the same values, supporting each other from a position of trust, humility, respect and equality. Volunteers are role models in their communities and personify inspiration in action.

As shadow minister for communities and multicultural South Australia, I am immensely proud of the efforts and contributions of all the amazing volunteers across South Australia, no matter what organisation, sector or activity they are involved in. I have spoken about the incredible work of volunteers throughout our not-for-profit sector and in our multicultural communities in this place on numerous occasions this year and, indeed, every year since I was elected to parliament.

I would like to take this opportunity to make special mention of the outstanding service and sacrifices made by volunteers involved in our emergency services, especially over the last few weeks, with extreme weather events causing havoc and devastation across the state. Thank you to all of those volunteers assisting our State Emergency Service, South Australian Country Fire Service, Metropolitan Fire Service and the South Australian Ambulance Service respond to urgent requests for assistance caused by the horrendous weather events.

Volunteers were involved in removing fallen trees, fixing up broken infrastructure and cleaning up to help keep our community safe. Of course, thank you to everyone who is currently volunteering their time to assist with flood preparations in the Riverland regional communities at the moment. Whether it is as part of an organisation or on an individual basis, your assistance and selfless efforts are making an enormous difference as we work to mitigate the impact of the ongoing high flow events.

Just last week, I was delighted to represent the leader of the opposition, the Hon. David Speirs, at the 40th anniversary celebration of Volunteering SA&NT hosted at Government House on 23 November. It was wonderful to hear from Mr Hamilton Calder, CEO of Volunteering SA&NT, about the incredible story and achievements of the organisation over its four decades of service in the community. Volunteering SA&NT is the peak body for volunteering and volunteer support services, leading the sector in South Australia and the Northern Territory since 1982.

While I will not speak at length about its entire history again, honourable members may wish to refer to my contribution on National Volunteer Week that I made in this place in May. I would like to make special mention of the two dynamic in woman who first opened the SA Volunteer Centre in 1982. Mavis Reynolds and the late Joy Noble shared the same vision and defended the value of volunteering, pushing the boundaries of what a volunteer matching service could be. They also helped change the face of volunteers from a hobby for well-off retirees and churchgoers to anyone at all with diverse skills and passions looking to help sustain communities.

Ms Calder read out a lovely letter from Mavis, who was unfortunately unable to attend the anniversary reception due to ill health; however, even now, in her 90s, Mavis is still dedicated to the volunteering sector and passed on her kind thoughts and wise words of advice on the 40th anniversary of this wonderful organisation.

We all know that we are in a particularly challenging time for volunteering involving organisations, with around two thirds of volunteers stopping their work during the height of the COVID pandemic. While this situation has certainly improved and many of these volunteers have now come back and resumed their efforts, not all volunteers have yet done so, and we are continuing to see a decline in rates of formal volunteering. It is essential that governments, organisations and communities work together to find new and innovative ways of engaging a sustained volunteer participation and reach out to those populations who have not generally been active in volunteering in the past.

I have spoken before in this place about the innovative approach that the former Marshall Liberal government took to encouraging volunteers by abolishing the fees for volunteer screening checks, making it easier for people in South Australia to volunteer and removing the cost barrier to participation. This policy was a great success, injecting approximately $8 million back into the volunteer sector and deserves recognition again today.

I would like to briefly highlight, once again, the fabulous 2021-2027 volunteering strategy for South Australia, released by the former Marshall Liberal government. This strategy aims at increasing participation of young people through the capacity of organisations to upskill, retain volunteers and help more people enjoy the rewarding experience of giving their time and strongly aligned with the strategic priorities of Volunteering SA and NT.

Once again, I would like to express my thanks to the former minister for human services, my wonderful colleague, the Hon. Michelle Lensink, for her outstanding work and dedication supporting the volunteering sector and for bringing together a shared vision for volunteering in SA.

I encourage everyone in our community to consider giving volunteering ago, whether by joining an organisation, getting more involved in your local sporting clubs like the Hon. Nicola Centofanti often does, and giving your time to help out others or an individual on a formal or informal basis. On this note, congratulations once again to Volunteering SA and NT on their milestone 40th anniversary and I wish everybody a very happy International Volunteer Day on 5 December. I commend the motion.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.