National Volunteer Week is a chance to recognise volunteers' vital work and say thank you. This year's theme is 'Better Together' as we celebrate the power of volunteering to bring people together, build communities and create a better society for everyone.
There are millions of people every year who support communities across the country. In 2020, over five million people (a quarter of Australians) volunteered through an organisation.
If we care about the nation's mental health and the resilience of communities, we need to care about sustaining volunteering.- Professor Michael E. Drew, chair, Volunteering Australia
"Volunteers are a vital part of the nation's workforce. Volunteers play essential roles in aged, disability and palliative care and in mental health and community services," Volunteering Australia chair, Professor Michael E. Drew, said.
"Volunteers are central to emergency response, recovery and resilience-building. Volunteers are the backbone of community sport.
"Communities with active volunteers have strong social capital and are more resilient when crises hit," he said.
Volunteering contributes significantly to Australian life, including the social and economic functions that support Australia's productivity performance and the well-being of Australians.
Volunteers add significant value to the Australian economy, with the most recent official estimate valuing the annual contributions of volunteers in non-profit institutions at $17.3 billion.
However, this figure likely underestimates the broader economic value of volunteering. For example, this valuation does not account for the preventive health and well-being benefits of volunteering through its facilitation of community and social connection.
These roles are supported by the efforts of 3.6 million volunteers in Australian charities.
"Volunteering Australia is passionate about the value of volunteering and its power to support communities and improve our health and well-being," Professor Drew said.
"If we care about the nation's mental health and the resilience of communities, we need to care about sustaining volunteering. I encourage everyone to join us in celebrating their significant contribution."
When a small town gathers to discuss how to keep thriving in the community, some guru usually tells them to play to their strengths, and people will come. In the Elmore district, this meant farming.
"We're staffed by volunteers, about six of us keep the place open seven days a week and we all love what we do," Campaspe Run volunteer Judy Simons says. "I can't work the computer though, only answer emails," she adds.
Campaspe Run, The H.V. McKay Rural Discovery Centre, was established by the Elmore community to celebrate the development of the Sunshine Combine Harvester.
This groundbreaking piece of machinery led to the development of Australia's largest agricultural machinery manufacturing company.
The Sunshine name is a great Aussie symbol, and today's tourists, school groups, social clubs and bus tours are fascinated with this part of Australia's early farming history. So Jacqui and Judy and the band of local volunteers have added more 'farming experiences' to the activities and farm implements the centre offers.
Volunteers are more than happy to take a break in their day, and they come in to demonstrate an amazing amount of rural skills, lost trades and farming practices.
It's our way of giving back to our community, as well as getting out and meeting different people.- Campaspe Run volunteer Judy Simons
A volunteer will show you when you need to know where milk comes from and how to separate the cream from the milk. You'll even get to meet the cow.
Then there's the rope making. Using a machine the local blacksmith made over 120 years ago, and it's still as good as new, visitors can observe the system and skills needed to make a rope.
And the favourite demonstration from last century is the sheep shearing.
Just like the Tom Roberts painting, the shearing shed, staffed by volunteers, goes through the process of bringing in the sheep and shearing the wool.
Visitors can even learn how to spin the fleece. One of the patient volunteers on duty takes you through the process on the spinning wheel.
"We love our centre, the fun we have 'working' together as well as talking to the visitors. Our average age is 65 to 70 years of age and over.
"It's our way of giving back to our community, as well as getting out and meeting different people," Judy says.
Volunteers give their time for free, but they can also benefit greatly. They can make new friends, boost self-confidence, and learn something new about the world outside their front door.
This is the essence of volunteering Australia wide.