By Jenna Chia of Volunteering Victoria 

    National Volunteer Week is coming up from 16 – 22 May and provides a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the role and value of the thousands of volunteers who contribute to our community.

    Volunteers contribute to our society across every area of life and through providing essential community services. From food relief to aged care and health, sport & recreation to arts & culture, environmental causes and throughout our education system. Outside of these more structured roles, we all participate in volunteering through the support and care that we give to people in our community. Helping neighbours, dropping meals to friends in need, or minding grandchildren. These are all incredibly valuable forms of volunteering that hold our communities together and enable us to connect with each other.

    Volunteering can take different shapes and forms in different communities. It can also be referred to in different ways- ‘community-giving’, ‘taking care of each other’, ‘giving time’. Not every community relates to the term ‘volunteering’, but every community does have practices of giving back to community and supporting each other. Through my work in advocating for volunteers I have had the privilege of learning about how diverse communities practice volunteering. In western cultures volunteering is predominantly considered to be a structured activity that involves taking on a specific role, often in an organisation. In First Nations communities, practices of volunteering have been occurring for many thousands of years and are so deeply embedded in their culture that it is considered an organic part of living in community with others.

    At the heart of all forms of volunteering is the idea of contribution and care for each other. Volunteering is not driven by economics and money, but rather by a desire for collective wellbeing and connection. This is the foundation of our society and what we need for our communities to recover from the multiple crises we are facing and thrive in the future. Volunteering promotes better physical and mental health, social connections, self-confidence, and meaningful activity. 

    This is not to say that volunteers don’t need to be supported and resourced. The potential of volunteering will only be realised when our policy makers and government recognise and value the contribution of volunteers and make an equitable investment that reflects their impact. Investment in volunteering seems an obvious decision for many of us, but for governments focused on economics and productivity measures, the idea of ‘free labour’ and its contribution to wellbeing is easily taken for granted.

    So, this National Volunteer Week I encourage you to reflect on the impact that volunteers have on your own quality of life. The parks you visit, the newspaper you’re reading, the sports clubs you play at, the health care you receive, and the festivals and events that you attend on weekends. 

    None of these would exist without volunteers.

    Throughout May, let’s all strive to do something to show we value volunteers– thank a volunteer in the community, recognise a volunteer in your workplace, share a volunteer story on social media, or ask your local MP how they plan to support the volunteers in their electorate. Better yet – volunteer! Volunteering can be truly life changing. By supporting your community, you will bring joy, friendship, and meaning to your life. 

    Our content is a labour of love, crafted by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the west. We encourage submissions from our community, particularly stories about your own experiences, family history, local issues, your suburb, community events, local history, human interest stories, food, the arts, and environmental matters. Below are articles created by community contributors. You can find their names in the bylines.

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