Celebrating Volunteers

[caption id="attachment_2640" align="aligncenter" width="798" caption="Andrew Leigh and Grace Gill with Local Sporting Champions"][/caption]

I spoke in parliament last night about some of the many extraordinary volunteers in Canberra.
Volunteering in the ACT
22 May 2012

Over recent decades, Australians have lost social capital. We are less likely to be civically engaged in our communities; we are more disconnected than we once were. But this does not change the fact that there are many great volunteers in Australia, and no part of the country is more likely to volunteer than here in the ACT. Tonight I want to share with the House three stories of volunteering in the ACT worth celebrating.

Volunteering Awards

Last week I attended the 2012 ACT Volunteer of the Year Awards. Across a wide range of awards the contribution that volunteers make to our community and our economy was recognised. The 2012 ACT Volunteer of the Year was Dr Mary Webb. Nominated by Multiple Sclerosis Ltd, Mary has provided volunteer service to those people in the Canberra community with MS. Over the years, she has also made a valuable contribution through her service to various advisory bodies.

This year Volunteering ACT introduced new awards for Volunteer Teams of the Year across the various categories. This year's ACT Volunteer Team of the Year was the Adult Migrant English Program Home Tutor Scheme. The team has up to 150 volunteers assist people from different cultures and widely different levels of English literacy skills.

Other individual award recipients included David Hutchinson, Max Kimber, Hazel Giesecke, David Williams, Gordon McLoughlin and Frank Brown. Others team awards went to the St Vincent de Paul Night Patrol Team, the Stanford Course Peer Leaders and the   YMCA of Canberra Runners Club Committee. In addition to those, several other people and teams were highly commended for their work with the community, including Dot Mills, Neville Tomkins, Geraldine O'Connor, Di Evans, the Talking Newspaper Service Cooma and Narooma, ANU Volunteers and the Pegasus Hippotherapy Team. Finally, I would like to thank Maureen Cane and Rikki Blacka from Volunteering ACT for their efforts in coordinating this important event.

Parkland Volunteers

Parkland volunteers are essential in the Bush Capital, and earlier this year I had the pleasure of joining Chris Bourke MLA to launch the Frost Hollow to Forest Walk for the Friends of Aranda Bushland. Taking their modest Caring for our Country grant, the Friends of Aranda Bushland, particularly Peter Ormay and Jean Geue, partnered with Aranda Primary School and ACT Parks and Conservation to build the project. The many volunteers who make up the Friends of Aranda Bushland deserve thanks for their significant contribution to the project. Thanks to them, Canberra now has a self-guided walk for locals and visitors to enjoy. The walk has preserves and provides access to the unique treeless grasslands and the remnant snow and yellow box-red gum woodlands in the Aranda bushland forest. There are many other parkland volunteers doing terrific work through the Canberra community.

Sporting Volunteers

Another area in which volunteers are contributing to the community is in sporting circles. In my time as the member for Fraser I have had the pleasure of allocating the Local Sporting Champions grants. Local Sporting Champions assists young athletes aged 12 to 18 with the costs of competing at state, national or international competition. Often, huge amounts of volunteer time are involved, from parents and sporting club officials. Local Sporting Champions grants provide a modest amount of assistance to students who are engaged in sporting activities.

Over the past 18 months, assisted by sportspeople like Raider Bronson Harrison, swimmer Sally Foster, soccer player Sally Shipard and Canberra social entrepreneur Michael Pilbrow, I have awarded Local Sporting Champions grants to individuals and sporting clubs in my electorate. Recipients of a Local Sporting Champions grant over the past year include Jack Connell, Melissa Leary, Kenyah Lawler, Renee Polyak, Nicholas Tanner, William Pulley, Maris Colton, Andrew Meyer-Coyte, Jayden Sawyer, Reilly Shaw, Stuart Grey, Danusia Sipa Borgeaud, Anthony Joe, Nathan Cawley, Luke Sarris, Luke Letcher, ACT Badminton and Rowing ACT. Last week I held an afternoon tea in my electorate office for Local Sporting Champions recipients, where the soccer star Grace Gill talked about the joys and challenges of elite sport.

Volunteers are our unsung heroes. They give up their free time to deliver services, to lend a helping hand and to build a stronger community. I want to thank those volunteers I have spoken of tonight and all those across the ACT and Australia for their contribution and their dedication. Our community is richer for it.

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