Volunteering as social capital - Speech

Last night I delivered a speech in Parliament commending members of my electorate for the quality and quantity of their social and volunteer interactions as well as the great work of our young social entrepeneurs:
I rise tonight to speak on the strength of community in my electorate of Fraser. As is well known, the ACT has some of the highest rates of social capital in the nation. The most generous postcode, as measured by tax deductible gift donations, is 2602. The highest rates of volunteering of any state and territory are in the ACT. The ACT also has high rates of sporting participation, community club membership and even, according to the Clean Up Australia Day survey, low rates of litter.

Australians may have become disconnected over recent decades, but Canberra is a strongly connected city. Last Thursday, it was my pleasure to attend Volunteering ACT's Volunteering EXPO held in Albert Hall. The Volunteering EXPO brought together a plethora of ACT community groups, each looking for new volunteers. Ninety per cent of ACT voluntary groups say that they want more volunteers. It was a real pleasure to stroll the through the halls set up, as it were, as an Easter show of giving back to the community. Many of the local groups I spoke to had already signed up volunteers and were hoping to do so the following day.

I acknowledge the hard work of Maureen Cane, Rikki Blacka and Emilie Van Os Schmitt, from Volunteering ACT for their tireless efforts over recent weeks to make the volunteering expo a success. Volunteering ACT have been hard at work on other products as well. They recently produced a report, Promoting youth engagement and wellbeing through student volunteer programs in ACT schools, which I would commend to the House. Generating that culture of volunteering is so vital because volunteering, like so many other things, such as the habit of giving something back when one is at school, is indeed important work.

Volunteering ACT has also put together a booklet called 100 Volunteer Stories, compiled by Sarah Wilson and Emilie Van Os Schmitt. That book discusses so many of the great Canberra volunteers: Marjorie Boyer and Sheila Turner of Palliative Care ACT; Ian Goudie of Diversity ACT; the Railway Historical Society and its project to restore old trains; Cathy Starling and Judy Tier's stories of their involvement in Australian Business Volunteers, assisting developing countries to foster entrepreneurship and innovation; Ricardo Alberto and his hard work as President of the Gungahlin United Football Club; and the voluntary work that makes Volunteering ACT itself such a success.

I was also pleased on Friday to host one of my regular social entrepreneurs breakfasts where I bring together in my electorate office a set of social entrepreneurs who are doing good work in the local community. It is born out of a sense that I have and which, I believe, many members on both sides of the House share, that Australia needs more innovation and entrepreneurship. One area in which I believe I, as a local member, can do something to promote that is in bringing together local social entrepreneurs. They are an inspiring group, working on issues that are wide and diverse. Those who were able to attend Friday's social entrepreneurs breakfast included Julia Diprose of Vocal Majority; Pierre Johannessen of Big Bang Ballers; Brad Carron-Arthur, who runs a mental health organisation; Tony Shields, who is involved with Menslink; Ben Duggan, the founder of Raising Hope; and Danielle Dal Cortivo, founder of raize the roof.

I was also grateful to Fiona Nelson and Lincoln Rothall of WIN News for providing some opportunities through this breakfast to promote some of those great voluntary organisations in the local media. These organisations are inspiring and it is important that these social entrepreneurs have an opportunity to discuss with one another the shared challenges that they are facing: setting up a board, finding appropriate funding, managing the organisation in such a way that they do not burn out in their personal lives; thinking about who will succeed them in running their organisations; and thinking, too, about appropriate partnerships.

The strength of Canberra's community extends to its technology entrepreneurs. On the weekend I popped into Hackathon ACT, an IT boffin's delight held in the entrepreneur space, Entry 29, on the edge of the ANU campus. There I spoke with Rory Ford and Matt Stimson, who took me around the room and introduced me to various of the bleary-eyed entrepreneurs—this was early on Sunday afternoon and many of them had pulled an all-nighter all through Saturday. Caffeine was in abundance as was junk food. It was terrific to see the community of programmers and the innovative ideas they were working on. A team from one of the local schools was working on an app for Google Glass. I had not even realised that Google Glass was available in Australia, but they were not only using it but also developing a new app for it. There was a group working on an app for mortgage comparison. and another one working on an application for better form filling in order to save time for large organisations and indeed for government, cutting down on the amount of forms that have to be printed and reducing the amount of time that we spend queuing.

Finally, I recognise the sense of holistic pride that the ACT government has brought through its Brand Canberra campaign. Launched on 28 November, it features a new logo—CBR, standing for confident, bold and ready. It provides a framework through which to tell Canberra's story through five attributes: challenge, free spirit, ideas, quality of life and discovery. That positive message is one I believe pervades community groups in the ACT. It is not just a new logo, as the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister have acknowledged. As Chief Minister Katy Gallagher put it, it is also something that:

… gives us the tools to be able to tell others what a great city Canberra is—proud to be the capital of Australia and the centre of government, but also a confident and bold city.

The campaign has been praised by the ACT Chamber of Commerce and Industry and by the chair of the Canberra Business Council, Michelle Melbourne. I acknowledge too the work of Jamie Wilson and Warren Apps of Coordinate.

Too many Australians think of Canberra as being just the city of government, but it is in fact not just the national capital; it is the social capital of Australia. It is a place where voluntary organisations thrive and can thrive even more still. I pay tribute to the many volunteers here in the ACT and the organisations that sustain them.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.