25.4 C
Byron Shire
February 24, 2024

Volunteers – essential for the essential services

Latest News

Knitting Nannas get behind Save Wallum campaign

With porcelain tea cups, lace-covered tables and plenty of knitting the Knitting Nannas Against Greed (KNAG) headed to the...

Other News

Koala chlamydia and Wildlife Hospital funding boost for Northern Rivers

As the pressure mounts from the NSW Labor state government to increase the amount and density of housing, and as a result increase the population, across the Northern Rivers the impact on wildlife will continue to grow. 

Breaking bad promises

It’s so hard to introduce urgently-needed reforms in today’s fevered media climate that governments tiptoe around problems and hardly dare to act.

Wallum vote

Lyon, Swivel, Pugh and Hunter voted on Thursday to let the bulldozers in and destroy Wallum. The Byron electorate...

Bob Brown arrested in the Styx

Yesterday Dr Bob Brown was arrested alongside activists Colette Harmsen and Ali Alishah in a logging coupe on the edge of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. All three were taken to the Bridgewater Police Station.

Community tree planting in Mullum Feb 24

Want to help locally to care for our environment and plant trees for our wildlife?

A True Pioneer in Deep House

Embark on a musical journey with Osunlade, a true pioneer in deep house and nu-jazz, as he graces the stage at The Northern Hotel in Byron Bay on March 9 for a three-hour extended set.

Waiting for breakfast at a social distance at the Byron Community Centre homeless breakfast hub.

Eve Jeffery

We all know that volunteers keep this country going. From the Rural Fire Service (RFS), the Volunteers Rescue Association (VRA), scout leaders, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens, to caring for wildlife, supporting hospitals, supporting people living with a disability, and just plain old lending a hand. Volunteers continue to do what needs doing to keep services up and running.

With the current health crisis we are daily being reminded of the real value of our volunteers as they put their own health on the line to continue to care for our community – we owe them a lot, and in some cases, we owe them our lives.

Uniting Church Foodbox

The Uniting Church Foodbox in Mullumbimby is just one example of a great service that many on a low income could not do without. Organiser, Gil Lomath, says the Foodbox volunteers are still providing groceries, bread and veggies every Thursday.

‘We have limited volunteers, but so far [we] are managing,’ she said. ‘People are very appreciative. It’s a lot of extra work distancing, sanitising, wearing gloves and masks, but we feel it’s quite important as people are doing it tough.

‘We hope to continue for as long as we can [to] provide this service in a very safe way.’


WIRES are also operating normally and implementing plans to ensure they can continue to assist sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.

WIRES has approximately 3,000 volunteers across NSW, says WIRES Northern Rivers Secretary, Susanne Ulyatt.

‘The majority of our volunteers are operating. Wildlife is still in need of help, and members of the public rely on our service when finding an injured or orphaned animal, or are in need of advice.

‘While statistics have not yet been released, there are fewer cars on the road, which will hopefully equate to fewer animals being injured or orphaned.’

Rural Fire Service

RFS spokesperson, Gary Allan, says the NSW RFS is monitoring the situation with COVID-19, and will continue to do so in the lead up to the bush fire season.

‘The Service has put a number of measures in place for the health and safety of its members, and members of the community. This includes restrictions on non-essential activities, and minimal crew numbers on vehicles to achieve social distancing measures.’

Mr Allan says that the RFS doesn’t expect COVID-19 to have any impact on responding to emergencies, or on important hazard reduction activities, which are considered an essential activity.

‘Responding to, and preparing for emergencies is an essential service, and we’ll work to ensure these operations continue.’

Liberation Larder

The Liberation Larder in Byron have not stopped services at all during the COVID-19 pandemic.

President, Liz Jackson, said they have modified the way they serve their clients to ensure safe distancing and minimal numbers congregating around the service.

‘In doing this, we have also had to reduce our volunteer numbers, as there can only be a maximum of four in the kitchen at any time,’ she explained.

Ms Jackson says client numbers have increased noticeably owing to trapped overseas people on work visas, and locals being out of employment.

‘We predict the trend will continue in a shire that is so dependent on tourism, and hospitality being the largest employer in the area.’

Liberation Larder is part of the linking of three services that are now able to offer home delivery of food boxes and cooked meals, Shire wide. All services are operating from the Byron Community Centre.

Byron Shire Volunteer driver for Tweed, Byron and Ballina Community Transport Iain Harvey, sanitsitng the car after and early morning trip from Wilson’sCreek to Tweed Hospital supporting a community member to their essential medical treatment.

Community Transport still running

CEO of Tweed, Byron and Ballina Community Transport, Phil Barron, says the group is still running and has around 130 active volunteers across the three shires.

‘We continue to provide essential transport to medical appointments for our clients, including long distance to Lismore and Queensland medical destinations. We are also assisting those clients travelling across the border to obtain and print a border permit.’

Mr Barron says clients are being very thoughtful, and thankful for the service. ‘They tell us they really appreciate the good work our volunteers and staff are doing.’

Of course, there will always be emergency services needed, and for this reason The Brunswick Valley Rescue Squad (VRA) is still active and on-call, responding in the local community. The VRA has members living throughout Byron Shire who are ready to respond day and night and are able to continue the service without any issues during the pandemic.

Mullumbimby Neighbourhood Centre volunteers packing up boxes of food.

Mullumbimby Neighbourhood Centre

The Mullumbimby Neighbourhood Centre’s Julie Williams says volunteers have dropped from 20 to four at a time, as a distancing control – yet they are carrying on regardless.

‘We’ve done flood, fire, and now pandemic. Supporting community is what we do. Our specialist domestic violence services are still operating, as are many other services.’

Ms Williams says some community members are accessing the centre for the first time as they have lost their income.

‘It can be very difficult for people. We’re doing our best to help everyone feel as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. We are averaging 15 people per day, and with no accessible Aboriginal services in Byron Shire, we are also delivering food to Aboriginal communities fortnightly.

Julie says that it’s difficult, within the service, or when supporting the community, to adhere to the social distancing rules.

‘It’s really hard not to hug someone when they need it. Sometimes it’s us who need a hug, but we’re not going anywhere. This is going to be a long haul.’

All the services need support from us. If you are able to offer support, in particular financial support, to any volunteer organisation, that is a great way to do your part to help the community to get through this really tough time.


Recent stories, information and updates regarding COVID-19

COVID-19 update for New South Wales

Let’s not forget that Covid-19 is still a big issue in our community with 31,935 cases reported across Australia in the last week – an average of 4,562 cases per day.


Five graphs you need to see before the Global Carbon Budget...

The Global Carbon Budget is about to be refreshed, giving the world a critical insight into how efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are (or are not) progressing.


Public transport mask mandate to end

Masks will no longer be mandatory on public transport from tomorrow, Wednesday 21 September.


NSW Police: be COVID-vigilant at Splendour in the Grass

SW Police are urging festival-goers at this weekend’s music festival to celebrate in a safe and responsible manner, whilst also being aware of COVID-Safety measures.


COVID-19 update for the NNSWLHD – May 23

The Northern NSW Local Health District reports that to 4pm yesterday, Sunday May 22, there were 40 COVID-19 positive patients in hospital in Northern NSW, with one of these in ICU.


AEC says COVID voters can phone from home

The AEC says that voters who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 will be able to phone in their vote in the federal election.


COVID-19 update: May 16

The Northern NSW Local Health District says that to 4pm yesterday, 15 May, 384 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the District, including 82 positive PCR tests and 302 positive rapid antigen tests.


It’s National Volunteer Week

Volunteering Australia says volleys are the backbone of the country in times of crisis and emergency.


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

NPWS wants to remove beach nudity option

For 26 years, Tyagarah Beach has been an oasis for the region’s naturist community – a space where bodies of all shapes and sizes could roam free without threat of fines or reprimands.

‘Key workers’ removed from Ballina Council’s housing project as Mayor seeks full market rents

Essential workers were the losers at the recent Ballina Council meeting when councillors actively removed the category for ‘key workers’ from their development of rental housing on land it owns in Wollongbar.

Tried catching a bus to TAFE or work in the Northern Rivers – it’s a serious challange

Getting around the Northern Rivers is no easy task without your own transport. Young people are unable to attend TAFE, and you can’t catch public transport to work due to the impossible timing of, and lack of access to, public transport. 

Community tree planting in Mullum Feb 24

Want to help locally to care for our environment and plant trees for our wildlife?