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Byron Shire
January 26, 2021

Editorial – Value our volunteers

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There have been no shortage of challenges in Australia in the last few years – drought, fire, flood, and now COVID-19. And we are already heading back into fire season with local crews currently on the ground in Duranbah and Stokers Siding.

Without the essential contributions of volunteers the country would have fared far worse. The value of volunteering in Australia in 2012 was around $200 billion and by 2014 it had increased to an annual contribution of $290 billion, according to research by Associate Professor Dr Lisel O’Dwyer at Flinders University.

‘The economic contribution of volunteering to Australian society surpasses revenue sources from major sectors including mining, agriculture, defence and retail,’ said Dr O’Dwyer.

If you want to find out how much value your actions can provide as a volunteer go to the volunteer calculator at: https://bit.ly/3jo1OjF.

Volunteering can come in a myriad of different forms, from the SES and rural fire services to community groups like Rotary, the Country Women’s Association, Lifeline, and wildlife carers. During the recent devastating bushfire season, members of Melbourne’s Sikh community provided free food to bushfire victims, serving meals to hundreds of people.

During COVID-19, musicians and artists, who are some of the hardest-hit members of the community, have volunteered their time to keep our spirits up.

Locally, 93kg of green pawpaws were donated to the Bangalow CWA by Richie Allen. Not only were they able to make 200 jars of relish and chutney to raise funds, they were able to take a selection of the goods back to Mr Richie.

For others it was a matter of camping out in Myrtle State Forest, south of Casino, on Sunday night to protect the forest and koalas from logging by the NSW Forestry Commission (see p3). Then there is the ongoing work and support provided to the community through the Mullumbimby and District Neighbourhood Centre and Byron Bay Community Centre with regular meals, showers, emergency relief and coordination during fire, flood, and pandemic, for those in need of help and resources.

There is plenty that the government can do to support these organisations, from effective funding of our emergency services to ensuring that they listen to community concerns. While in a crisis donations come flowing in, it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that good quality equipment is available, training is provided, and that they are responsive to the communities’ needs. 

We need to value our volunteers for the strength they give our communities, and to also remember that each of us can be a volunteer, not only formally but also in the actions we take in our day-to-day lives. Sometimes it is the smallest act of kindness that can have a positive influence in the world around you.

News tips are welcome: [email protected]

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