A boost for volunteer participation and opportunities to create a more innovative sector are key to the NSW Government’s first 10-year Volunteering Strategy, launched in Penrith today.
Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward said, drought, bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated the important and often lifesaving role volunteers play in our community.
“The past twelve months have brought into sharp focus just how critical volunteers are to our communities and our State,” Mr Ward said.
“Whether they are donating their time and skills responding to natural disasters or coaching children’s sport, volunteers are part of the fabric of our communities.
“This strategy focuses on the need to future-proof the volunteering sector, by using technology to promote participation and make volunteering more accessible.”
Member for Penrith Stuart Ayres said today was also an opportunity to recognise some of the community’s brightest volunteers.
“Volunteers are the heart and soul of our community here in Penrith and today was a great opportunity to celebrate the enormous contribution they make,” Mr Ayres said.
“Today was also the opportunity to present two locals with volunteering awards, Mr Aaron Tyers and Ms Gai Hawthorn
“Aaron and Gai are both passionate Penrith locals, tireless volunteers that love to give back to our local community.”
Aaron is a Rotarian and gives time for the wider community; Footy doubles selling at the Footy, Rotary BBQ’s on weekends, works with the youth program with Rotary for many years to bring children from the country for work placement in the city. He often assists many local charities by doing free graphic design and signage, fundraising tickets etc to help them out. He volunteered with the Penrith Community Kitchen and helped fundraise with donations through Rotary.
Gai is on the Board of the Penrith Community Kitchen and has fundraised and been involved with the organisation for many years. She organises and is integral to the yearly Christmas Lunch event for the kitchen which feeds several hundred homeless people a Christmas meal and organises donations of children toys and gifts to be provided for the event, which Santa hands out to the children at the event. She also assists the local PCYC of which she is a Board Member. Gai has been involved with the local RSL Sub branch and has spent many years assisting the local homeless and running the homeless winter appeal for blankets and warm clothing to be given to those in need each winter. For the past two years, Gai has chaired the Pink Up Penrith committee (a McGrath Foundation initiative) and is actively involved in promoting and organising events to raise funds to get additional local breast care nurses.
In May 2020, the NSW Government and the Centre for Volunteering joined forces to deliver the new Emergency Support Volunteering platform, helping connect willing volunteers with organisations in need of support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 50 organisations have signed up to the platform, with upwards of 2,000 people connected to volunteering opportunities across the state.
CEO of the Centre for Volunteering Gemma Rygate said the platform was the perfect example of innovative ways to promote volunteering opportunities.
“Making volunteer recruitment, retention and management easier is critical to helping volunteer-driven organisations thrive,” Ms Rygate said.
“We will continue to work closely with the NSW Government to promote volunteering opportunities and to recognise the outstanding contribution volunteers make to our society.”
About 2.1 million people volunteer their time to help others in NSW. For more information about the NSW Volunteering Strategy 2020-2030, visit www.volunteering.nsw.gov.au.