COMMENT: Contribution of volunteers valuable, vital

Kalaru volunteer Chris Sparks at work for Council’s Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee
Kalaru volunteer Chris Sparks at work for Council’s Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee

IT’S National Volunteers Week, but really, we should be applauding these selfless and indispensable people every week of the year.

According to The Centre for Volunteering, there are 2.4 million volunteers in NSW. Between them they contribute over $8billion to the state’s economy – each year! 

“If volunteering was an industry, it would be one of the largest in the state,” centre CEO Gemma Rygate says.

In the Bega Valley it’s estimated that more than a quarter of residents above the age of 15 is engaged in some form of voluntary work – six per cent above the NSW average.

Despite this encouraging figure, there is always need for more.

Groups like the Eden Visitors Information Centre who we spoke with this week, the Eden Service and Social Club, Access Centre, Meals on Wheels, opportunity shops and schools. 

All these groups depend on volunteers – and all need more help. How about stepping up and offering some of your time. A little or a lot, every bit helps keep this community vibrant.

Despite being one of the two largest employers in the Valley, the council also prides itself on the number of volunteers giving their time to shire endeavours.

Mayor Kristy McBain says approximately 370 volunteers contribute over 30,000 hours annually to council with a conservative estimated value of $1.1million.

In many cases, people are volunteering in more than one group.

Council volunteers can be found helping with local libraries, halls, sporting and recreation areas, in cemeteries and parklands and in the regional gallery. “That…speaks volumes about our willingness to pitch in and help make a difference,” she says.

All this week, Bega Valley Shire Council will be acknowledging the time and energy of the region’s volunteers with a series of short films on council’s Facebook page and website.

The celebration of local volunteering will culminate on Wednesday, May 17, with the annual Bega Valley Shire Medallion presentation at the Commemorative Civic Centre in Bega at 11.30am.

The medallions are a wonderful public demonstration of how much value we place on our region’s volunteers.

But then we can go on celebrating our volunteers every day after that. Just as their efforts and contributions continue, so should acknowledgement of it.