Shire Matters with Mark Speakman: Cheers for volunteers

John Douglas, of Wanda SLSC, was named the 2020 NSW Volunteer of the Year for the Southern Sydney Region. Picture: John Veage
John Douglas, of Wanda SLSC, was named the 2020 NSW Volunteer of the Year for the Southern Sydney Region. Picture: John Veage

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give" - Sir Winston Churchill.

In NSW, 2.1 million citizens selflessly volunteer their time to help others. We're blessed in southern Sydney with a particularly high rate of volunteering - whether it be in surf life saving clubs, emergency services (including the Rural Fire Service, the State Emergency Service and Marine Rescue NSW), local sport, the arts, working with the vulnerable (including our seniors, young people, refugees, domestic violence survivors and the homeless), medical research and caring for the environment, to name a few.

Last week's virtual 2020 Southern Sydney NSW Volunteer Awards, run by the Centre for Volunteering, was a chance to recognise and thank many of those "givers" who enrich our daily lives.

This year's NSW Volunteer of the Year for Southern Sydney is John Douglas of Wanda Surf Life Saving Club. John has trained hundreds of nippers and been the coach of the Rescue and Resuscitation operations. He has also volunteered as a coach with St Joseph's Junior Rugby League and Basketball teams and with the Rural Fire Service, joining the fight against the 1994 Jannali and Como bushfire.

The NSW government is committed to supporting our volunteers and to making it as easy as possible to volunteer. In May, the government joined forces with the Centre for Volunteering to deliver the new Emergency Support Volunteering online platform. This partnership is connecting thousands of volunteers to charities, NGOs and councils in need of support.

COVID-19 has put a significant strain on volunteer-driven organisations. This strain comes at a time when the demand for volunteer services is more critical than ever.

For anyone who can help out, I'd encourage you to sign up online. You don't need to be an expert. Sometimes all that's needed is a helping hand around the house, or a delivery of food or essential medical supplies.

You can visit emergency.volunteer.org.au to find out more