Hands up to help out your communities

Monday, 21st May, 2018

PART OF A TEAM – Volunteer Colleen Benson is proud of the community she serves.

FEWER Queenslanders are volunteering their time and skills – and that goes for older Queenslanders, too.

Ahead of this week’s National Volunteer Week (May 21-27), Census figures from 2016 show almost one in five of the state’s population volunteer.

That’s dramatically down on previous years: a 2014 Australian Bureau of Statistics survey indicated a participation rate across the population of about one in four.

And while the Census suggests just over a quarter (27 per cent) of volunteers in the Sunshine State are in the 65-plus age group, that’s a lot fewer helping hands from 2010 when one third (33.4 per cent) of seniors helped out.

Volunteering Queensland believes the shift could be from growing involvement in informal volunteering, outside formal organisations, rather than a decline in community participation.

Long-time Logan City volunteer Colleen Benson, 66, suspects that minding grandchildren may account for some of the drop-off, but she also thinks wanderlust is a contributing factor.

“Years ago, when you retired, you stayed around locally, taking short holidays but staying involved,” she suggested.

“Now people are generally less connected to their community to start with and then retirement comes and it’s time to make the most of the freedom as grey nomads without commitments.”

Mrs Benson, who recently received a Women in Leadership award for decades of community service in paid and volunteer roles, retired in December.

She cares for grandchildren after school a couple of afternoons and evenings a week and volunteers twice a week at Logan East Community Neighbourhood Association, a group that supports about 30,000 socially disadvantaged clients annually.

Mrs Benson started there 27 years ago as a volunteer greeter, with volunteer “badges” already gained from tuckshop, the school P&C, the Police Citizens Youth Club and Meals on Wheels.

“I didn’t think I had many skills to offer but I was welcoming – and one thing led to another,” she said.

“For me, it’s about being part of a team. Community – be that a school or club or sports team or neighbourhood – achieved together.”

While Mrs Benson and her husband have plans to travel, she said there would always be time and a place to lend a hand.

Gailene says it’s all about working together

NEIGHBOURHOOD Watch has honoured one of its founding Queensland operatives for 30 years of vigilance.

Neighbourhood Watch 1010714423

Gailene Miller.

From tea-and-sandwich-maker to zone co-ordinator, and countless roles in between, Gailene Miller, from the Ipswich suburb of Raceview, has done it all, resulting in her receiving the Malcolm Grant OAM Neighbourhood Watch Association Australasia Volunteer of the Year award.

“I enjoy the work that I do so much, and I love spending time with my fellow Neighbourhood Watchers and with so many wonderful people in Riverview,” Ms Miller said.

“It’s all about working together to make our neighbourhoods safer for everyone.”

About 11,000 Neighbourhood Watch volunteers across Queensland work with the police service to build safer, stronger, friendlier communities.

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