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Wakehurst Electorate Volunteers

Next week is National Volunteer Week. I take this opportunity to give a shout-out to all the volunteers in Wakehurst. One of the best parts of this job is meeting and getting to know everyday heroes who step up and give their time to help others, for free, by volunteering in the community. 

I am thinking of all the people who patrol our beaches as members of surf lifesaving clubs, who keep our bushfire fighting response ready to deploy at our rural bushfire brigades, who pull on SES uniforms and help those impacted by natural disasters at all hours, who maintain and regenerate our public bushland reserves, and who drive EasyLink Community Transport so older people can get out and about. I am thinking of the many parents who coach sports teams and work in school canteen, and all those—I cannot possibly name them all—who participate in many civic-minded organisations, unite people and connect them to a cause bigger than themselves, not just in Wakehurst but indeed across the State.

It is true that volunteers should be praised for their selflessness. But from my experience engaging with many volunteers over the years, the profound personal benefits to those volunteers are clear. They understand the paradox that true abundance often comes from giving, not taking. The academic research on the health and wellbeing benefits of volunteering supports that observation, with studies showing that the generosity of spirit invoked by volunteering leads to greater personal happiness. Experts have confirmed that helping others triggers a biochemical reward pathway in our brains, releasing feel-good neurotransmitters including oxytocin. They call it "the helpers' high". It creates a feel-good cycle. Oxytocin makes us more likely to be generous. Being generous produces more oxytocin, which makes us more likely to continue being generous. Sign me up.

Unfortunately, a decreasing number of people are experiencing the joy and satisfaction of volunteering, as the number of volunteers across the country steadily declines. The general social survey of the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that the number of people who volunteered in the previous 12 months fell from 34 per cent in 2006 to just 25 per cent in 2020. I worry that rates of volunteering are another casualty of ever-increasing cost‑of‑living pressures, as people have less time to dedicate to non-paid endeavours. But even amongst the busyness of life, volunteering is worth prioritising.

I particularly recognise a group of women who have prioritised making a significant volunteering contribution to our community on the northern beaches by establishing Fight on the Beaches. In 2014 eight women from the northern beaches, all touched by cancer, joined forces with a common goal—funding a cure for cancer. Fight on the Beaches was born—a volunteer organisation dedicated to supporting Australian cancer researchers in their quest for scientific breakthroughs in cancer treatment. Over the past 10 years, the largely volunteer-based charity has raised $2.78 million and funded 12 years of research, much of which shows promising early results. Fight on the Beaches rolled out early detection programs for northern beaches locals, providing 12 free cancer screening clinics for both men and women. It also co-funded a clinical trials administrator at Northern Beaches Hospital.

In 2024, its tenth anniversary year, Fight on the Beaches continues its impactful work, sponsoring Dr Colby Stevenson at the Kolling Institute for his oesophageal cancer research. It has also launched its cancer care pack initiative, which provides support and care packs to patients undergoing treatment at Northern Beaches Hospital. The key annual Fight for the Beaches fundraising event is its upcoming charity ball, which will be held at Miramare Gardens in Terrey Hills on 26 July. I encourage everyone to buy a ticket and attend or, even better, offer to volunteer on the night. I thank the current committee for Fight on the Beaches and congratulate everyone involved over the past decade. The current committee includes Rebecca Coulson, Kelly Evans, Meghann Parker, Rachel Sadler, Ajita Tynan and Ali Warman. I congratulate them on building such a successful organisation. I encourage everyone, like those women, to look for opportunities to volunteer time and energy to a cause that speaks to them.

The Northern Beaches Council website provides detailed role descriptions and contact details for volunteer opportunities in community organisations, from delivering toys to help run the local toy library to nurturing native plants at our local Stony Range Regional Botanic Garden or helping a frail aged person do the shopping with MWP Care—and many more. This Volunteer Week, I encourage people to take a look and give something a go, to help build the social capital we all benefit from as well as for the richness and purpose it can bring to their lives.

16 May 2024, 17:54.

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