Launch of Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Volunteer Programme

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Launch of Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Volunteer Programme


11.00 AM

I am very pleased to be here today to officially launch the Melbourne 2006

Games Volunteer Programme.

Thank you for giving me this wonderful opportunity to talk about people who

unobtrusively share their time and their efforts, who may be unsung and unrecognised

but who, day in and day out, step forward and do things that make our communities

stronger. These are the self-starters. These are the doers. These are the volunteers.

These are the people who show us some of the best aspects of the Australian


Volunteering is more than ever a crucial part of our society and is most evident

when we face adversity. When we face bush fire, we rely on volunteer fire fighters.

When it rains and storms, we’re assisted through the superb efforts of

the State Emergency Service volunteers. Our charities run on the work of volunteers.

When the tsunami struck on Boxing Day, charities were overwhelmed — not just

by the donations that flowed — but by the huge numbers of Australians who said:

I want to go and help. By Jan 6, 2000 people had registered to go overseas and

work in the disaster relief effort.

You don’t read much about some other areas of volunteering because it

is so ordinary, so usual, like mothers at the school canteen or dads who run

a local Auskick. Volunteering is now being recognised by corporate Australia

with major employers recognising leave for employees who do volunteer work.

And every time I prepare a Commonwealth Budget I try to encourage the spirit

of volunteerism in areas like home care and small capital grants for community


Many have become cynical about society and I reckon that if you asked them

most people would say that volunteer activity is declining. But here are some

interesting findings:-

  • The ABS estimated the number of volunteers in Australia aged 18 years and

    over in 2000 to be 4,395,600, representing 32% of the civilian population

    of the same age.

  • This is an increase on the 1995 figure where it was estimated there were

    3,189,400 volunteers representing only 24% of the population.

  • In 2000 there was growth in volunteer rates for both sexes and across all

    age groups, but particularly people in the age groups of 18-24 (17% to 27%)

    and 55-64 (24% to 33%).

  • In 2000 the ABS estimated that there were 704 million hours of voluntary

    work done in Australia, compared to 517 million hours in 1995.

The shame is that we don’t have enough statistical measurement of the

volunteering spirit and the contribution it makes to the nation, so I have asked

that the 2006 Census include specific questions on the people who volunteer

and the hours they devote to their volunteer activity. This will give us a firmer

understanding of the generous contribution so many Australians make in this


The Games

Which brings us to the Commonwealth Games.

Sure, the task is huge. The Games organisers need 15,000 volunteers to help

run the Games, which will feature 4,500 athletes, a million spectators and will

attract a billion viewers worldwide. Events won’t just be in Melbourne,

but will be in Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and the Latrobe Valley. It’s

big. Really big.

Can we do it?

Of course we can. We’re good at this stuff.

We’ve done it successfully before at the Sydney Olympics, and this new

challenge sit easily alongside our national ethos of volunteering to help.

Government contribution

The Australian Government recognises that a job this big has to enjoy the support

of volunteers and that they should have the help and support of Government.

The Australian Government will fully fund the Melbourne 2006 volunteer programme

at a cost of $18.2 million. It will help the programme plan, recruit, train

and deliver the 15,000 people, who will be sought starting this year.

The programme will not only give Australians the opportunity to put something

back into the community, but show overseas visitors the generosity of spirit

for which we as a country are well known.

The personal outcome to volunteering

We all know that there is a direct outcome to volunteering, for the bushfire

brigade it’s a group that can fight a fire. Down at the local school it’s

delivering all those lunches.

But as most of us also know when you donate time and effort there are important

by-products. By-products like friendship, belonging, tolerance and trust. As

with so many experiences in life, the more you put in, the more you gain.

In 1988, the Winter Olympics were held in a city in Western Canada called Calgary.

The Olympics were superbly organised and stamped the little-known city on the

international map. The volunteers who helped organise the Games gained so much

personally from the experience that many experienced a let down when the experience

was over. In fact psychologists reported higher than normal levels of people

experiencing depression after the Games concluded.

Many of the volunteers spent the next four years trying to persuade the French

Government to allow them to work at the Albertville Games.

I recount this story, not because I want to diagnose a new illness – UVD -unfulfilled

volunteering depression, but to make the point that volunteering carries its

own rewards. These people had enjoyed their experience so much that they wanted

to do it again and again.

And in closing, I want to recount another story to highlight the benefits of


In 2000, after the Olympics in Sydney closed, the volunteers who made those

Games so good were given a parade. Now we are used to parades for Olympians

and sports stars but not for guides and marshals and drivers and accreditation

staff. Many later said they felt embarrassed to march and were worried that

no-one would attend. But Sydney’s streets were jammed:- packed with appreciative

spectators who stood and cheered, proud of the efforts of volunteers who made

the whole thing happen. People recognised that without the small army of volunteers

the Games could never have occurred.

We know that we need volunteers. We know that they do it for no financial reward

but because they want to help make things happen and be proud to see them happen


So I’m happy to launch this programme. I’m pleased to announce

my strong support for it. I wish it the best and I urge everybody to get involved.