As we look towards a new year, it’s often a time for reflection, re-setting priorities and planning for the future. For many older Victorians, particularly those who are newly retired or semi-retired, getting involved in volunteering is an important part of our life plan.
Sharing your skills, time and energy with your community as a volunteer can be rewarding, exciting and fun. Volunteering is also a great way to stay active and build new connections and friendships.
Volunteering has been heavily impacted by COVID-19. While demand for community support has increased during the pandemic, volunteering participation has declined in many areas. As I reflected in my blog about senior Victorians’ experiences of COVID-19
, many volunteering activities could not continue in-person and some changed to online models. Some older volunteers are uncertain about returning to their previous activities. As one person reflected, “once you slowed down, it was really hard to get started again.”This is now a great time, as we move towards the end of the year, to reflect and re-set our priorities. It is timely to reflect on what gives us meaning and purpose in life, to think about our ambitions and set new goals or dreams. For many, volunteering provides the perfect opportunity to pursue your passions, give back to the community and find fulfillment.
Starting your volunteering journey
There are so many ways you can get involved, locally or virtually, as a volunteer. Start by thinking about:
- What do you enjoy doing? What skills or interests would you like to share?
- How much time would you like to contribute – would you like to volunteer regularly or from time to time?
- Where would you like to volunteer – close to home, or would you like to volunteer online?
There are some fantastic websites to search for or browse volunteering opportunities. The GoVolunteer website, an initiative of Volunteering Australia, is a national database of volunteering opportunities that aims to match people with roles. The WeVolunteer website, an initiative of Volunteering Victoria, is designed to bring together volunteers and local community organisations to help communities recover from emergencies and natural disasters.
Read about volunteering experiences and opportunities
I encourage you to read about and take inspiration from recipients of the 2021 Victorian Senior of the Year Awards, many recognised for their community contributions.
Anne Tudor OAM
Anne Tudor has contributed in many ways – locally, in Victoria, nationally and internationally – to increasing dementia awareness and understanding about the importance of inclusion and empathy in the community. Anne’s wife Edie Mayhew was diagnosed at age 59 and died of complications from younger onset dementia in 2020. From 2011, Anne and Edie committed together to sharing their story to help others, to make a difference to the lives of people living with dementia, their families and carers. Read more about Anne.
John Thuy, awarded the Promotion of Multiculturalism Award, has been an active volunteer since retirement in 2010. John organises community programs that help seniors build social connections, self-confidence and friendship, using traditional Vietnamese arts and culture as a vehicle. John supports community groups to apply for grants and during COVID-19 he’s coordinated weekly singing get-togethers and created vaccination videos for the Vietnamese community. Read more about John.
Uncle Locky Eccles
Uncle Locky, a proud Gunditjmara man, was awarded the Healthy and Active Living Award for his community leadership and intergenerational activities. He engages children through language and culture through the Warrnambool and Moyne Council’s Kindergarten’s Indigenous Language program aimed at reviving the Peek Whurrong language, is a fair and encouraging football umpire and a role model to generations of young players, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Read more about Uncle Locky.
Joan is a very active member of the Waratah Bay community, respected in particular for organising the annual Easter community Family Fun Day. She oversees everything from insurance, sponsors, catering and music to publicity, volunteers and a range of activities. Joan also volunteers at an op shop, knits children’s jumpers and toys for charity, fundraises and supports her neighbours. And at 93 she is still getting up at 4am in the morning to bake dozens of her famous chocolate eclairs for weddings and other local celebrations.
Read more about all 2021 Victorian Senior of the Year Awards recipients.
Seniors Online - Volunteering
GoVolunteer – National volunteering database
WeVolunteer – Community recovery volunteering opportunities
Commissioner for Senior Victorians
Gerard Mansour is a passionate advocate for the rights and needs of older Victorians, with more than 25 years’ experience working in the aged and wider community service sectors. He has contributed significantly to policy development and implementation of services assisting senior Victorians.