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The Forum > Article Comments > Volunteering for the 'right' causes > Comments

Volunteering for the 'right' causes : Comments

By Mirko Bagaric, published 20/3/2006

Australians overdosing on volunteering for the Commonwealth Games yet failing to step up to help those in need.

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In many ways, I completely agree with Mirko Bagaric's claims.

Australia's strong sporting culture will always give rise to a high number of volunteers wanting to be a part of the particular event, although the answers don't lie in rubbishing this, they lie elsewhere, where most don't really want to look.

According to the ABS, there are only 8.5 million Anglo's, and this includes those born in Ireland & the U.K, out of our population of around 20 million.

In the very multiethnic areas of western Sydney, where white Anglo's & Europeans are the minority, they still exclusively dominate the volunteer services. I was astonished last winter, after heavy storms in Fairfield, to see that the volunteer S.E.S were entirely European, given that Fairfield would have no more than 10% European population.

I believe that this is the problem.

How, or why it is that such communities don't care, feel part of, the wider community enough to want to volunteer, or indeed enter the selfless community minded vocations such as police, fire brigade, ambulance, and so on, likely comes down to the divisive nature of multiculturalism.

We've seen recently with the zero assistance our police have received from the Lebanese Muslim community regarding catching the racist thugs within their community who stabbed, bashed, robbed, and threatened women with pack rape, as they went on their rampage after the Cronulla protest, burning churches, smashing shops, and so on.

That a community can have no empathy for outsiders is why there are no volunteers coming from such communities. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure they volunteer in their own communities, it's just that there is no concern for outsiders.

This is multiculturalism.

But how long can we expect the Anglo's & Europeans to carry such tasks when such groups are shrinking?
Posted by Benjamin, Monday, 20 March 2006 10:16:42 AM
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It is indeed interesting how some will opt to help in some areas and yet will never give thought to how their assistance might be valued the more immeasureably in another area...such as with non profit charities.

I've first hand experience ...I'm the founder/president of an AIDS care charity in Melbourne, The Australian AIDS Fund Incorporated. (We invite you to visit our website at )

But that said,there are still some real jewels to be found among the few that do offer to help....

Our organisation...arguably the smallest AIDS NGO in Australia (we have no paid rented or owned property and no government funding) working with the inhabitants of a rural village in outback Malawi, Africa.

Been involved for just about one year....but thanks to a handful of Australian different parts of Australia..we've:-

* Bought two properties in Malawi and established them as mini-orphanages for AIDS orphans (children who've lost their parents to AIDS)

* Almost finished building a primary school with a number of brick and iron roofed classrooms to cater for up to 400 children ..including a mini-on site clinic; a brick on-site kitchen; a resource building..housing a small but growing library and a small supply of reading glasses & battery-powered colour television...and its own water bore.. Thankfully, we also attracted $30,000 from the Australian federal government too.

* Provided the funds to buy a diesel powered maize mill that'll spare the impoverished from travelling miles with their maize on their heads to get it milled some 7 miles away...

* Equipped and kitted out a boys football team and a girls basketball bought them a strip of training land and built them a 2 roomed clubhouse

* And also bought them some agricultural land to help them become self sufficient.

Soon we'll set up a small workshop and provide a dozen sewing machines..

My message? Small is beautiful and just a little of ours means such a lot to others. Come on Aussies..join in and help..oui...oui...oui!

Brian Haill,
The Australian AIDS Fund Incorporated,
PO Box 1347, Frankston,Victoria,3199

Posted by Sydney, Monday, 20 March 2006 1:13:30 PM
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I have experience in the aged group and I can assure you there are volunteers who are totally wonderful, just about every part of the support areas depend on the vollys. Angels would be an apt description.
The volunteer firemen should be presented with a huge gold medal each for the efforts they put into saving the community from the terrors of fire.
Forget the sporting heroes, they are nothing compared with our marvellous volunteers.
Never seen a muslim volly though, maybe it is not their scene.
Posted by mickijo, Monday, 20 March 2006 2:57:41 PM
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Volunteering, A 20th century concept. Thinking out loud, I wonder how many nvolunteers the community has left after, for example the first volunteer fire fighter gets hurt while fighting a community fire, and consequently his/her boss sacks the person, and hires someone, not a volunteer? Ah workchoices, you threaten to take so much more than you intended.
Posted by SHONGA, Monday, 20 March 2006 3:50:21 PM
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Being a volunteer marine emergency worker for over 10 years and being under 40 I have recently given up. Why? Because its needs, the way it has been structured, itís policies and procedures means that I need it to be a bit more flexible to fit around my work and family obligations than it can. I do not run my life and employment around ďDefence forces disciplineĒ and I do not have the ďlittle wifeĒ at home to look after the place while I am off volunteering, which reflects what was happening at the time when the organisation was founded. I am sick of being told itís because thatís the way itís always done.

Organisations need to look at how some of their tasks are structured, can things be done via the net? is there a few special events that people can attach themselves to rather than have to give up regular time on a regular basis? They need to recognise that most people are time poor- families having many extra curricular activities and both parents working, volunteering needs to take a look at exactly what it is asking people to do and just how they are supposed to fit this in to their lives. Can we make things like travel, uniforms, first aid certificates tax deductible? How many volunteer organisations have actually made sincere overtures to their local ethnic groups to try to recruit people? Some I have come across are so cliquey itís a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
Maybe if we wish to attract and retain volunteers, not just young people, we need to look at not only what motivates people to volunteer-in my case new skills and have fun messing about in boats- but having good workable policies around retaining enthusiastic new recruits.
Posted by Nita, Monday, 20 March 2006 4:21:23 PM
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One one level what the author says makes a lot of sense but another level I'm left wondering at his lack of appreciation of any value in events like the Commonwealth Games. I'm not personally into them but do think that they have an important role to play.

I wonder at how drab the world would be if all of our efforts were applied to the important stuff and none for play which seems to be what the author is suggesting. I could easily accept the argument that Australia might not have the balance perfect but that does not mean that our big play times/celebrations are of no value.

I recall the outpouring of financial and practical aid following major disasters last year and at other times. I have the impression that a significant proportion of my taxes goes to help "the needy". We may not do as much as some would like but we do "do".

Our world needs both real aid to those who suffer because of circumstances beyond their control and it needs celebration and dreams. The things that bring the world a little closer together such as giant sporting events, footprints on the moon, fire works spectaculars on New Years eve, rock concerts that make politicians think about third world debt. Those are a part of what takes us forward and lifts us out of the just getting by mode even if just for a while.

Posted by R0bert, Monday, 20 March 2006 6:05:21 PM
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