Last week, we celebrated National Volunteer Week, giving us the opportunity to thank the people who make our community stronger. With almost six million people volunteering in Australia, they play a vital role in our lives, especially in times of need.
The global pandemic has had a significant impact upon volunteers, particularly in aged care. The number of active volunteers dropped markedly in 2020 as a consequence of visitor restrictions, mandatory influenza vaccination and the cancellation of group outings and events. Many volunteers are also in an age group who were more vulnerable during the pandemic.
While COVID reduced their involvement, it also highlighted the invaluable contribution that volunteers make, at a time when social connections are even more important.
As more people around the country become vaccinated, a new COVID normal world is slowly becoming a reality. As restrictions ease, we are beginning to see a lift in volunteer numbers, as people commence or return to assist with activities, provide companionship or contribute in many other ways.
I applaud the selfless dedication and commitment of all those who offer their time and talent to benefit others.
Thank you to all the volunteers who make such a valuable contribution to our communities.
The budget announcement of $17.7 billion funding for aged care over five years was encouraging, as was the government’s comprehensive response on the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
The $6.5 billion for an additional 80,000 Home Care Packages is welcomed and will help older Australians stay in their own home longer. This additional funding will assist in meeting the current demand for home care, with further future injections required as the population continues to age.
This significant investment in aged care gives hope to the people who either receive services or work in the sector. There is still much work to be done, with a reform program that will extend over the next four years.
To achieve the level of aged care reform required, the continued support of the people who volunteer their valuable time will be critical.
I encourage anyone with a few hours to spare to consider volunteering. Volunteers often say that the rewards they receive are much more than they give in personal satisfaction and in making a real, tangible difference in people’s lives. Their contributions are priceless!