By Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Minister for International Development and the Pacific
Australia has a long and proud history of volunteering. Since 1951, successive Australian Governments have provided more than 14,000 Australians with the opportunity to use their skills in agriculture, education, health, business and disability empowerment – just to name a few areas – while volunteering in developing countries.
Each year, with support from the Australian Government, more than 1,000 volunteers give their time, share their skills, and develop long-term industry and professional linkages across their sectors of expertise in our region. This two-way exchange is good for sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction, and these long-term links are essential for making our region more stable, secure, and prosperous.
Since my appointment as Minister for International Development and the Pacific, I have travelled extensively, including 24 times to the Pacific. On my travels, I have met passionate and hardworking Australian Volunteers working closely with local people and communities. When talking with Ministers, community leaders and members of the public, I am struck by the personal relationships built with Australian Volunteers – and the life-changing impact volunteers can have in their host communities.
Australian Volunteer nurses and health care workers are helping children in Vanuatu to be healthier so that they can go to school and get an education for the future. This same work is helping Australia by stopping disease in its tracks before it reaches our borders.
Since 2000, Australian Volunteers have supported ‘Know One Teach One’ in Vietnam, which provides skills and employment to disadvantaged young people. Today, “KOTO” is a world-renowned and award winning social enterprise with restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, that provides a 24-month intensive training program in life skills, English language and hospitality for highly marginalised and at-risk young people.
In Fiji, Australian Volunteers are training indigenous business leaders, working to strengthen job opportunities for people with a disability, and providing young people with skills (like safe sailing) that they can use in the tourism industry. Jobs are essential for people to reach a brighter future, free from hardship. These same skills are also making it safer for many Australians who holiday in our region each year.
In Indonesia, Australian Volunteers are supporting people with a disability to access education, and develop specialised technical skills to make and fit high quality prosthetics – changing lives and building small businesses.
Australian Volunteers give a great deal – but they also get a lot in return. By working alongside their local partners, Australian Volunteers – young and old, from all walks of life – are learning about our region and bringing new knowledge, skills and relationships back to Australia.
Through the Returned Australian Volunteer Network, the Government provides the opportunity for returned volunteers from each State and Territory across Australia to connect with each other, continue to tell their volunteering stories, share ideas and resources, and continue building their networks, long after returning home.
Today, on International Volunteer Day, I want to acknowledge and thank all Australian Volunteers (past and present) who generously donate their time and skills to help others – both in Australia and overseas.
To become an Australian Volunteer or to find out more visit: https://www.australianvolunteers.com/