Commending the region’s volunteers

Aaron Violi serving at the 2023 Healesville Library Christmas Lunch. Picture: ON FILE

By Aaron Violi

Volunteers are the glue that holds our community together.

If you have been to an Anzac Day commemoration, local Christmas carols, a family fun day, a weekend market, a community fair, a sporting match, car show or any other event in our local community, chances are that event was run by a team of dedicated volunteers.

Before politics, I too had the pleasure of volunteering in this wonderful community.

From the committees of local cricket, soccer, and football clubs to my role as founding chair of the Lilydale Township Action Group – the feeling you get from contributing your time and energy to a cause you believe in is unlike any other.

It is about giving back, connecting with others, and making a positive impact on our community, both now and for future generations.

Volunteering isn’t just about events and committees; it is about the countless hours people spend caring for others, delivering Meals on Wheels, preserving local history, looking after our environment, protecting our community from fire and natural disasters, creating strong townships, supporting veterans and staffing food banks and op shops to ensure no local family goes without.

I recently had the pleasure of recognising the contribution of volunteers at my 2024 Casey Volunteer and Community Awards.

There were over three hundred people in the room to witness 52 individuals and 20 community groups receive an award, highlighting our strong volunteer spirit.

I often visit these groups throughout the Yarra Ranges, and while their activities vary, they share one common factor: they rely on volunteers, and they need more.

Between 2010 and 2020, the proportion of people involved in volunteering has steadily decreased, with a further drop in recent years.

According to Volunteering Australia, there were around 1.86 million fewer volunteers at the start of 2022 compared to pre-Covid.

To keep our community strong and connected, we need to encourage the next generation of volunteers.

The camaraderie and sense of belonging you feel when volunteering is truly special, especially in our community.

If you have been considering joining a local group, I encourage you to take that step.

Whether you can commit daily, weekly, monthly or just every now and then – any contribution is significant.

Our local community groups will welcome you with open arms.

Drop by, introduce yourself and ask how you can help out.

It might just be the best decision you ever make, or at the very least, the start of something incredibly rewarding.