Ipswich community legends share their motivation ahead of National Volunteer Week

11 May 2022

Local unsung heroes and community legends have reflected on what drives them to volunteer their time, expertise and labour for the betterment of Ipswich as council celebrates National Volunteer Week - 16 to 22 May 2022.

Environment and Sustainability Committee Chairperson Councillor Russell Milligan said National Volunteer Week is an important annual celebration that recognises the vital work of volunteers.

“Council partners with many volunteer groups and their thousands of selfless and valiant volunteers to help vulnerable community members, ensure the safety of our community during emergencies and natural disasters as well as improve Ipswich’s natural environment,” Cr Milligan said.

For Mount Forbes Rural Fire Service (RFS) First Officer David Clarke, volunteering has been in his family for generations.

“Many years ago, I helped my grandfather on school holidays cart water to the fire trucks in the Laidley area,” Mr Clarke said.

“My mother Kerri is the Chairperson for the brigade and an Operational Firefighter, my brother Allan is Fourth Officer of the brigade, and my fiancé Stacey is an Advanced Firefighter who also assists in Incident Management.

“The benefit of volunteering as a family is the understanding of what it is like sitting down for dinner and being called out to an emergency. They know the emotions that can occur and because of this we all have a very tight-knit relationship with each other.”

Founder of the Garden of Eden Project Ipswich Anthony Edwards said he first thought about volunteering when he saw the weeds along the Bremer River when shopping at Riverlink.

“With the help of many hands and connecting with council, I started a group at Cribb Park that have been restoring the patch near the dog park and boat ramp for five years now,” Mr Edwards said.

“Over this time, we have removed weeds and nonsense grasses that do not allow native plants to grow and replaced them with thriving grasslands and flowering plants that attract plenty of birds.”

Mr Edwards said what started as a small project to remove some weeds has turned into a bigger vision to restore the riparian area along the Bremer River to increase flood resilience.

“The areas where we have replanted survived and kept the riverbank together during the recent flood. It is incredible that the riverbank remained stable and flood waters have not caused erosion.”

Deputy Group Leader of the State Emergency Service (SES) Goodna Group Maranda Aiavao said she SES volunteers are not paid and that is just fine with her.

“Most of our members work ‘day jobs’ as well as volunteer,” Mrs Aiavao said.

“Many of us share the same opinion that we would not want to be paid to do what we do with the SES as our volunteer capacity is fuelled by passion for wanting to help others.”

Mrs Aiavao says she has learnt skills and gained qualifications in areas she never would have had the opportunity to in her paid employment.

“SES is all about comradery, knowledge sharing and building resilience to support each other and our communities. It sounds cliché, but my Unit is my second home and family.”

Mrs Aiavao says in her leadership role she is exciting to be involved in new members' volunteer careers early on and be part of their volunteering journey.

“It is an empowering feeling knowing your capabilities and using that to challenge yourself and give back to our community that has already faced so many challenges.

“There are so many organisations looking for volunteers. Find the one that speaks to you and, if it makes it easier, register with a friend.”

Community, Culture, Arts and Sport Committee Chairperson Councillor Andrew Fechner said there are always opportunities for rewarding volunteering experiences listed on council’s Volunteer Portal.

“National Volunteer Week celebrates all volunteers who make Ipswich a great place to live, from the incredible ‘Mud Army’ that helped in recovery from our recent flood to carers and support workers helping those in need on a daily basis,” Cr Fechner said.

“If you are interested in joining a bushcare group or get involved with our visitor centres and city events, visit council’s Volunteer Portal to see opportunities open across Ipswich.”

To explore volunteer opportunities with the SES and RFS visit the QFES website, and for more information about National Volunteer Week 2022 visit volunteeringqld.org.au