Federation Chamber, Parliament House – October 11, 2016

Mr BROADBENT (McMillan) (16:27):  I never cease to be amazed by the environmental warriors across the whole area of Gippsland. On Wednesday 5 October, I had the pleasure and privilege of attending the opening of the Wonthaggi Seek Bank and Community Nursery’s new purpose-built facility at the State Coal Mine in Wonthaggi, and what a celebration it was. Run and staffed by local volunteers, the group works to collect, store, propagate and supply indigenous seed and tube stock from local parks and reserves. The seed and tube stock are used for local projects run by farmers, Landcare and local community groups. I was pleased that this vital community group recently received $7,000 through the federal government’s Stronger Communities Program for shed footings and what a shed it is. It is a beautiful shed. Testament to their can-do attitude, the rest of the work was completed through fundraising and volunteer labour.

In my electorate of McMillan, indeed, across this great nation, there are many wonderful volunteer organisations doing essential work. As someone who has been a volunteer, I can attest that it is not only good for the community but it is good for the soul to volunteer. Australia would grind to a halt without its volunteers. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2014 volunteers contributed 743 million hours to the community. This equates to an average of 128 hours per volunteer in that 12-month period. Almost 20 per cent of volunteers performed more than 200 hours of volunteering—that is, 5.8 million people giving something back to their communities with no thought of payment, with the highest rate of volunteering, 42 per cent, among young people aged 15 to 17 years.

For 15 years, the volunteers at Wonthaggi Seed Bank and Community Nursery have worked hard to preserve McMillan’s beautiful natural environment. In the past two years alone, they have produced 50,000 native plants. President Beth Banks, Treasurer Bill Berry and Secretary Margaret Barnard do wonderful work but they are well supported by 50 or so volunteers who meet up twice a week. These tireless environmentalists are an essential part of the conservation movement in my electorate of McMillan and are well supported by the Gardiner Foundation, Bass Coast Shire Council and the Department of Human Services. The community needs them.

The environment needs them. Like so many other volunteers in Macmillan who give up their time for the betterment of everyone, whether they be protecting our precious native environment, manning our op shops, looking after the interests of the young or elderly people with disabilities, coaching junior sport, raising money for charity or myriad other selfless actions, they deserve as much praise as we can give them. May the Wonthaggi Seed Bank and Community Nursery volunteers continue to flourish, along with all volunteers.

I never cease to be amazed by the environmentally charged activists whose contributions will outlive even themselves and their children’s children.