The volunteering tradition

We have a long history of volunteering in Australia. It began with the First Fleet, where I imagine there was not much of a spirit of volunteering among the convicts, and probably even less among the military as they landed on our shores, but from resentment and hardship grew action. From action grew independence and a sense of shared responsibility. From shared responsibility grew volunteering. From volunteering grew community, and the tradition continued.

Those brave young men who answered the call to become our first ANZACs were volunteers; our surf lifesavers are volunteers; our rural fire fighters are volunteers.

And the three quarters of a million people who annually take to their streets, parks, waterways, beaches and bushland on Clean Up Australia Day are volunteers – and they’ll be out in force again on Sunday 7 March.

Each year on this iconic day, volunteers remove thousands of tonnes of rubbish from our environment. Just imagine if those hundreds of thousands of people that get involved on Clean Up Australia Day decided to just sit at home instead of getting out and lending a hand. Those thousands of tonnes of rubbish they remove would just sit there, year after year, polluting our environment, damaging our health and eroding our communities.

Every day volunteers make a valuable contribution to society in both economic and social terms. Without them, we’d be lost, and vital events like Clean Up Australia Day just wouldn’t exist.

The latest ABS statistics reflect this fact. Approximately 35 per cent of the Australian population aged 18 years and over volunteer at least once a fortnight.

Without volunteers, who would take care of the injured wildlife? Who would spend that hour brightening up the day of an elderly person in a nursing home? Who would be there to teach our children how to kick a goal? Who would be there to hand out a blanket to someone in need?

Volunteers are the backbone of our society, they’re what makes our country the great place it is. On Sunday 7 March we’ll see about a million people get out and lend a hand on what will be the 20th anniversary of Clean Up Australia Day. Make sure you’re one of them.

Not everyone is able to dedicate a day a week or a fortnight to volunteering, but a couple of hours on one day of the year to help out our environment is a terrific way to be part of your community.

On this the 20th Anniversary of Clean Up Australia Day, do you have a clean up story that will inspire others?

Ian Kiernan AO

Clean Up Australia Chairman

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