Volunteers: your community needs you and thanks you

Brighton councillor urges more community involvement in volunteering

 BRIGHTON Councillor Phil Owen was a special guest speaker at this year’s Brighton Australia Day ceremony.  Mayor Tony Foster asked Councillor Owen to reflect on his more than 30 years of  volunteering in our community, which was a theme of this year’s Australia Day event.   Here is a precis of Councillor Owen’s speech.

 FIVE months after moving to Old Beach the Fire Brigade was burning off at the back of my place. I went down to see them and was invited to come to the fire station on a Wednesday night. That is how my work as a volunteer started and I have now been a volunteer with Old Beach Fire Brigade for 33 years.

Consider the changes in that time:

  • For vegetation fires we had a 6×4 trailer mounted with water tank and pump. This was dragged around by a member’s private land rover.
  • We had three to four knapsack sprayers.
  • We had three to four beaters – wooden handles with old canvas fire hose wired to the end.
  • For structural fires we had a very old former MFB fire truck with no power steering.
  • There was no reticulated water. We used to fill up from the water board hydrant in Baskerville Road.
  • The brigade bought and built a 4×4 medium tanker in the mid 80s.
  • Today all brigade members have pagers to alert them to a call. In those days the brigade captain would get a phone call and then would have to arrange a ‘ring around’ on landlines.
  • Today the brigade is equipped with a Toyota Light Tanker and a 4×4 heavy tanker that doubles as a structural firefighting unit.
  • Today our structural capabilities include the use of breathing apparatus.

In the Fire Service there is a structured award system, badges for five, 10, 15  years, etc of service. The national medal for example is awarded for 15 years’ diligent service and there is a bar for each additional 10 years.

A rarer award, the volunteer medal for ‘diligent service with integrity’ just doesn’t happen and can be awarded at any time after 10 years in the Tasmania Fire Service.

These are great awards to have but frankly, I just love being part of a team of men and women serving their community in this particular way. It is a real passion.

Giving something back for the enjoyment I get from just living in Old Beach and I can recommend volunteering to anyone who is not involved in some way with their community.

Personally I think fire fighters get more than their share recognition, or should I say, many other volunteers do not get the recognition they deserve.

Yes, firefighting can be dangerous, hot, sweaty and uncomfortable, we do not know when we will be called, we sometimes encounter situations we would rather not be in, we are exposed to sights we would rather not see and no, we are not heroes as the Press tends to portray us.

The Tasmania Fire Service invests heavily in our safety through training, equipment and support with an expectation that every firefighter is to consider their own safety first and foremost.

I am also involved in a range of other volunteering pursuits. In the 80s I was involved with the local progress association as treasurer and more recently I help around the Old Beach Cricket Club. I am involved with the Safety Institute of Australia (Tas branch) in promoting safety in the work place and am a Red Cross blood donor.

Surf life saving with the Clifton Beach club was my first volunteering job which later in life enabled me to do some professional life guard jobs in England and at back here at the Glenorchy Pool in the late 60s early 70s.

There are at least three people possibly still alive today who owe their lives to my volunteer swimming coaches.

Let’s reflect now on what volunteering is all. How much poorer our community would be without volunteers? Putting aside for a moment our firefighters, our SES, our paramedics and other more visible volunteers let us consider the value of volunteers associated with Brighton Footy Club, Pete’s Shed, Schools, St Vinnies, Old Beach Cricket Club, Little Athletics, St John’s Ambulance, Guides, Scouts, Red Cross, and the list goes on.

Let us also for a moment reflect on those volunteers who have influenced our individual lives, the unnoticed, unsung, unheralded

Think about this for a moment. There would not be one AFL player, Australian cricketer, international sports star who would not owe their success to their under 9, 10, 12, 16 footy, cricket or athletics coach.

Lastly and importantly, I would like to acknowledge and thank Woolworths for its support of Volunteers Australia-wide and Brighton Council for its recognition of work done by volunteers in our community on occasions like today.

VOLUNTEEERS, your community needs you. VOLUNTEERS, your community thanks you.