Community spirit is vital to the survival of the remote regions we enjoy on our travels. Essential outback institutions like the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and the Country Women’s Association, exist because of the countless hours donated over generations.
Few things so eloquently express the great Aussie spirit than our willingness to ‘pitch in’ when the going gets tough, and with so many of us possessing decades of work experiences under our belts, as a collective, we have lots to offer.
In the last issue of The Wanderer, (October 2017), CMCA Chairman Garry Lee shared with us, in his column, some of the many wonderful ways members can serve our community through the CMCA, but what other opportunities are abound?
WHERE TO START
For those who are happy to give up time in exchange for accommodation, meals, or tickets to an event or festival, or just out of the goodness of your heart, there are plenty of volunteering opportunities around the country. In addition to the feel-good benefit that comes with making a contribution, the benefits of staying put, and savings with accommodation costs, can certainly help stretch your funds.
Volunteer opportunities range from manning stalls or ticket booths at regional events and festivals, to doing charity work or helping out in community-run organisations. The list is endless, and there are often opportunities in places you least expect.
In outback South Australia we came across the tiny historical town of Farina, where the Farina Restoration Group, with the help of volunteers, has been busily restoring some of the old buildings to ensure the town’s history isn’t lost. Chimneys and ruins pop up out of the red dust, busy with wandering tourists and volunteers. Central to this project is the old bakery, established in 1888, where the traditional scotch oven is now churning out tasty pasties, pies, bread and sweet scrolls to hungry tourists on this isolated stretch of road. Volunteers man the bakery and shop, taking donations and selling souvenirs from the marquee, set up for eight weeks each year while restoration work continues on site. Volunteers are often travellers, we were told, who mostly do two-week rotations and are set up in a nearby campsite.
Another popular way to give your time in exchange for accommodation and meals is through WWOOFing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). In exchange for four to six hours of work a day – often doing varied tasks, such as helping out in the garden, or doing general maintenance around the property, WWOOFers get meals and accommodation provided by the host farm. It’s a great way to experience a different kind of lifestyle, and no prior experience is required. Membership is $70 and joining up gives you access to more than 1800 host farms around the country, which you can peruse to find like-minded hosts to stay with.
Volunteers are vital for farm and station work
VOLUNTEER IN NATIONAL PARKS
National parks around the country offer opportunities for nature lovers to get out and enjoy the environment while helping to conserve these special places. Work is mostly done in exchange for park entry and accommodation, although varies from state to state and depending on the park facilities.
Campground hosting is particularly popular with vanners, often involving assisting rangers during peak periods, with tasks such as greeting guests, providing information and answering questions. While many positions are short term, there are also longer caretaker host positions in some places, with a bit more responsibility thrown in.
Other positions can involve helping out with general park maintenance, weed control, fencing, painting, walking track patrols, and doing flora and fauna surveys.
A FARMER’S FRIEND
Every year farmers risk their livelihoods to bring food to our tables, and when the weather (or markets) play merry havoc, the ‘give back’ from our community means a great deal.
Uniting Church charity, Frontier Services, manages several volunteer programs, which connect farmers in need with capable volunteers. In fact, when I caught up with operations manager Glenn Price, he was in the Gawler Ranges inspecting four properties prior to the arrival of a working party of corporate volunteers. During this planning phase, the team assesses the skills required, determines the suitability of the shared on-site accommodation, and creates mud maps to ensure safe passage for the group.
If you’re travelling in an RV, Glenn suggests the Outback Links program, where farmers and would be volunteers apply online. The service is free for all participants, and provides volunteering opportunities Australia-wide and all year round.
Glenn says Outback Links volunteers typically spend between five to 10 days assisting at a location, where meals and space to park an RV are usually supplied. Although you can donate your trade expertise or knowledge as an engineer, possessing a particular specialisation isn’t essential.
“We try to match up the volunteers’ skills with where they’d like to go … the jobs can be looking after the property, or kids, and doing house-hold duties that allow the farmer to get on with doing what he or she needs to do,” explains Glenn.
The program is making a real difference to farmer well-being, too, with volunteer-built exclusion fences out in Longreach saving properties from the devastation caused by roos, and livestock vulnerable to killer dogs, with the help of the local regional council.
For more information: www.outbacklinks.com.au
Tags: Community Volunteer Help Regional Urban Country Alice Springs Beanie Festival Farina National Parks Farm Hand Gawler Ranges
Written: Wed 01 Nov 2017
Printed: November, 2017
ALI MILLAR AND RACHAEL DOHERTY