Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Rod and I warmly welcome you to Government House to celebrate 30 years of Northern and Southern Volunteering delivering the Community Visitors Scheme.

I know some of you are no strangers to the House, as my distinguished predecessor, The Honourable Hieu Van Le, marked the 35th anniversary of the two organisations here with you.   Welcome back! (12 Aug 2019)

South Australia has a long tradition of volunteering.

The culture of caring in South Australia was evident to me growing up here, and, since returning, I have been struck by its strength and resilience.

As I remarked at my swearing in as Governor, South Australians have a sense of community to be proud of, exemplified by a deeply rooted culture of volunteering.

Your two organisations attest to that.

On milestone occasions such as this it is important to recognise your achievements.

Despite the enormous challenges presented by the pandemic, in the past financial year both organisations delivered a total of 3,272 individual visits to 239 residents of Aged Care Facilities.

This was achieved by 136 active volunteers.

It is also remarkable that many of the Community Visitors Scheme volunteers have been giving of themselves for more than 10 or 20 years.

I am pleased we have among us this evening Elaine Glanville, the only volunteer still with the program since it began in 1992.

Elaine, you have a heart of gold!

But the story of the achievements of your two organisations can’t be told by statistics alone.

It is the story of providing friendship, bringing joy and reducing loneliness and isolation, blights which have been described as a second pandemic.

Your story is best told in the voices of the volunteers, some of whose words I would like to share:

“We have so much in common in likes/dislikes that the resident calls us “sisters under the skin”.”

“What a hoot of a visit. Sometimes she struggled to remember a word, so we played ‘guess what I had for lunch’; we googled all sorts, and finally worked out it was an egg!”

“I took Lucy my dog, she is a regular now and the resident waits in the hallway for us to arrive...”.

You will all have heard variations on these themes.

Small things, but, at the same time, big things.

Such is the power of what you do.

I know through my own visits to nursing homes over the years that faces light up when visitors arrive, eyes become brighter and body language changes because of human contact.

Research has shown that the link between loneliness and mental decline and ill health is irrefutable.

Loneliness and isolation were already a major concern worldwide before the pandemic’s lock downs and restrictions exacerbated its effects.

The fact that you were nimble in harnessing Facetime, making telephone calls, writing letters and sending cards meant you could continue to bring joy.

The collaboration between your two organisations, one north of the city and one to the south, is an example of what can be achieved when people work towards a common goal.

Through your passion, dedication, and generosity of spirit, we are undoubtedly stronger as a community.