Volunteering back to lend a hand

Many West Australian organisations are experiencing a return to volunteer numbers seen before the pandemic thanks to what they say is a community itching to help. 

VolunteeringWA estimates more than 600,000 people volunteer in the state, contributing $39 billion dollars to WA’s economy. 

Concerns were raised when volunteering fell by nearly 66 per cent in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic with volunteering hours dropping by 12 million hours per week. 

More than 800,000 young people, like Cassidy Kempster, volunteered nationally in 2019. Photo: Oliver Lane.

State Emergency Service WA volunteer Cassidy Kempster, 21, has volunteered with the service for five years and is just one of the many young people turning up to donate their time.

Ms Kempster volunteers by responding to structural damages around the state. The Perth local won the SES WA Youth Volunteer Award in 2022. 

Ms Kempster says volunteering has taught her many skills. 

“I’ve learnt practical skills; I’m able to fix my own house if I need to and I can be very independent with things that I need to do in daily life,” she says. 

“I can use any tool that I need to use, I can also use chainsaws, which is pretty interesting, I love using them. 

“It’s also personal skills; so communication, working in a team properly and just that spatial awareness.” 

Ms Kempster was recognised for volunteering her time at the SES. Photo: Oliver Lane.

Ms Kempster says volunteering is fulfilling.  

“Volunteering is important not just because you’re helping your community, it’s because you’re helping yourself,” she says. 

According to HealthDirect volunteering can help relieve stress, improve your sense of community and relationships around you. 

Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees general manager Alison Xamon says her charity benefits hugely from the close to 900 people volunteering roughly 225 hours of work each week. 

Volunteers help the organisation deliver emergency relief, healthcare and food services to asylum seekers, refugees and detainees in Australia. 

“We could not do what we do without our volunteers, it’s quite as simple as that,” she says. 

“We’re very lucky to have so many people who have recognised that charities are such a fantastic way for them to be part of the solution.” 

“Our volunteers are the best that Australia has to offer.” 

CARAD General Manager Alison Xamon

Sporting groups have also seen good numbers of volunteers in recent years. 

According to SportWest, 224,000 volunteers help local clubs, associations and organisations, equating to more than 21,000 full time staff.

School Sports WA manager Peter Smith says teachers have been especially generous with their time. 

“Sport relies on volunteers, in terms of teachers volunteering their time to organise teams and to participate in our competitions,” he says. 

“Volunteer numbers are looking quite good in schools, there are lots of teachers putting their hand up to coach. 

“If we don’t get people putting their hand up to coach or manage these teams, then they generally don’t go … last year we didn’t send volleyball teams because we just couldn’t find any volleyball coaches so they are crucial.” 

Cassidy Kempster believes more young people should get involved in volunteering in emergency services. 

Volunteering is something for everyone, says Ms Kempster. Video: Oliver Lane.

“It’s a lot of hard work, we’re studying full time or part time, we’re working with our families, we’ve got boyfriends and girlfriends,” she says.

“But think about how special you’re going to feel when you’re out at 3:00am in the middle of a storm helping an elderly couple who would have had no idea what to do.”