Two in three boomers volunteer but barriers exist to stop people joining

LONDON: Whilst two in every three boomers volunteer, an increasing number of barriers are being erected to militate against the trend.

For more than 40 years, Dulcie Boag has been selling clothes and serving meals to help people experiencing homelessness in Adelaide.

After her six children had grown up and moved out, she had a desire to find something else to fill her time.

“I got older and some [of my children] left home … and I thought ‘I’ve got all of this spare time, I need to do something with that’,” the 89-year-old said.

She began helping at the Hutt St Centre to fill the void and is one of more than 951,000 people who donate their time across SA, according to a Volunteering SA&NT report.

Despite the sector contributing more than $36 billion in value to South Australia, there are still barriers which stop people from getting involved.

The State of Volunteering report found the number of volunteers dwindled because of COVID-19 restrictions but have since increased.

But the report found barriers such as not having enough time, a lack of confidence, having health issues or not knowing how to get started are still preventing more people from volunteering.

The desire to support her community led Ms Boag to help in the shop and kitchen at Hutt St Centre.

“I’ve met some wonderful people, not only as volunteers but people that participate at Hutt Street, I’ve just gained so much from being here,” she said.

“You do get a lot more than what you put in.”

Hamilton Calder, chief executive of Volunteering SA&NT, said it was important to understand the barriers to be overcome to get more people involved.

“We actually need to help those people, steer them in the direction, to find these volunteer opportunities which are absolutely out there,” he said.

In the South Australian town of Hamley Bridge, north of Adelaide, Erin Pycroft dons a Country Fire Service uniform to serve her small regional area.

At 17, Ms Pycroft has been a volunteer for the past six years and manages to juggle her duties and year 12 studies.

She started volunteering at the local fire service after a bushfire tore through the region which she calls home in 2015.

The Pinery bushfire took the lives of two people and burnt through over 85,000 hectares of land.

Ms Pycroft said it was a devastating event, but it spurred her into action.

“After that, it just made me think and be like, I want to help my community, just looking up to all the firefighters around,” she said.

“Knowing that I can help people just for nothing … it makes me feel good.”

Ms Pycroft is sure she has a lifetime of volunteering ahead of her.

“[I’ll be volunteering] as long as I can,” she said.

For people feeling any hesitancy, Ms Pycroft has a strong message.

“Face your fears, just do it,” she said.

The South Australian Minister for Human Services, Nat Cook, said the value of volunteers could not be underestimated, and work was needed to engage people facing barriers.

“Without volunteers our community wouldn’t be thriving at all, we must have volunteers participating in that volunteer ecosystem,” she said.

Ms Cook said she was heartened to see young people, like Ms Pycroft, volunteering.

“The younger generation actually wants to do something, and I think there’s a great message in that for all generations,” she said.

“We need to listen to each other and we need to work together to ensure that we break down as many barriers as we can, we include people as much as we can and we listen.”