Fairfield matters with Guy Zangari: Volunteering is essential to our community

Fairfield MP Guy Zangari and St John Ambulance Fairfield Superintendent Abnob Putros at the official opening of the newly refurbished training facility.

Fairfield MP Guy Zangari and St John Ambulance Fairfield Superintendent Abnob Putros at the official opening of the newly refurbished training facility.

Volunteers are the very backbone that support our local community. Volunteering is ingrained in our nation's DNA and it is a calling that is heeded by many skilled and selfless men and women. I am most proud when I see young people assuming the role of volunteers knowing that giving their time and effort to help others is a hugely rewarding experience.

Unfortunately, this unwavering dedication can sometimes result in the tragic loss of life. During the summer 2019/20 bushfires, the Fairfield community mourned the loss of two very brave NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers from the Horsley Park Brigade. Our community will be externally grateful for the contribution, dedication and ultimate sacrifice given to NSW by fallen volunteers Geoff Keaton and Andrew O'Dwyer. May they Rest in Peace.

The importance of volunteering is paramount to the operation of a number of groups and services throughout the Fairfield electorate. Local volunteering can be seen in: Religious and Secular Charities, Returned Ex-Services Personnel (Veterans) Support, Emergency Services, ; Food Services, Sports Clubs, and Associations, Arts and Culture, Elderly and Disability Support, Homeless Support, Health, Environmental, Fundraising, Indigenous and Refugee/Migrant Settlement Services.

These areas are all key components to ensuring our community functions in a manner that best addresses the needs of all its residents. The role of volunteers in all these areas is pivotal. Without their continued support and commitment, I have no doubt service delivery would be compromised impacting on the greater community.

My discussions with local volunteering organisations have revealed that when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the nation, volunteers could not give of their time as freely as they would have liked to. This impacted the most vulnerable people in our local community in more ways than one as organisations found it difficult to reach out and assist people with the support and care they required. This is mostly attributable to the COVID-19 restrictions, particularly the social distancing requirements and the overall health of the volunteers, many of whom are elderly themselves.

No local community can survive without the hands of assistance from its volunteers. In spite of this, volunteer groups receive little to no government funding. This means that for the most part, their facilities are outdated and require significant funding for capital works upgrades to bring them into line with current WHS requirements. But whatever the conditions, volunteers keep carrying on. Local fundraising and generous donations from benefactors makes a significant difference however, this has become all the more scarce in the current COVID-19 crisis.

I recently had the privilege and honour to officially open the newly refurbished training facilities of St John Ambulance, Fairfield. The upgrades were made possible by a $71,000 grant from the NSW Community Building Partnerships Funding program. This program is especially designed for the upgrade of facilities of volunteering and non-government organisations and it is a great way for organisations to access funding and improve their facilities for the optimal delivery of services.

I take this opportunity to thank all local volunteers who often put the needs of others ahead of their own. I acknowledge each and every one of you and encourage you to keep up the amazing work you do. As a community, we cannot continue to thrive without you. I would like to pay particular tribute to St John Ambulance volunteers who are now assisting NSW Health in the testing for COVID-19.