Volunteering, it’s a way of life in The Alice

2639 volunteers OK

 

Part of the crowd celebrating Volunteer Week last Wednesday.

 

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

It might be fair to say that Alice Springs has about three times as many volunteers as people because everyone has three volunteer jobs.

 

“It’s a town of many hats,” says Hannah Maljcov, the regional coordinator of Voluntering NT.

 

Her best guess is that 20,000 individuals in Central Australia “give their time willingly without financial gain” – the definition of a volunteer.

 

Plus there are some who do their stuff without official recognition.

 

The tasks range from being a member of the Nappie Collective (seeking donations of nappies and giving them to women who can’t afford or access them), to running the Masters Games which bring thousands of people into town and require 700 volunteers.

 

People serving on numerous boards and committees are also volunteers, from the bridge club to thundering about fracking and other vocal political activist groups.

 

Ms Maljcov says people with emergency services save lives, other simply make Alice a close-knit town by entertaining and informing.

 

The National Transport Hall of Fame attracts thousands of truckies from ’round the nation for conventions. The Purple House has people chatting with patients during dialysis.

 

The Finke famously has about 350 volunteers and one paid employee and has turned a week-end ride of a few off-road bikers into an international event attracting hundreds of competitors on two and four wheels.

 

Some of the estimated 200 groups here are incorporated and have insurance. Some are informal, coming together spontaneously.

 

Ms Maljcov says the need for paperwork is a growing issue, and with part of the population still transient, the red tape sometimes takes longer than the stay in town of a would-be volunteer.

 

The Ochre Card for dealing with children is an example of such a barrier.

 

Ms Maljcov says while volunteers are not paid, their management is as important and complex as in a commercial operation.

 

Another problem in Alice Springs is that some people here are in demanding jobs, leaving no time for outside activities.

 

 

 

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