Today I would like to speak about two volunteer initiatives that are doing wonderful things for lonely and socially isolated individuals and aged care residents in my Bonner electorate. These initiatives are funded through the Federal Government’s Community Visitors Scheme. One auspice is run by the Wynnum Baptist Church; the other by Anglicare Southern Queensland.

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with Sarah Konovalenko, Anglicare’s Community Visitor Scheme Coordinator, to discuss their work. I also joined Wynnum Baptist Church last weekend to celebrate their 25 years of service through the scheme. I’ve always known how vital these services are in our community, especially in Bonner which has a number of elderly residents. But hearing stories firsthand and meeting people who have benefitted from the scheme really drove home for me the difference volunteer visitors make every day.

The Community Visitors Scheme matches volunteer visitors to individuals living in the community or small groups of residents of aged care facilities. Volunteers visit recipients for around an hour per fortnight to provide companionship through social interaction, conversation and shared interests. The great thing about the scheme is that volunteer visitors are simply regular people willing to give their time to become a companion, confidante and friend to older Australians in need.

For giving such a small amount of their time every fortnight, these volunteers make a huge difference to the quality of life of visit recipients. Volunteer visits increase recipients’ sense of wellness and belonging within their community, while reducing the risk of social isolation and loneliness.

I congratulate Wynnum Baptist Church for 25 years operating the Community Visitors Scheme in our local area. Thanks to their Scheme Coordinator Johanne Cook for inviting me to their celebration last weekend. I heard so many lovely stories from volunteers and residents that illustrate just how vital the scheme is and the benefits it brings to our community.

One volunteer, just 18 years old, was matched with a resident who’d had a stroke and was unable to be managed at home. The resident was very organised and had previously been a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War. The young visitor was told the most marvellous stories from this war veteran, stories the young man will have with him forever. The relationship was very much a benefit to them both. The young man listened intently and the resident enquired about what he was doing, why he was doing it, what his ambitions were, how he was going at uni, and so on. Lives shared, how amazing!

I applaud the selfless volunteers of the Community Visitors Scheme. I would also like to invite locals in my electorate to consider signing up to the scheme. There is a growing need within our community and residential aged care facilities for the services volunteer visitors provide. The Community Visitors Scheme is one of the most worthy volunteer initiatives I’ve been involved with and I encourage those interested in joining to contact my office for more details.

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