Is local volunteering at risk of being lost?

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Group of volunteers. Photo: Rawpixel, Pixabay

Volunteer groups are at risk of disappearing within the next three decades if younger generations do not take part and help out in the community.

Former President for the Rotary Club of Bendigo, Alison Bacon, says the lack of younger people in these community groups is not just a local problem, rather it is an issue that is affecting Australia as a whole.

“It’s actually extending out into the district, Australia wide…even Rotary International have acknowledged recently that we have an ageing membership,” Bacon said.

“As such if we don’t address it and don’t do something to actively promote and encourage a younger membership base, then the service club of Rotary won’t be here in 30 or 40 years time.”

Bacon believes that community groups need to target younger generations through more direct methods, rather than using traditional and outdated recruiting techniques.

“I believe it’s important for us to create a profile within the community that shows why people might want to come and join us.”

Community groups such as these are responsible for many of the community spaces that can be seen around the country, particularly in smaller towns and suburbs.

Rotary Club volunteers during an event. Photo: Supplied by Rotary Club of Bendigo

The Eaglehawk Y Service Club is one group that once held such a large presence within the community and its development. Now they have been forced to drop their involvement in one of the biggest regional events of the year in Victoria, the Bendigo Swap Meet.

John Gregory, a member of the Y Service Club for over 45 years, says that while they have tried to draw in more and younger numbers, none seem to stay around for very long.

“The older our numbers got, the more difficult it was to do it (Swap Meet). The organisation that went into it, 4 months you’d be flat out organising it,” Gregory said.

“Our average age would be getting close to 70 … Then it’s hard to attract the young ones, they don’t want to be hanging around with the old blokes.”

Like Bacon, Gregory believes that one of the issues in modern society is the lack of knowledge and coverage that these community groups receive, claiming that most people these days would like to see some sort of return out of their volunteering.

“Years ago, the Bendigo Advertiser, everyone would buy it … The Swap Meet would be covered, this club here would be covered. Now nobody knows who we are,” he said.

After more than 30 years of being directly involved in organising large local events such as the Swap Meet, these community groups are now getting desperate for new members that can help sustain them.

If you’re interested in joining a local community volunteer group, head to Rotary Australia or Y Service Australia for more information.

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