In a budget week when people’s worth will so often be judged by their success in making money and the financial contribution they make to the community, National Volunteer Week is a bright light.
Volunteer Week reminds us that the best of Australians do not expect to be paid money for all the benefit they bring to others, that work in which no money changes hands has a value beyond price, and that the humanity of people whose background, disadvantages and circumstances prevent them for contributing financially to the community is precious. It attracts generous people to walk with them.
People who volunteer do not scapegoat those unable to work. They believe in a fair and decent Australia. But above all they remind us that a good society is built upon good relationships between people who recognise each other’s humanity. Volunteers so often provide what systems can lack – the love that draws people to keep walking with others without hope of reward or expectation of measurable change. And from their work, of course, they receive far more from their less advantaged companions than they give.
In a brutal society Government will rely on volunteers to discharge its own duty of care to the most marginalised of society. In a decent society volunteers will encourage Government to help shape a fairer society in which the better off contribute cheerfully to the growth and sustenance of those less fortunate.
Jesuit Social Services relies on its volunteers in many ways. The young volunteers helping refugee and migrant young people with their studies inspire us by the warmth and skills they bring to their work. The volunteers from the immigrant communities who help more recent arrivals to understand Australian society and make stronger connections with it reveal to us the riches people bring to us in cultures different from our own.