City of Newcastle volunteers who have assisted the community through environmental, museum and art gallery programs have been recognised for their hard work and dedication over the past 12 months.

More than 300 City of Newcastle volunteers were treated to a special morning tea at Fort Scratchley. Photo source: City of Newcastle.

Coinciding with National Volunteer Week, more than 300 volunteers were treated to a special morning tea at Fort Scratchley on May 20, appreciating the countless hours they’ve dedicated to the city.

Deputy Lord Mayor, Declan Clausen, said City of Newcastle was fortunate to have hundreds of selfless volunteers who contributed to building and strengthening the community. 

“On behalf of the City of Newcastle, I’d like to thank all of our volunteers for their incredible contributions to our city,” Cr Clausen said. 

“Today is about recognising and acknowledging the work they do across Newcastle, whether they are helping out at our facilities, assisting at events, sharing their expertise in a community group, or caring for our precious native wildlife and the natural environment.

“The theme for National Volunteer Week 2022 is ‘better together’, and this certainly rings true in Newcastle as we work together for the betterment of our community.” 

Newcastle volunteers lend their time, knowledge and skills at council facilities and various locations across the city, including Newcastle Libraries, Newcastle Museum, Newcastle Art Gallery, Fort Scratchley, Civic Playhouse and Landcare sites. 

They provide support to ensure the success of major events such as the New Annual festival and contribute their knowledge and expertise to committees and community groups throughout the year.  

Ron Stanton, who swapped his newfound retirement in 2014 for volunteer guide work at Newcastle Art Gallery, was among those who attended the morning tea. 

“Frankly, I knew very little about art when I started out as a guide seven years ago, but I had a curiosity to learn more about art, and the opportunity presented itself,” Stanton said. 

“The personal reward has been in learning and then guiding visitors on their own voyage of art appreciation and discovery.”

He revealed that despite the temporary closure of Newcastle Art Gallery during its expansion, his volunteer team have continued to meet, learn, plan and explore social media pathways and prepare for the re-opening. 

“The first volunteer guides started at Newcastle Art Gallery 50 years ago,” Stanton said.

“The expansion presents a new chapter and fresh opportunity for volunteer guides, the city and, most importantly, for the visitor.

“It’s nice to be able to be a part of that.” 

Local woman, Sue Milles, who volunteers at Blackbutt Reserve kiosk, said what started as a six-week trial turned into 26 years of service caring for wildlife and assisting visitors. 

“A love of animals brought me to Blackbutt Reserve, and I fell in love with the place instantly,” Milles said. 

“I was recovering from a serious illness at the time, and it gave me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”

While Milles started out feeding animals, weeding gardens and cleaning animal enclosures, she now volunteers at the kiosk two days per week.

She said the job allows her to talk to visitors about the wildlife at the reserve and share information on key visitor attractions such as feeding times.
“It’s wonderful to see tourists starting to return since the start of the pandemic, particularly international tourists,” Milles said.

“Yesterday, I was chatting to a couple from England and a man from Poland… I just love who I get to meet whilst volunteering.” 

Volunteering Australia said National Volunteer Week was an opportunity to celebrate and recognise the vital work of volunteers.

“Volunteering brings people together; it builds communities and creates a better society for everyone,” it said.

“Together, through volunteering, we are changing communities for the better. We are, better together.”

City of Newcastle is accepting expressions of interest for new volunteering opportunities on its website

Maia O’Connor