National Volunteer Week 2021: Expanded stories

21 May 2021

Meet Tom from Brisbane

Tom is one of our newest volunteers, having been with us for only a few months. He volunteers with our Library Officers to complete a range of tasks.

How did you decide to start volunteering for VA?

I decided to look for volunteer opportunities after recently moving from Sydney to Brisbane.

I have done volunteering in the UK and in Sydney and really enjoyed the experience. It’s a great way to help others, meet new people and learn new things.

I am also studying for a Master of Information Studies (Librarianship) Degree, so when I found the library volunteer position at Vision Australia, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity. I was lucky enough to be offered the role, which I am really enjoying.

Describe the role you volunteer in? What do you do?

My volunteer role is based in the braille library at Vision Australia.

I try to go into the library two mornings per week to assist the Library Officer with the loans and returns. It is quite a big job with lots of books going in and out of the library every week. 

I try to help in other ways such as tidying the shelves and with the cataloguing of new books. The Library Officer is very supportive and knowledgeable and guides me in the right direction.

What are some of the things you enjoy most in your volunteer role?

I am really enjoying learning new skills. There is so much to learn in this new role, and I am trying to soak it all in. 

I am also enjoying learning about the different support services that Vision Australia offers. It is a very nice place to work with a great atmosphere and friendly staff members. It is also a great way to get to know my new local area as it is very close to where I live.

Outside volunteering, what do you do?

I currently work in the area of mental health which I really enjoy.

I have also worked in the area of disability support for many years and have done various jobs in the media industry with the BBC in the UK and in drama production with Mersey TV UK. 

My previous study consists of a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Bachelor of Social Science. I really enjoy meeting new people and learning new things. That is why I keep studying and building upon my skills. 

My permanent job keeps me very busy, but I do try to find time to meet with friends and to keep active with cycling and by going to the gym.

What is it that drives you to continue volunteering?

I enjoy volunteering; it is a great way to help others and it has a different dynamic than working in a paid role. It is great to work hard in a position without having the extra responsibilities that a permanent role requires.

I would like to keep on learning and volunteering for such a positive organisation as Vision Australia as it does so much good work.

What would you say to someone considering volunteering?

Volunteering is a really rewarding experience and is a really great way to meet others, learn new things and help other people.

I would definitely recommend volunteering with Vision Australia. There are plenty of opportunities to choose from.


Meet Julie

In 2018 we launched the Seeing Eye Dogs Walk of Fame to recognise and celebrate the contribution of volunteers who have been involved with Seeing Eye Dogs for more than 10 years.

Each year in May, to coincide with National Volunteer Week, we hold a special morning tea with our 10+ years volunteers, where we unveil their named volunteer paver on the Seeing Eye Dogs Walk of Fame.

This year, the event was held on 18 May.

Julie is one of the volunteers who will have a paver on the Walk of Fame unveiled this year to celebrate 10 years of involvement with SED as a Puppy Carer.

How did you become a Seeing Eye Dogs puppy carer?

We had recently lost our dog after serious illness. We decided it was too heartbreaking to get another dog and maybe have to go through something like that again.

Our daughter-in-law’s mother, who works for Vision Australia, asked us to look after a puppy for a few weeks… and here we are 10 years later!

What do you do as a puppy carer?

I am a Golden Retriever specialist so most of the puppies I have cared for have been Golden Retrievers who can be quite different to look after compared with a Labrador.

We get the puppy at eight weeks old. There are guidelines we have to follow. Mostly, we have to make sure the puppy has plenty of socialisation and receives basic training.

I can take the puppy with me to lots of different places, like visiting my parents in their nursing home, to help the dog become used to a range of different environments and situations.

What do you enjoy most about puppy caring?

The satisfaction of seeing a dog achieving good outcomes is one of the greatest things about being a Puppy Carer.

Seeing each dog’s different successes is so rewarding; some don’t make it as Seeing Eye Dogs but go on to be trained for other great roles.

They are just such beautiful dogs! I love them. They have a lovely nature and are really easy to live with.

People say to me, “how can you give them back?” but for me it’s easy. Of course, there are lots of emotions but I’m so proud of each dog and when I hear what they go on to do, I feel so much satisfaction and joy that these dogs are out there helping people in the community.

I am also part of a big group of puppy carers where I’ve met so many nice people who have the same sort of ideals as me and have become my lifelong friends.

Advice to anyone considering becoming a puppy carer

Have a go! Being a puppy carer is the best thing I’ve ever done!

We were heartbroken when we had to put our last dog down. I’d much rather give them back and see what they go on to achieve.

You get a lot of support both from Seeing Eye Dogs and the other puppy carers and are never alone. 


Meet Arnold from Perth

Arnold is one of our Vision Australia Radio volunteers based in Perth.

If you’ve tuned into VAR, you’ll probably be familiar with his voice but now it’s time to find out about the man behind the microphone; his volunteer journey and why he loves his role!

How long have you volunteered for Vision Australia Radio?

This is my 20th year of volunteering with VA Radio and its Perth predecessor Information Radio. At both Adrian Street and the Rosslyn Street studios, I enjoyed sharing the accommodation with the Seeing Eye Dog trainers and their loveable, furry protégés.

How did you decide to start volunteering?

One day in 2001, my wife Joan drew my attention to a call in the local newspaper for volunteers to read to vision impaired and print handicapped listeners.

Tell us about the role you volunteer in? What do you do?

I joined the early morning readers who presented The Australian and The West Australian in a two-and-a-half-hour program.  We may be volunteers but we work at delivering a professional program.

Have you always volunteered in the same roles or have these changed over time?

I became a Tuesday morning newsreader because of other commitments. 

Vision Australia Radio Perth launched in 2015. I kept my regular Tuesday shift but also became the Panel Operator on Thursday mornings for the next 15 months. Panelling gave me an opportunity to ad lib and to help train successors.

At our predecessor organisation, a fun challenge came when management asked Linda Attikiousel and myself to create a format for presenting the Australian Financial Review. This was in use until we became part of VAR who had its own version which was being broadcast from Melbourne.

What are some of the things you enjoy most in your volunteer roles?

It has to be the people we volunteer for who rely upon us being at our microphones in time to tell them the things that they could not hear otherwise. I’ve met and talked with some of our listeners at various functions.

It’s also the people we volunteer with – the former school teachers, office staff, accountants, lawyers, car dealers, petrol station operators, civil celebrants, naval officers, shop assistants, psychiatrists, psychologists, priests and public servants to name some of the professionals that I’ve teamed up with – who each brought their own individual, specialised knowledge and life experience to enhance the way we presented our programs.

I enjoy the challenge of presenting news and information in a way that is clear and meaningful.

Underlying all of what we do at VA Radio, is “print equity” – that is, people who have a vision impairment or a reading handicap are entitled to have access to the same material that the rest of us often take for granted.

What is it that drives you to continue volunteering for VA?

The work itself is intellectually challenging, personally satisfying and frequently lots of fun. There is always something new to master. 

20 years ago, I was reading pages scissored from a newspaper. Now, in 2021, we still use printed material but there is access to continuously updating stories from the internet plus news headlines feeding in from our local ABC.

20 years ago, we relied upon sharing a copy of an ageing ABC pronunciation guide. Now we have at our fingertips all the resources of the internet, plus some of us carry smart phones with pronouncing apps.

What changes have you seen in the organisation over time?

20 years ago, when I joined Information Radio, it was broadcasting from an old converted house. 

Today, our VAR studio is state of the art and Vision Australia Radio itself is a network with studios in mainland capital cities and regional centres. Perth is part of this network and we hope soon to be contributing more content to the national network.

What would you say to someone who is considering volunteering?

If it’s radio you are interested in, I’d say go and tune your wireless to Vision Australia Radio. Listen for a bit and then ask yourself: Have I got the enthusiasm and the desire to meet a need in our community?

Then pick up the phone to your local VAR station and arrange to go and take a look at what goes on behind the scenes. Maybe even try an audition and learn some media skills. 

The greater organisation delivers an extensive range of services and products to clients and their families (not overlooking the annual Carols by Candlelight). Have a look at the VA website and see the very many areas where volunteers are welcome – which includes people who can ride a bicycle!

No one expects you to stick around for twenty years like me.  Whatever it is that you find you can help out with, give it a go – it will be appreciated!


For more information about our volunteering opportunities, please visit this link.