“Something for Everyone” this National Volunteer Week

The Centre marked the beginning of National Volunteer Week with the 2024 National Volunteer Week Forum. An annual event held at NSW Parliament House, this year saw dozens of volunteers, volunteer leaders and supporters of the sector come together to celebrate and reflect on the importance of volunteering.

National Volunteer Week is a time when where can move beyond the platitudes and really shine a light on some of the serious stuff that is going on in Volunteering – CEO Gemma Rygate

It was an honour to hear from powerful voices in the community. This is what they had to share:

2024 National Volunteer Week Forum, NSW Parliament House“We can always do and be better”

CEO Gemma Rygate with Uncle Michael West

CEO Gemma Rygate with Uncle Michael West

Teachings, Traditional names and totems. Uncle Michael West from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council presented a beautiful Welcome to Country for the 2024 National Volunteer Week Forum, shar

ing First Nations knowledge and reflecting on some of the challenges our communities have faced in recent years.

“It’s been a difficult period,” he said. “We should all have a bit more love in our hearts.”

Despite some of the setbacks, Uncle Michael expressed a positive attitude, while identifying the need for good leadership, “which is about sympathy and empathy,” to overcome these challenges.

“Let’s all work for each other and our communities,” he shared, highlighting the importance of volunteering in achieving this goal.

“Volunteering should be for everyone”

CEO Gemma Rygate welcomed guests to the 2024 National Volunteer Week Forum, sharing that this year marks 35 years of celebrating National Volunteer Week.

Reflecting on the theme, “Something For Everyone,” she acknowledged that there can be barriers to volunteering. “Volunteering should be for everyone and we need to keep encouraging that thought. It should be available to anyone who wants to participate as it carries our communities in so many ways.”

With this in mind, Ms. Rygate celebrates Volunteering as a “uniquely Australian” value. “There is a volunteering role to suit anyone, no matter their experiences or interests.”

“Volunteering is intrinsic to the fabric of our society”

The Hon. Jodie Harrison MP, Minister Responsible for Volunteering, discussed the diversity of volunteer work and opportunities. “Community services, sport, health, education, aged care, veterans, arts, culture, heritage, emergency services – there is something for all of those aspects,” she said.

The Hon. Jodie Harrison MP with CEO Gemma Rygate

The Hon. Jodie Harrison MP with CEO Gemma Rygate

“Volunteering can reduce social isolation, improve health and wellbeing, create great life experiences, and enable people to develop meaningful friendships, all while learning new skills.”

While volunteering can offer many benefits to volunteers, it is also integral to communities across the state. “We would not be where we were if not for the work, the hours, the hard slog, the passion of volunteers,” said Minister Harrison. “It is incredibly heartening and humbling to know that so many people just do it. You just get it done.”

“Volunteers can’t do it alone,” she acknowledged. “That’s why the work of The Centre for Volunteering is so important.” She was confident that the strategies that are in place have a strong vision to guide the sector.

Finally, Minister Harrison expressed her gratitude to volunteers. “You make NSW a great state to live in.”

Recognition at the 2024 National Volunteer Week Forum

Volunteer Leaders

During the Forum, 4 volunteer leaders were recognised for achieving the Certificate IV in Coordination of Volunteer Programs (CHC44015), and 2 NSW graduates were presented with their certificates by Minister Harrison. This nationally accredited training is delivered by the National School for Volunteer Management [RTO 90031], part of The Centre’s strong education program to strengthen volunteering services in Australia.

Congratulations to:

  • Belinda Holst, from HammondCare
  • Fiona MacClure, from Newcastle Legacy Services
  • Danni Alty, from Taronga Zoo
  • Priscilla Grimme, from SES Victoria

This qualification is something we think is really important because it is for volunteer leaders. It shows they value their volunteers – CEO Gemma Rygate


The 2024 National Volunteer Week Forum marks the official opening of the 2024 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards. Last year, 133,000 volunteers were recognised in New South Wales for their outstanding contributions, but CEO Gemma Rygate is hopeful to see many more nominations come through.

“The importance of the Awards, I don’t think can be stressed enough,” she said. “It really gets the message out about volunteers and the work they do and that your organisations do.”

Nominations for the 2024 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards close Friday 14 June.

“A Second Chance”: Volunteering and Mental Health

Keynote Speaker, Kate Johnston from the Suicide Prevention Network, shared her personal volunteer journey for the first time at the 2024 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards. For decades, she battled addiction and mental health issues, and reached a turning point when she started to volunteer with the P&C.

“I learnt that by giving time, I was in turn empowering myself and it became my therapy,” she said. “Volunteering replaces stress-causing emotions like loneliness and depression, reducing psychological distress.”

Through volunteering, Ms. Johnston was able to find hope, pride and lifelong connections. “The key mechanisms that link volunteering to better mental health are social inclusion and purpose.”

From her own experience, she has learnt it’s important to find the “why” when it comes to volunteers. What motivates them? She suggests storytelling circles and to “always lead with love and compassion” to help find the answer.

Volunteering wasn’t just about giving back, it was about giving myself a second chance – Kate Johnston

2024 National Volunteer Week Forum, CEO Gemma Rygate and Keynote Speaker Kate Johnston