Volunteering and its surprising benefits

Lisette Malatesta

The East Melbourne Group (EMG) is an incorporated residents’ group that works to connect the community of East Melbourne and Jolimont and to protect and improve its heritage and amenity.

When you pass through East Melbourne and see neighbours stopping in the street for a chat, enjoy its manicured gardens or admire the breadth of picturesque period architectural styles – know that it is not an accident, but the result of 70 years of community activism by dedicated EMG volunteers. The benefits of the EMG volunteers’ efforts are self-evident, but the benefits of being a volunteer are immeasurable. The heightened sense of belonging, which is gained from being part of a community residents’ group such as EMG, transports us back to a time when we lived in villages and worked together to find solutions.

All residents are encouraged to get involved. Links to local residents’ groups can be found on the City of Melbourne website at melbourne.vic.gov.au/residents/Pages/resident-groups.aspx

Volunteering in a community residents’ group, such as EMG, allows you to participate in the positive shaping of your neighbourhood, but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer.

In a society which is becoming increasingly digitised and isolated, volunteering can help you connect, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. Dedicating your time as a volunteer develops your social skills and can introduce you to new lifelong friends. Existing relationships can also be strengthened, as you commit to this shared activity together. Volunteering is a great way to meet your neighbours, especially if you are new to an area. It galvanises your ties to the community and broadens your practical and emotional support network, exposing you to people with common interests, your local resources, and interesting and fulfilling activities.

The EMG volunteers participate in any of our seven sub-committees; social, heritage & planning, parks & gardens, amenities, governance, membership or communications – so there is bound to be at least one facet that sparks your passion. These sub-committees meet regularly to prioritise and action their tasks at hand, such as; assessment of a proposed development or demolition application, coordination of community events, pursuit of rectification or new works to the urban infrastructure, etc. This is then followed by the monthly committee meeting where sub-committee convenors can report their progress and seek direction from the group.

Volunteering doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment, nor take a huge amount of your time, but gives you an outlet to apply your skills whilst contributing to your own mental health and happiness.

Even helping out with the smallest tasks can make real difference to the team. New skills can be learnt and existing ones cultivated, as you direct your efforts to an area of interest and community benefit. For instance, if your vocation is in human resources, you can raise awareness for your group’s member base as a volunteer, while further developing and improving your social media, communication, and public relations skills. If you’re considering a new career, volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest and meet people in the field. Even if you’re retired, volunteering gives you the opportunity to continue to practice important skills once used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management and organisation.

The EMG collaborative team comprises individuals from diverse backgrounds at different stages of work and family life. As the demographic of our suburb continues to evolve, so does our volunteer profile and our methods for implementing action – but the ethos remains constant; to continue to protect and enhance the place we love to live.

For information on how you can be involved as a volunteer or member please contact the East Melbourne Group •

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