To celebrate all the people who volunteer their time to help across the country, we spoke to some of the not-for-profit organisations around Australia who rely on volunteers to make a world of difference.
First, we speak to Terrie-Anne from Clean Up Australia, an organisation devoted to keeping our country free of pollution. Clean Up started in 1989 when founder Ian Kiernan AO called on the people of Sydney to join him to Clean Up Sydney Harbour.
What is Clean Up’s mission?
Twenty years ago, Australians created just over 460kg of rubbish per person per year. Today, it’s grown to more than 2,700kg, starting from the day we are born. That’s a lot of rubbish to manage. Our mission is to inspire and empower communities to clean up, fix up and conserve our environment.
Clean Up inspires and empowers communities to clean up, fix up and conserve our environment.
Why was Clean Up started?
Clean Up was started in response to the growing amount of rubbish accumulating in our environment due to poor disposal behaviour. Our founder Ian experienced this directly when sailing solo around the world, and recorded the rubbish gathering in current-driven man-made islands These collections of marine debris are also known as garbage patches or marine vortexes. It was at this time that Ian predicted that plastic would become the single most problematic rubbish item of our generation – a prediction which has, unfortunately, come true.
In 1990 the annual Clean Up Australia Day was born as a national event. In 1993 the campaign went global under the banner of Clean Up the World.
We work with business, government and communities to reduce the likelihood of that rubbish ending up in our environment, diverting what can be recycled from landfill and removing what is littered or illegally dumped by less responsible people.
How many volunteers do you rely on at the moment?
Clean Up is owned and led by community desire to make a difference. Annually we attract over 750,000 volunteers to take part in year-round clean-up action.
Within our office, we have a team of between three and five volunteers who work with us throughout the year on various projects providing data entry, statistical analysis, graphic design and administrative assistance.
Why do you need volunteers to help your NFP?
Since 1990, when we had the first national event, 17.7 million Australians have taken to streets, parks, beaches, bushland and waterways, donating more than 35 million hours, and removing the equivalent of 365 thousand ute loads [tonnes] of rubbish from more than 185,000 locations across the country.
Without their efforts that rubbish would still be there!
And in our office, our volunteers provide skilled assistance to our small paid team of two full-time and two part-time staff.
If you had more volunteers what would you do with them?
Our volunteers identify where rubbish is accumulating near them – they are the eyes of their community and the hands that make a real difference – every day of the year.
Unfortunately, there’s always a need for more community-based action, whether it’s cleaning up, or encouraging neighbours to take simple actions such as refusing a plastic bag while shopping or replacing single-use bottles of water with a reusable bottle filled from the tap.
Who is the most memorable volunteer you’ve had and why?
Our most memorable volunteer is Austin Kim – the leader of a group of up to 100 people who join together once a month to clean up a section of their local river. They recently celebrated 15 years of monthly action. That’s a huge effort!