There is agreement among multiple Gunnedah charities that volunteer numbers are on the decline.

Senior volunteers who are the backbone of many local charities need to step back inevitably but not many are willing to replace them.

The Gunnedah Hospital Auxiliary has been established for decades and the money gathered from its kiosk and other fundraisers is used to purchase items the hospital needs.

Secretary Lesley Croft spoke about her own journey of joining over 10 years ago.

“I thought ‘I would rather assist my hospital because I know [my husband and I] are both going to be using it’,” she said.

“Generally speaking, people like to criticise but they do not want to get in and help. Even one day a week, one day a fortnight or one day a month.”

She believes a large problem lies with people not knowing what the hospital auxiliary does and that the kiosk exists.

She took on more responsibility over the years as volunteer numbers stretched thin.

“It is an ageing community… [volunteers] are getting to a stage where they want to enjoy their twilight years and take it a bit easier and there are no young people coming forward,” Ms Croft said.

“You can understand that too with the changes in the economy, that makes it difficult.”

Ms Croft found that other towns seem to have no issue in keeping its volunteer numbers sufficient.

“You go to certain areas and people are nearly knocking down the door to help. It is very difficult to find here and I do not know why,” she said.

Volunteering Australia released the National Strategy for Volunteering this year and it states, “there are very large differences in volunteering rates depending on where people live.”

The strategy uses information from ANUpoll surveys collected by the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods.

Formal volunteering was found to be on the decline, with many people finding the challenges of broader life holding them back.

These may include longer work hours correlating with people less likely to volunteer, work and family commitments, lack of interest, financial reasons and other factors depending on demographic groups.

Formal volunteer levels fell during the COVID period and are unlikely to return to what it was before anytime soon.

Ms Croft said that volunteering had social benefits but also found a sense of pride in what the charity achieved.

“You get to meet different people outside of your normal group,” she said.

“It gives you a bit of pride, it does for me because I know that when my husband was in hospital and the care that was given to him … I could not have faulted it.”

Some charities are choosing to help each other for fundraising events.

The recent Pink Up Gunnedah mini market was an example of how charities in the shire are finding creative ways to help each other.

Colleen Fuller was volunteering at the event and spoke in reference to the help received at the fundraiser.

“[The Gunnedah Lions Club] have got a great group and I think with volunteering the way it is we all need to work together. So we are happy to work with Meals on Wheels, Pink Up Gunnedah [and] Lions Club,” Ms Fuller said.

“We will work all together so that makes it a bit easier.

“We [had] a barbecue that the Lions Club [was] doing for us because we do not have the manpower to do it all and then Pink Up will help them on their days.”

“[The Gunnedah Lions Club] is battling to keep older volunteers because younger ones are not coming through.”

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