Our volunteers are far less replaceable than our politicians | OPINION

REPLACEABLE: The removal of politicians doesn't cause the country to grind to a halt. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen
REPLACEABLE: The removal of politicians doesn't cause the country to grind to a halt. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen

The past fortnight or so has been a dizzying ride through what appears to be a showcase of undesirable behaviour. 

Sadly, none of the antics and trashy reality show behaviour in Canberra has really surprised much of the population. It merely highlighted what happens when our “representatives” are professional politicians, and their advisers marketing graduates.  

I'm sure the unrest is far from over. The problems are still there – only the names have changed – and the priority is far from governing the nation for the future. After all, plans and policies, especially on a federal level, are made for the duration between elections. And our representatives are securing their professions, not representing the average man in the street.

Putting this simplistic cynicism aside, it is reassuring to note that despite the sudden change in Prime Minister, and the startling turnover in ministers with portfolios, the nation has continued on as if nothing has changed, including here in Hepburn Shire.

Even a scheduled visit to Indonesia proceeded, essential services continued, there was food on supermarket shelves, the power was no more unreliable and everything else continued on in its usual incompetent and frustratingly poor way. Nothing ground to a halt, and the stock market didn't crash. 

Why? Well, surely that is obvious, the important business Australia conducts with the rest of the world is handled by public servants, as are important domestic services. Policies may well be decided upon by politicians, but the removal of the politicians themselves doesn't actually cause the country itself to grind to a halt.

Matters important to the smooth(ish) running of a community also often don't come under the jurisdiction of councillors. 

In so many respects, elected representatives (who usually are, with a few exceptions, true representatives of their communities) are tied by a multitude of obsolete, counterproductive, and often contradictory, regulations and bylaws. 

Councillors' terms are fairly short, and once again it is the public servants who are really running the day to day affairs of a shire. What kind of a job I believe is being done in Hepburn Shire I shall keep to myself, but every day I am grateful for the multitude of volunteers who make all of our lives so much better.

Everywhere I turn throughout Daylesford, I see the hand of volunteers, working either as part of a greater organisation or as part of a smaller community group.  Volunteers drive the buses for our nursing homes, visit residents, deliver meals on wheels to locals, run craft groups and perform and play music for residents.  Volunteers run the several meal services, giving anyone who turns up much needed food or a meal and some company. Volunteers run the op shops, make bedding for the slowly increasing rough sleepers in town, run free transport services so carless folk can make medical services. Volunteers run the Men's Shed, a place of support and fellowship for so many men. Volunteers put on our art show, our ChillOut fest, the Swiss Italia Festival and the New Year's Eve Parade. The list goes on and on, and for every need in the community, there is someone willing to meet it.

I challenge each of you reading this to think of how volunteers touch your life, probably each and every day. 

Consider too, that if volunteers carried on like politicians, absolutely sod-all would be done. Volunteers do what they do out of a love for community, the desire to leave a positive mark on the world, simply because a job needs to be done or –  judging by some of the volunteers I have met in this region – because there are such things as saints.

Those who contribute most tend to be the quietest, and are more concerned about getting the job done than postulating. Were federal politics conducted in such a manner this would be a very different nation.

Although our current crop of ministers leaves me fearful, the volunteers I have met here in Hepburn Shire leave me inspired to be a better person. And for that I thank each and every one.