Grass tree flower spikes were covered with white, honeyed bloom brushes. As we walked gently uphill through forest the pace settled into a steady rhythm. Chat. Walk. Talk. At a conglomerate rock we morning teaed. Then downhill to the turnoff from the main path into the Budawang Ranges from our starting point at Wog Wog carpark. The superb vistas from Corang Peak, prehistoric landscape of Burrumbeet Brook, the towering sandstone massifs of Mount Owen and The Castle that lay beyond the other worldly Monolith Valley were all down that main path. Our less visible trail headed off left.
This was my first time leading a walk for the group. “Corang Cascades, 15km, mostly on bushwalking tracks with some stony sections.” Cath especially and I had done quite a few walks with this group over the year. Coordinated by Andrew, who had led more than a hundred over the years and Ray who must have done way more than this even. It was a trail we had done recently and I’d done several times before. It was remote but had a decent track and was a good distance. The route led us down a rocky spine into a delightfully cool, moist creekbed.
In my “retired” life of less than a year I was still working through how best to use my time. Being time rich is such a treat, a source of wealth. With gratefulness I feel lucky to be able to afford to finish full time work. So now the balance includes having lots of time with Cath, doing some personal adventures, writing, extended family time and trying to spend some time having a positive impact on the world. Contributing. Like leading this walk for others, for the club that has provided enjoyment for us. Once a month I help out with landcare in the catchment – planting trees, erosion control etc. Vinies Night Patrol enables me to make coffees and chat with the homeless and downtrodden and lonely of Canberra also once a month. Next year we will do two weeks on a conservation property at Lake Eyre. And I coach and mentor a niece with her high school academics every Monday afternoon. I’m still looking for a way to assist with refugees and the environment in more meaningful ways but am not quite ready to jump in deeper just yet.
Another descent into a creek and ascent out of the gully. Into the heath. Hot. Scratchy. Hard to see above it. Awkward. This was the tough bit. It seemed to go on for ages.
Volunteering. Being of service to others in some way. It feels right. To balance our comfortable lifestyle. To assuage guilt for our life of “luxury” in Australia perhaps. In Australia about 30% of the population (6 million) do some kind of voluntary work, caring or contribution to society. Some stats from Volunteering Australia give a powerful picture of the generosity and commitment of Australians.
In 2010, the volunteer rates for adults by age group were:
- 18-24 years – 27%
- 25-34 years – 30%
- 35-44 years – 42%
- 45-54 years– 44%
- 55-64 years – 43%
- 65+ years – 31%
- Overall – 36.2% of the adult population.
Labour force status
In 2010, the volunteer rates for adults by labour force status were:
- Employed full time – 38%
- Employed part-time – 44%
- Unemployed – 20%
- Retired – 31%
- Others not in the labour force – 30%.
In 2010, the frequency of work done by volunteers was:
- At least once a week – 35%
- At least once a fortnight – 11%
- At least once a month – 16%
- Several times per year – 24%
- Less regularly – 14%
In 2006, Australian volunteers worked a total of 713 million hours. The median number of hours worked by each volunteer, broken down by age and gender was:
- 18-24 years – 48 hours per year
- 25-34 years – 38 hours per year
- 35-44 years – 48 hours per year
- 45-54 years – 64 hours per year
- 55-64 years – 80 hours per year
- 65-74 years – 104 hours per year
- 75-84 years – 104 hours per year
- 85 + years – figure considered unreliable
- Total for men – 52 hours per year
- Total for women – 60 hours per year
- Total for all people – 56 hours per year (or 1.1 hours per week).
Why people volunteer
In 2006, the reasons why people volunteered were:
- Help others/community – 57%
- Personal satisfaction – 44%
- Personal/family involvement – 37%
- To do something worthwhile – 36%
- Social contact – 22%
- Use skills/experience – 16%
- To be active – 16%
- Religious beliefs – 15%
- Other – 20%
The Real Economic Value of Volunteering
Dr Lisel O’Dwyer (University of Adelaide) estimated the dollar value of the contributions made by Australian volunteers in 2010, based on the average annual number of hours worked multiplied by the average wage rate. She estimated that in 2010, formal volunteering (excluding travel) was worth $25.4 billion to the Australian economy.
Notes on adjusted value: Dr O’Dwyer also argued that because the value of volunteering is attached to a multiplicity of outcomes, one hour of a volunteer’s time should be valued not just once, but several times (to account for other entities that benefit from the volunteer’s time). Based on this reasoning, she estimated an adjusted total value of volunteering in 2010 at around $200 billion (using a multiplier of 25% of the average hourly rate multiplied by four entities).
Volunteering and happiness
Volunteering Australia has compiled the following facts about volunteering and happiness:xli
- Volunteers are happier, healthier and sleep better than those who don’t volunteer – doctors should recommend it.xlii
- 96% of volunteers say that it “makes people happier.” xliii
- 95% of volunteers say that volunteering is related to feelings of wellbeing. xliv
- Volunteering results in a “helper’s high,” a powerful physical and emotional feeling experienced when directly helping others.xlv
- Just a few hours of volunteer work makes a difference in happiness and mood. xlvi
- Sustained volunteering is associated with better mental health. xlvii
- Altruistic emotions and behaviours are associated with greater well-being, health, and longevity. xlviii
- A strong correlation exists between the well-being, happiness, health, and longevity of people who are emotionally kind and compassionate in their charitable helping activities. xlix
- The experience of helping others provides meaning, a sense of self-worth, a social role and health enhancement. l
- Volunteering is highly associated with greater health and happiness. Li
Eventually we cleared the heath and made our way more easily through scribbly gum woodland. Descending in the heat of the day the sound of water tumbling over rocks slowly built. We broke out of the bush onto the river. Upstream was the large platypus pool and downstream the cascades. Shoes off. Relax. Cool feet. Photos. Lunch. A dip for a few that braved the cold. A check with Andrew’s gps confirmed that the walk was going to be longer than advertised.
Back through the heath seemed shorter on the return trek.
In the forest at the 15km mark I announced, “Since you have all been such a good walking group for no extra cost you are all eligible for the special bonus prize of an extra 3km!”
Afternoon tea back at the cars. “Thanks for leading the walk.” One small part of crafting a meaningful life falls into place.
Wog Wog carpark on the Mongarlowe Road to Corang Cascades – 18km return
The section of the Morton National Park we had been walking in had been purchased with funds from the volunteer efforts of the Budawang Committee.