ACROSS the Wimmera more and more young people are taking up volunteer roles in their communities.
Centre for Participation chief executive Julie Pettett said attracting younger members was essential to the longevity of sporting clubs and emergency services.
"If you want to attract young people as members, these groups need to be welcoming and accommodating to younger people," she said.
"A lot of the volunteer work young people do isn't at opportunity shops or meals on wheels, it's at their sporting clubs or emergency services on the weekends. Young people are also realising that volunteering is a great pathway into employment."
Centre for Participation has run a Young Leadership Program for six years alongside the Wimmera Sports Assembly.
The program provides young community members with the skills they need to step into leadership roles at their sporting clubs.
"It's aimed at people aged 15 to mid-20s and helps them build their understanding in sporting groups through workshops over six months. We currently have 17 young people participating and have had about 75 go through the program," Ms Pettett said.
Participants take part in a range of workshops on governance, leadership, food safety and the responsible handling of alcohol. The free program is the only one of its type in the state.
Bianca Mibus has been a devoted member of her beloved Laharum Football Netball Club her entire life. This year she became the club's senior netball director at the age of just 25. Previously she had coached at club, league and state levels.
"I have been involved in the club since I was born. My mum and dad have always been out there, and I have three older brothers who play. I've never played for anyone else," she said.
"The club is literally like one big family; it's that constant connection and feeling of support. The club does so much for you so of course you put your hand up to help and want to keep it going."
She said clubs like hers relied on volunteers to get by.
"Finding volunteers is often the hardest part, and it's often the same people who are doing it. But you hope that the younger generation are looking up to you and wanting to the same thing once they get older," she said.
"It's kind of like we're a role model for them to keep those families coming back and keep the club going. My mum was on the board too, so I look at my role as keeping the family tradition going.
"For younger members, volunteering gives them a chance to take on leadership roles and meet new people from other clubs. It also gives you a sense of pride to say that you are doing something to help."
It is essential for the region's emergency services to attract new members - whether they are young or old.
Horsham State Emergency Services volunteer and Grampians region volunteer support officer Lauren Hawkins said the organisation recently had a successful volunteer drive.
"It was specifically targeting people aged between 20 and 35. As long as people are fit enough and fit the criteria, anyone is welcome to join," she said.
"We have seen more young people be interested in joining the SES. Recently we had two new junior volunteers, and got six new members in their 20s and 30s out of the recruitment drive."
The junior group do general rescue fundamentals and general rescue training.
"We don't tend to take them out to any jobs until they are 18, because we don't want to expose them to anything traumatic, but they definitely help out in other ways. We pretty much do what the adult volunteers do, just under supervision," Ms Hawkins said.
"Once they turn 18, we can then have them come out on calls with us. We ease all new members into the organisation with a buddy system."
Year 10 student Zen Wearne has been a junior member of Horsham SES for just over a year. The 16-year-old said he was convinced by fellow member and friend Ben Woodhart to join.
"I wanted to do something for my community. I've always liked helping people out and I heard that the SES was one of the best places to do that," he said.
Zen has also been a part of other community groups in the past.
"I was in FReeZA until it disbanded, and was a part of Scouts, but left to join the SES. Young people should join emergency services to have a better aspect of what they do in the community," he said.
He said he planned to join the adult unit of the SES once he turned 18.
It's not just young members of the community who are deciding to take on volunteer roles with emergency services. Horsham SES volunteer Tammy Van Buren is in her 40s and decided to join the group in early 2017.
"I had wanted to do it for a while but life sort of got in the way. I'm a single mum with two kids, and now they're older I decided it was time for me to join," she said.
She said one of her favourite parts about being an SES volunteer was teaching the wider community about safety and what the SES does.
"I've also enjoyed being a part of the Anzac Day march, which is a great way to be a part of community. Also helping with storm clean-ups and road crash rescues, I enjoy all of it," she said.
"You have to put yourself in the right mindset when you go to emergencies. It's always confronting at first, but you've just got to do it.
"It would be great for young people to be more involved in volunteering and to take over from us when we get too old. It's also a great chance for them to learn and a great life experience for them to have."
Horsham SES Unit trains on Tuesday nights at 7pm at its building on McPherson Street.
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