I have heard a variety of views about city growth in my time on Council and what it would mean for Dubbo in the long run. Generally, most people are keen for Dubbo to continue to grow and attract new and improved facilities and services, but one of the many risks a growing community presents to its residents is that we lose our small country town feel. Sometimes people tell me the reason they choose to live in the villages surrounding Dubbo is because those communities still have a strong sense of community, whereas they believe Dubbo is starting to lose that charm.

As our City grows there is an inherent risk of losing that close-knit community feel, but I don’t believe Dubbo is anywhere near that point yet and one of the indicators – which I often point to – is our volunteer numbers. Dubbo City Council alone has over 320 volunteers across our various functions, which is a significant number for a City with a population of 41,211. I have discovered through my travels around the state, when I will often quiz other Councils about the level of volunteering in their communities, that it is not unusual for Councils – much larger than Dubbo – to have volunteer numbers in the order of 20 or 30. Some Councils can’t attract any volunteers. When you start to consider that, in addition to the volunteers we have for Council, we in Dubbo have an incredible number of people giving their time to other functions. Taronga Western Plains Zoo has more than 100 volunteers and then the numbers start to run into the thousands when you consider the service clubs, sporting clubs, community events, P&F associations and fundraising events around the City. One of the strongest signs of a close-knit community is how involved its residents are – and there is no argument that Dubbo’s residents are incredibly involved and passionate about our community. In addition to the number of volunteers, we seem to have incredible diversity among them. At a recent function to thank some of our volunteers, I met retired people in their 80s who were quite happy to be volunteering alongside a teenager still at school. I saw retired tradesmen toiling next to doctors and university professors who are still working 40+ hours in their normal jobs.

The other aspect that impresses me is how many hours these people commit to their work. I opened the Mugga Hill trail last weekend and it was estimated that 200+ hours of community volunteer work had gone into that one project. I recently attended a committee meeting of the Dubbo Stampede Running Festival and it will likely take some 500 hours of volunteer work over the next six months before the inaugural event is held on 2 September this year. It becomes clear that the strength of Dubbo’s community spirit is not hindered by the City’s growth, but rather it is nurtured and spurred on by it. Just think of the number of community-run events held in Dubbo – DREAM Festival, Jazz Festival, Touch Footy Country Championships, the list goes on – it is easy to see that our residents easily run up tens of thousands of volunteer hours for the betterment of our community. I once asked a government official if they had ever actually costed the benefits to the community of volunteering – the answer was that the number would be so large it would scare the pants off governments!

Dubbo is in an incredibly lucky position; we are a large enough City to have excellent services and facilities; we have our TAFE, good schools and two universities; we have an airport that has one of the best frequencies of any regional airport in the state (with 136 services each week); we have cultural and theatrical facilities that many metropolitan areas would love; we have sporting fields that are second-to-none – and yet we still have an undeniable sense of community spirit and the charm of a small country town. The real challenge as we continue to grow is not to lose that, and with our high volunteer numbers I believe we are well placed to retain our sense of community while continuing to grow and gain additional services for our City.

I encourage everyone I see to volunteer in some way – not only does it help our overall community but there are benefits for the individual in terms of social interaction and personal and professional development. And visitors to our City love to see the passion that comes through when they see a volunteer. One of the most successful volunteering campaigns in history was the volunteer army at the Sydney Olympics – I know my Mum was a volunteer at those Olympics and the experience of attendees was incredibly enhanced by the army of friendly volunteers. I believe that Dubbo presents a similar image with our great team of volunteers working to promote this City.

Tell me what your favourite volunteering activity is at mayor@dubbo.nsw.gov.au

Clr Mathew Dickerson

Mayor of the City of Dubbo


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