The Spirit of the Volunteer

The 2001 Henry Bolte Lecture by The Hon. Peter Costello MP I still rank as one of the most insightful speeches of modern Australian politics. I quote an extract:

I can remember that under some Whitlam scheme the Government began building community centres in local areas. Now, I have nothing against community centres and believe that fine facilities for games and meetings is a good thing. But there are community halls and mechanics institutes and CWA halls in country towns all across Australia. I’ll bet that in the early days the citizens in the community came together and built them, physically built them, laid foundations and put up the frame and nailed on the boards. And in later years the community would come together and fundraise and employ a builder to build them. And I’ll warrant that if there wasn’t a community before the construction started there certainly was after the locals had spent hours together at fetes and raffles and pie drives, working together to realise a common goal which they owned.

And then the Government began building community centres. And this was no doubt on the theory that if you built a centre a community would materialise to fill it. If you build it they will come. Individuals can build buildings but I don’t know that buildings can build individuals and their relationships. Individuals with a sense of personal responsibility and a shared experience and a commitment beyond themselves build a community.

Read the whole thing. Seriously.


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