This week is National Volunteer Week. A time for us to acknowledge the hundreds and thousands of Australians who do their bit to ensure the country keeps ticking along.
Thankfully volunteers, especially locally, take on many forms. They are the lifeblood of numerous organisations - keeping them running.
Volunteering Australia estimates that about six million people in this country regularly put their hands up to help out in community groups. Calculations suggest that volunteers' estimated annual economic and social contribution in Australia is a whopping $290 billion.
We see these volunteers everywhere we go, from local sporting clubs to hospitals and schools, providing support and assistance that in many cases simply couldn't be bought. At pretty much any local sporting fixture on any given weekend, there will be dozens of volunteers, from the coaches and administrators to the emergency organisations like St John Ambulance Australia who are ready to help with first aid.
Think of the countless hours of training undertaken by the members of the Volunteer Rescue Squad, State Emergency Services and Rural Fire Service. Not only do they devote their time, and sometimes their own money, but they are willing to actually put themselves into potentially hazardous situations to protect others.
Even at last week's election, there were volunteers out there handing out brochures, supporting their chosen candidates - oh, and how could we forget the various school P and C workers, who feverishly kept us all fed from the barbecue or arranged cake stalls.
If you ever chat to these people and ask why they're happy to devote hours and hours to helping strangers, you're likely to be told that "someone's got to do it" or "you have to give a bit back".
We know our social structure has changed, and more people are juggling to make their work, home and social lives function. Some regional areas are seeing a decline in population as young people, particularly, move to larger centres in search of greater opportunities, and many groups are finding it hard to attract new members. Yet despite these setbacks, dedicated groups of volunteers continue to do their bit and that's why National Volunteers Week is so important - it's chance to simply say thanks. So if you aren't already involved in a voluntary organisation, get out there and join in.