I RECENTLY had the good fortune to once again attend the Aurora Ball, surely the highlight of the community calendar.

The speech by Aurora Group’s Chair, Adam Niewand, struck a chord with me. In a nutshell, Adam honoured the many accomplishments of the LGBTI community, but also observed that there’s a perception we have achieved all we need to, or, if not, that someone else or some other group will resolve it.

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association (SGLBA) holds its AGM later this year. Already I have ascertained what roles will need to be filled. I need to do this so far out from the AGM, because on the whole, it’s not easy finding skilled individuals to volunteer their time and yet we are obligated to run the association and meet (ideally, exceed) our members’ expectations.

In the seven years I have been on the board, we have been fortunate to have had a fairly stable team. This continuity across terms enables the association to do more. This year however, the team has seen a number of changes throughout the term which have unquestionably resulted in a reduction in our service provision. It’s a challenge I’m sure the SGLBA is not alone in facing. The best-meaning people are simply confronted with changed circumstances, and when faced with a choice, more often than not, a role on a volunteer board, no matter how well-intentioned, usually comes off second best.

Our community organisations can only deliver what they have the capacity to deliver. Events, services, lobbying don’t just “happen”. It takes a group of passionate, dedicated (some might say slightly mad) individuals.

When a friend approached me to join the SGLBA team, I told him he must have been crazy. I wasn’t going to sign up to something like that. When I reflect on it though, it’s one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done. The people I’ve met, the difference I’ve been able to make as part of a great team, just can’t be underestimated. I won’t pretend it’s been easy to balance work with community needs, but I have no regrets.

This community, the hard-fought victories, and the ones we have yet to win, is our soul. It takes all of us, not just a few, to get the bet outcomes for it. There are so many skilled individuals in our community who could help make that difference. Are you one?

Supporting events is a great thing, and we can never take that for granted, but community organisations need more. Everyone has an opinion, and we all need feedback – if delivered appropriately. Tearing people down though is not the way to go. People who give their time, who work hard under sometimes challenging circumstances have to be honoured. It reflects poorly on us if we can’t do that, and what’s worse, it turns people off wanting to get involved. We can’t afford that.

So if you want to meet new people, to make a difference, to experience the buzz that getting involved gives you, then get engaged and really give something back. You’d be amazed at the difference even a couple of hours a week can make.

To paraphrase Kylie: Your community needs you.

If you would like to express your interest in volunteering, be it for the SGLBA or another organisation, contact us at info@sglba.org.au, or look up the relevant site, and get involved. The continuing well-being of your community depends on you – not someone else – you.


Mark Haines is the President of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Business Association Inc. 


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