Each week, up to 60 volunteers at Graham House Community Centre drive locals in the region to medical appointments and help them get out to do their shopping, banking, or visit family and friends.
With a severe lack of public transport across the region, Transport Services Coordinator at Graham House, Maree Anderson, says the community centre’s volunteer drivers keep the community connected.
“We’ve lost so many different bus services over the years and the region is very transport poor, so our volunteer drivers are crucial to the community. Without them, people would be cut off,” Maree said.
“Our drivers are doing at least 40 to 50 different trips each week, providing door to door services that are customised to our clients’ needs.
“Some of our drivers do two runs a week from Murgon to Brisbane and back, week in week out. They go down, wait for a client at a medical appointment and drive back in the same day.”
Volunteer drivers use the community centre’s fleet of 13 vehicles, including a new mini bus.
“Most of our drivers are semi-retired and we have quite a few ex-truck drivers, some of them have been with us for 15 to 20 years,” Maree said.
“Others who started on a mutual obligation through Centrelink have stayed on even after retirement age because they really love that community connection. They often say how much they love talking to their passengers and hearing such interesting stories.
“’They are amazing. It’s a huge commitment to do this out of their own time, but they really do love it.”
Image (L-R): Graham House Manager Chris Withers-Mayne, volunteer driver Helene and Transport Services Coordinator Maree Anderson
The transport assistance program caters for a range of people within the South Burnett region.
“Many of our passengers are older, but we also have some funding to provide transport assistance for younger age groups, including those who don’t fit the NDIS, or have a short term need to get them through a rough patch,” Maree said.
Graham House Manager Chris Withers-Mayne says the centre works with volunteers to utilise their skills and interests for different programs.
“Some of our volunteers work on the community garden and we had one new volunteer who was very good at writing resumes, so we built a program specifically around her skills,” Chris said.
“Other volunteers who have worked for years in retail sort through donations for our Family to Family thrift shop, which provides free clothes, household goods, toys and crockery to those in need so they have enough to get by for a bit.
“It’s a really fantastic space and looks great because of our volunteers’ skills and experience in showcasing what’s in the shop.
“We’re proud of what our volunteers help us achieve in supporting our community.”
Graham House Community Centre in Murgon provides a range of programs and services to the South Burnett community, including transport assistance, emergency relief, NILS, family support, men’s behaviour change programs and operates the rural Centrelink agency.