National Volunteer Week 2023

15-21 May 2023

National Volunteer Week (NVW) is Australia’s largest annual celebration of volunteering. This week-long event is a welcome opportunity to recognise the vital support that the millions of volunteers in our country provide to their communities and encourages people to consider volunteering.

At Calvary, our volunteers selflessly dedicate their time to enhance the care we offer our patients, residents, their families, friends and the community.

We’re celebrating this week by putting the spotlight on some of their stories and the inspirational work they do.



Celebrating our volunteers | Our stories

Graham Spurling

“Vitality greets you as you enter Calvary Oaklands Aged Care Service and that’s what keeps me returning each week, volunteering as a Eucharistic Minister.”


Q | What skills and previous experience help you in your volunteer role?

Over the course of my long life I have volunteered in a number of roles which have included school, parish and archdiocesan projects, some with significant financial responsibilities.  Upon reflection, I view these opportunities as my faith-in-action and through which I have also gained much personal satisfaction.  However, nothing compares with what I experience weekly at Calvary Oaklands.

In my ninth decade I’ve lived, and am grateful to be continuing to live, a full life.  I’ve been blessed in many ways through work, business and opportunities and especially through my ever-growing family.  I’ve had chances to live and work in other countries and have been captivated by religious and cultural experiences and traditions, particularly by demonstrative acts which convey dignity and respect.  I bring the richness, wisdom and inspiration of these experiences to my current volunteering.

Q | How long have you been a Calvary volunteer?

I don’t recall exactly how I became involved in this volunteering role.  My previous experience with aged care had been visiting a dear, close friend and also an aunt who had both been residents of what is now Calvary Flora McDonald.  I was aware that others in my parish had been visiting Oaklands as a Eucharistic Minister before it was acquired by Calvary, one of them for about 30 years.  It was something I thought I could do.  Another parishioner, Margie, co-ordinates the little team from the parish.  I’ve been undertaking this role, this ministry, since the acquisition, around late 2021.  Having completed my ‘apprenticeship’ (induction) with Margie, I’m now doing the round on my own.

I have a weekly commitment, usually Fridays, with flexibility to change days due to other commitments.  I visit five residents, although this is subject to change; I have one new resident commencing this week.  I bring Holy Communion for those who are able and wish to receive the Blessed Sacrament.  We pray together, we read the Gospel of the forthcoming Sunday and spend time at length reflecting on the text, analysing it and trying to contextualise for today’s circumstances.  It’s as natural as talking about cricket and football.  I also join the community for Mass every month or so when scheduled.

Q | What do you enjoy most about volunteering at Calvary Oaklands?

Oaklands is a humble, functional facility.  Its beauty is in the people; residents, staff and other volunteers.  The Lifestyle Co-ordinator and assistants are warm with their welcome.  I have a lot of fun with the nursing and hospitality staff; there is banter, teasing, engagement with others as I move through the building.  I witness so many expressions of joy; they are spreading the joy of the Gospel in differing ways.  There are so many signs of love and intimacy hidden in plain sight, every day of the week; gestures which exemplify the Spirit of Calvary – Being for Others.  Intimacy is displayed in the way that staff provide care with a smile, with a laugh.  Milestones and other life moments are celebrated; there is a real sense that everybody matters.

Above all, I am continually inspired by the residents.  So many different characters from all walks of life with interesting stories.  We have stimulating and challenging conversations.  I am in awe of the tenacity of spirit.  Some with physical limitations desire to find another way to overcome obstacles like a member of the residents’ advisory committee who painstakingly types each day on a computer, using one finger, supported by the other hand.  Energetic, so vital, so happy; there is a sense that everything is alive at Oaklands.

Q | What advice would you give to others who may be considering becoming a volunteer?

As we age and move through the developmental stages of life we begin to reflect more deeply on the meaning and purpose of life.  I’m at that stage and I am finding that my volunteering with Calvary Oaklands is inviting me to ponder the spiritual side of my life.  I’m receiving more than I am giving through volunteering.  I’d encourage others, particularly those who might be transitioning to retirement to consider volunteering with Calvary.  Perhaps a similar role as I have shared, perhaps with Lifestyle, joining in the sing-alongs, maybe some gardening; why not share in the vitality of life in an aged care setting?

Pat Zammit

“Even though I am still new and learning about volunteering, I absolutely love it and wish I had done this years ago…”


Q | How long have you been a Calvary volunteer?

My mother-in-law worked in the original Flora McDonald home and she is now a resident in the refurbished home.  Through this connection my husband receives regular communications from Calvary Flora McDonald; this included an email inviting people to express interest in volunteering.  So I did and I am now in my fifth week of volunteering.  I volunteer five hours on three days each week for a total of 15 hours; I am happy to undertake a number of tasks, except gardening.


Q | What skills and previous experience are you able to apply to your volunteer role?

I was born and grew up in Tarcoola (SA) and began work at 14; I’ve really always been in the hospitality industry. I’ve been a station-hand cook, a shearer’s cook, lots of big jobs. I recently finished working in a bakery after 13 years.  The role required me to provide a friendly, customer service and to assist in supporting the baking of various pastries and cakes; I was also the barista.  I’ve also worked for a confectionary company.  This experience supports my various roles at Flora McDonald which includes the lolly trolley.  Sales and distribution of the trolley goods takes considerable time each Tuesday; my round takes the entire five hours as the residents enjoy the opportunity for conversation and it is important to spend time and not rush from person to person.  Mondays and Wednesdays are spent assisting with hospitality; this includes morning tea and lunch for the residents on Mondays. My food preparation skills come to the fore on Wednesdays when I assist in the kitchen with making fruit salad or sandwiches or other requests from the Chef.


Q | What do you enjoy most about volunteering at Calvary Flora McDonald?

Even though I am still new and learning about volunteering, I absolutely love it and wish I had done this years ago.  I have never felt so worthy in any job, as part of the workforce, throughout my life as I do now; I feel respected and I thoroughly enjoy the interaction with all the beautiful people, residents and staff at Flora McDonald. It feels like a family and it is incredibly rewarding.

Lindy Shaw

Leading with kindness and vulnerability, volunteer coordinator Lindy Shaw is an example of a volunteer turned staff who turned her personal experience into a career in being for others.

“The first time I met Lindy, she was a volunteer at Calvary Bethlehem and immediately impressed me with the way she was engaging with people as they faced their mortality. Through intuitive conversations, she added value and compassion to their days by highlighting special moments and achievements,” said Gayle Alexander, National Manager Mission Integration. 

Fast forward from her start as a Calvary Volunteer in 2017 to joining as Volunteer Coordinator in 2021, Lindy Shaw is a remarkable demonstration of the intersection between vulnerability, strength, kindness, grief and never-ending positivity. After experiencing personal trauma and grief, instead of asking herself what illness looks like, she flipped the perspective and asked:

“What does wellness look like? How can we find it, at all stages in life, and particularly towards end of life? How can we bring meaning and perspective to our final days?”

For Lindy, the answer to this question is to get comfortable being uncomfortable – because it is in those moments of vulnerability that magic happens. She sees her role as her life purpose: Helping people find peace and meaning at the end of life by turning her own painful experiences into strengths of being for others.


Q | What is your proudest achievement whilst working at Calvary?

“The quality of the volunteers we have.

“I am so proud about how we’ve been able to find these incredible people who feel safe to do difficult work. It’s all about relationships, and the fact we’ve built trusting relationships with our volunteers mean that they are now doing more than they ever thought they could do when they first joined. They are remarkable.”

Patrick Beerworth

“To anyone thinking about volunteering I would say “just do it”; don’t hesitate!”


Q | How long have you been a Calvary volunteer?

I’ve been volunteering at Calvary Flora McDonald McDonald for about 20 months.

My wife, Barbara, was a resident and she received excellent care from all of the staff.  One of the staff was particularly attentive and patient with Barbara’s ability to eat. After Barbara passed away, an invitation from two of the reception staff, Michelle and Catherine, became the catalyst for my volunteering; I wanted to pay back to the community as a sign of my gratitude.


Q | What skills and previous experience help you in your volunteer role?

I worked for Holden for 46 and a half years and I also volunteered as a member of the Heritage Committee responsible for Holden’s museum.  My Fitting and Turning trade skills are a great foundation.  I’ve worked with lathes and milling machines and along the way my roles and training have afforded me opportunities to develop systems and auditing competencies; I was appointed to the role of Co-ordinator of Safety, Quality and Environments. I have transferable skills which I bring to my various volunteering roles including maintenance support, with Di and Bill. With my previous training and additional instruction from the maintenance team I assist with ensuring that the electronic fires are maintained, cleaned and tested.  I also assist with monthly testing of hot water, and small repair tasks.


Q | What do you enjoy most about volunteering at Calvary Flora McDonald?

I have always felt welcome at Calvary Flora McDonald; staff are warm and the reception I receive is great.  I enjoy the interaction with residents and staff.  If it wasn’t any good I wouldn’t come back.

I particularly enjoy gardening at Flora McDonald.  I assist with the courtyard gardens which includes trimming, sweeping and general maintenance.  We have a small team of volunteers who work in the garden and one of the staff also volunteers on their day off. We enjoy companionship in the garden as well as over morning tea and lunch which is supplied for us; we have great choice.  The social connection is much appreciated.  It is really important to take time with the residents; they love to chat.


Q | What advice would you give to others who may be considering becoming a volunteer?

To anyone thinking about volunteering I would say “just do it”; don’t hesitate!

Heather Walter

As a registered nurse, Heather knows that a lot can happen over a cup of tea. After working as a nurse since she was 16, she now volunteers her time at Calvary Sandhill aged care home where she brings her signature smile, colourful clothes and desire to being for others to work.

“A cup of tea is never just a cup of tea”, she says with a laugh. “It’s so much more – and in my role as a volunteer, I have truly learnt that everyone has a life story to share. A simple act of service like making tea may seem like a mundane task, but it’s in these quiet moments that we can make the biggest difference if we sit down together with an open mind”.

Heather has volunteered at Sandhill for seven years, and her favourite part of volunteering is reading to residents who can no longer read.

“It’s wonderful to see how much meaning and joy it gives, and how it creates space for conversations about the residents’ own lives and experiences”.


Q| What do you always do before you start work?

Two things: I have a rapid COVID test to make sure I’m safe! I also check that I am dressed in colourful colours, that my shoes match my outfit – and try to incorporate my favourite colours of raspberry pink and blue.

Q | What is the one thing you can’t say “no” to?

A resident saying “can you stay a bit longer”. It gets me every time.


Q | What do you like the most about working and volunteering at Calvary?

That I get to continue to be of service as a nurse and fellow human. When I retired, I wanted to continue to serve in aged care and it’s wonderful to continue to help people in a caring industry.

    Q | What are you most proud of?

    Being able to spend my life as a registered nurse. It was a calling that fell into place: I started as a nurses aid at 16, and have stayed in nursing ever since.

    Charles von Bertouch

    A volunteer for 8 years, Charles can usually be found tending the balcony garden on the surgical ward – a place frequented by patients, their carers, and staff. Charles propagated most of these plants, regularly swapping pots with stock from home, ensuring a continuous colourful display. Everyone is eagerly awaiting the ripening fruit on the espaliered apple tree.

    Charles’ expertise extends beyond the balcony garden, crafting solid Jarrah timber bin surrounds for the new St Luke’s gardens, fixing tables, and assembling garden benches.  He re-uses, recycles and thinks outside the square.

    “Charlie has brought the tired, dead balcony to life again. He puts so much love and attention into each and every plant. He also keeps the area spotless. Charlie is a very kind man and always has a chat. He is a legend!!!”

    Charles exemplifies ‘being for others’ by giving his time freely on a weekly basis, improving the hospital surrounds for patients, carers, fellow volunteers and staff. He has a natural way with people and positively contributes to our environment and atmosphere by what he does and who he is as a person. He quietly pulls us all together to form a vibrant ‘Calvary Community’.

    Vinnies Night Patrol | Canberra Staff

    Night Patrol volunteers often act as a connection point for people in need, offering information and referrals based on individual needs.

    For Volunteer Week 2023, Calvary recognises and thanks its extraordinary staff who volunteer for the Vinnies Night Patrol Service in Canberra.

    In addition to their incredible dedication to providing exceptional healthcare, our staff take their compassion beyond the hospital walls to support those experiencing homelessness in Canberra community.

    Calvary has been a proud supporter and sponsor of St Vincent de Paul Night Patrol Services for a number of years. The Vinnies Night Patrol visits the streets of Canberra and surrounds 364 nights of the year, providing vital assistance to individuals in need, offering food, clothing, and a friendly face while at all times respecting the dignity of the people they serve.

    Calvary would like to take a moment to express its deepest gratitude and appreciation for our staff for their invaluable contributions for Canberra’s community. Thank you for your time, energy and passion – and thank you for ‘being for others’, in the spirit of Calvary.


    Biography Team | Calvary Health Care Kogarah

    In November 2019, 10 volunteers were recruited and trained to record patient stories through the new Calvary Bibliography Service.

    As these life stories were created, staff quickly recognised the value to both the patient and the family. Referrals increased until Covid-19, however, inspired by the ‘Spirit of Calvary – You matter, we care about you’, these committed biographers kept the program alive, virtually, with creativity, ingenuity and flexibility.
    The Biography Service places patients at the centre of care by inviting them to tell their life stories, reinforcing the value of each patient’s life. The participating patient is the author and owner of their manuscript.

    Interviews to create life stories are flexible to meet each patient’s changing health needs.
    As one patient expressed, “I am extremely grateful for this biography service. After receiving a diagnosis of a terminal disease, I was left feeling very empty, deflated and hopeless. Having the opportunity to review my life through this service has been a Godsend. It has opened my eyes to the wonderful life I have had and given me a purpose, recalling past experiences…”.

    Another patient shared a chapter of her life never spoken about – the horrors of living through the Nazi regime and her escape to Austria. Witnessing the power of life stories told with honesty and admissions of vulnerability inspired staff to engage deeper in their compassionate care. Several staff who are also carers within their family were inspired by the project. They encouraged their family and loved ones to write biographies that will be valued and cherished for generations.

    To guarantee the program continues, a grant was obtained to purchase and set up the necessary equipment i.e. binding machines, covers and digital recorders. The Biography Service has developed a training manual and recorded YouTube training modules to ensure further sustainability.


    Team members: Kevin O’Neill, Margaret DiNicola, Michelle Herrett, Amanda Reid, Adele Dumont, Catherine Carmichael, Kerry McKenzie, Marilyn Miller, Annette Evans, Megan Edwards, Pam Stamos, John Walker, Jane Egan Lee and Anne-Marie Traynor (pictured).

    Calvary Bruce Private Hospital

    Acknowledgements and Reflections


    Vinuri, Day Surgery Volunteer

    We are very grateful for Vinuri’s help in Day Surgery.

    She is very lovely and always eager to help us.

    Even as small as preparing food and giving refreshments to the patients makes our tasks for the day easier for us, nurses.

    We also appreciate that she’s reliable, so we can rely on her with the simple tasks we need help with.

    Mike, Hyson Green Mental Health Volunteer

    We would like to acknowledge our volunteer at Hyson Green, Mike, who comes once a week to do foot massages. Mike is such a gentle, caring person who’s calm demeanour attracts many of our patients to seek him out                      once a week for a foot massage. He has a healing presence about him and many of our patients book in regularly with him to enjoy his company, service and companionship that Mike provides. He is a vital asset to Hyson Green and     is thoroughly missed when he is away. Thank you Mike, it is truly a pleasure to have you at Hyson Green and you make a huge contribution.


    Megan, Medical Records Volunteer

    “What it means to me to volunteer at CBPH:

    Well,  initially I was a little nervous, though in a short time – I felt so comfortable in Medical Records.

    I also absolutely “love” coming in to volunteer.

    Having been in the Public Service, I enjoy coming in working and socializing, as the staff are very friendly, the work is great and varied.

    I so enjoy all the challenges that are put before me!”