The Governor of New South Wales has accepted an invitation to be the Vice-Regal Patron of Augustinian Volunteers Australia (AVA). This officially began on 18 May 2017, when consent was received from His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of New South Wales.
Since its inception in 2008 by the Australasian Province of the Order of St Augustine, Augustinian Volunteers Australia has trained volunteers from all walks of life to work collaboratively with communities in need. AVA seeks to model best practice in community development by partnering with local organizations, and strives to bring about real and long-lasting change at the street level.
A most striking example of AVA in action is the work of AVA in conjunction with Tribal Warrior at the Centre for Aboriginal Excellence at Redfern in the heart of inner Sydney, the capital city of the State of New South Wales. Since late 2013 three mornings per week have been very demanding for Mr Paul Wilson (the full-time Justice and Peace Officer of the Australasian Augustinian Province) and of Augustinian Volunteers from both genders.
The doors at Redfern open at 6.00 am for gym work conducted by Tribal Warrior. There are at times from 100 to 150 participants, including Tribal Warrior mentors (older adolescents guiding younger ones), Augustinian Volunteers and visitors. The gym work is conducted through a partnership between Tribal Warrior and the Redfern Local Area Command of the New South Wales Police.
A light breakfast of cereals and fruit juice is then provided for the aboriginal young people and the Volunteers. On Wednesdays and Fridays there is then education in the Biyal Biyal language, the original Aboriginal language of the Sydney Harbour area that had almost become extinct. After adequate instruction, it is now being taught by Paul Wilson (the full-time Justice and Peace Officer of the Australasian Augustinian Province) and Augustinian Volunteers to the local youth and to any older persons who care to attend. From 8.30 to 9.00 am the Aboriginal young people have opted to attend English literacy and numeracy tuition from the Augustinian Volunteers, from where they move straight to their regular schooling elsewhere. Whereas in the beginning in 2013 the Sydney language education drew only four students, there are now fifty Aboriginal young people attending. The Governor, as the Vice-Regal Patron of AVA, has visited Redfern to witness this activity.
The AVA group for 2017 includes twelve volunteers, each of whom is committed during 2017 to the equivalent to three to five hours (1 working day) of voluntary service per week that is supervised by AVA, although many of them exceed this minimum. As well as the four Volunteers serving in Redfern, there are seven members at Aboriginal services in western Sydney, and one volunteer assisting with the children of refugee families in Adelaide. Some of these Volunteers of 2017 served in AVA during previous years as well, one of whom has done so continuously since 2010.
Upon the recent development in AVA of the obtaining of Vice Regal patronage, Mr Paul Wilson commented, “It is an honour for Augustinian Volunteers Australia to be recognised in this way. It highlights the contribution that AVA members are making, and hopefully their example will encourage many more others to be equally concerned about the Australian community in all of its guises.”
The website of Augustinian Volunteers Australia is www.augustinianvolunteersaustralia.org and the social justice website of the Australasian Province of the Order of St Augustine is www.augustinianjusticeandpeace.com