Nurturing a decades-long volunteering career at MSWA
“I’d just like to see more people do it; get people out of the pattern that they have in their lives, look around and do something positive."
When John Robertson first started volunteering at MSWA, Google was a new kid on the block, the assembly of the International Space Station had only just begun and you still couldn't use your landline and internet at the same time!
Safe to say, in his 24 years of dedicated service, John has borne witness to many changes – but his passion for the people at MSWA has never faltered.
Initially, his volunteer work as a handy man and gardener was to bridge the year-long gap between his retirement from the mining industry and access to the pension at age 65.
What he didn’t expect was for this new venture to become a vocation he was so passionate about.
“I started doing eight hours a week, which lasted a year until I was officially retired, but then I just kept going,” he said.
“What was half a day a week became one day, then two.”
“As you can see, it’s a fairly big property [at Wilson] and when I started it was all scrub at the back. There were always things to do, but I also found it was such a good place to work.”
“Being a volunteer, there was no pressure on me to do things, but I felt a moral obligation to do things.”
His time volunteering has proved a valuable learning experience, with many MSWA Clients helping to grow his knowledge over the decades.
“A lot of the Clients here, particularly the ladies with MS, knew more about gardening than I will ever know,” he said.
“While some of the ladies couldn’t do things physically, they knew how to grow plants and they gave me a lot of ideas to grow plants from cutting – so that is where many of the plants around the place have come from.”
“It gets to be like family after a while, with the Clients.”
John Robertson tending to the roses at MSWA Wilson.
John said MSWA had always made him feel welcome and “accepted as one of the troops”, being able to join in with Client activities, lunches, and morning teas.
Above all else, John’s most important duty is to connect with Clients – and he is always prepared for a chat.
“One thing they told me at the start is, if any of the members want to talk – talk,” he said. “They are always more important than the job I’m currently doing.
“You meet a lot of people and talk to them. There are a lot of people that want me to come and look after their garden,” he laughed.
It’s this social aspect that John finds so important, which is beneficial for both Clients and volunteers alike. He encouraged anyone thinking of volunteering to get involved, as it is an opportunity to connect with the community, improve wellbeing and give back.
“I’d just like to see more people do it; get people out of the pattern that they have in their lives, look around and do something positive, something you are capable of doing” he said.
“As you get older there is less things you can do, that’s part of life, but meeting people – there is no restriction on that.”
This year, John was recognised with a nomination in the WA Lifetime Contribution To Volunteering category of the 2023 WA Volunteer of the Year awards for his incredible work.
From all of us here at MSWA, we thank you, John, for your ongoing dedication to our Clients.