Volunteering for the community

FOR THE COMMUNITY: As headspace Mount Gambier's longest serving volunteer, Ally Finnis said her long-time involvement with the community allowed her to work around health issues and gather a better understanding of teamwork and communication. Photo: Supplied.

Tyler Redway

WITH National Volunteer Week held recently, long-time headspace volunteer Ally Finnis spoke with The Border Watch about her involvement with the Youth Reference Group of headspace Mount Gambier, as well as many other community organisations over nearly a decade.

As the longest serving headspace volunteer since 2016, Ms Finnis said she witnessed the establishment of the Mount Gambier headspace centre and watched it grow into the branch it has become today.

“I am probably the last original Youth Reference Group member from the start,” Ms Finnis said.

“I feel like I have had a voice as a young person and opportunities to use my lived experience to make a positive change.”

Dealing with a variable disability, Ms Finnis said the flexibility of volunteering gave her a way to work around her health issues while contributing to the community.

Prior to joining headspace, Ms Finnis had been a part of Mount Gambier City Council’s Youth Advisory Group which is how she heard of the opportunity which headspace provided.

Ms Finnis had previously been volunteering at the Riddoch Art Gallery, where she met someone involved with the group.

“I was volunteering at the Riddoch during a DaVinci exhibition in 2014, which was my gateway to volunteering,” she said.

“I heard about the Youth Advisory Group but I wasn’t sure how to get onto it.

“Through being on the DaVinci exhibition team I met someone who was a member who then got me involved.”

Before and during her time with headspace, Ms Finnis was involved in numerous community projects and organisations including the Wellness and Wellbeing Festival Committee and with the not-for-profit organisation Purple Orange as a disability inclusion training facilitator.

Ms Finnis said the opportunities allowed her to build valuable life skills as well as how it allowed her voice to be heard for relevant issues at a local level.

“I have a lived experience of mental illness as a young person and I always wanted to use this to create positive change so I thought joining the Youth Reference Group at headspace was an excellent way of beginning this work,” she said.

“If there’s something which young people think could be changed or improved in the community then they should speak out and join things like the Youth Reference Group.

“Change doesn’t happen if no one steps up to take action and those with power to affect change don’t know what needs to happen if young people aren’t given the spaces to be heard.”