John volunteering alongside Red Cross community members in Labasa, Fiji.

Torquay duo give back via Australian Volunteers

April 3, 2019 BY

MOVING towards retirement and wanting to ‘give back’, Torquay residents Annie Hepner and John Mulder applied to the Australian Volunteers Program (AVP).

The AVP is an initiative of the Australian Government with John and Annie assigned to Labasa, Fiji on the northern Island of Vanua Levu; a cane growing region with a large Indian population.

“Volunteering has allowed us to step out of what was a hectic lifestyle and slow down and enjoy the simple things in life,” Ms Hepner said.

John worked with Red Cross as an organisational development officer and Annie as a non-communicable disease officer with the Ministry of Health.

John worked alongside Red Cross volunteers and staff, enabling them to take on the additional responsibilities associated with Red Cross’ new vision OVER 60 children from Torquay and Anglesea kindergartens rolled up their sleeves and
collected bags of rubbish on Clean Up Australia Day early last month.

The kids participated in their own version of the national event – which is supported by Surf Coast Shire Council annually – filling two bags of items at Torquay Kindergarten’s bush kinder site at Bellbrae, which included an old football, bottles, chicken feed bags, paper, plastic and fabric.

Children from Anglesea Kindergarten gathered litter outside the kinder amongst the local community.

Co-ordinators of the clean-up said collecting rubbish was an innovative way for the environmental leaders of tomorrow
to see firsthand the negative effects human carelessness can have on the environment.

Children from local kindergartens collected rubbish on Clean Up Australia Day early last month Tools in hand for the big clean up. for the Fiji branches.

“These communities of volunteers work tirelessly to raise funds with limited resources so their community can receive health education, first aid training and ensure they are prepared for natural disasters,” he said.

“It was an honour to work with these people. We found the overall experience of working in another country and giving back to be particularly rewarding and we would highly recommend the volunteer experience to others contemplating it.”

Annie worked in various communities assisting them to develop innovative ways to prevent, detect and treat diseases like diabetes, heart disease and mental illness.

Since the 1950s, the Australian Government has supported more than 14,000 Australians to volunteer through AVP which currently operates in 26 countries.

The AVP program matches skilled Australians from all walks of life with organisations in developing countries to help these organisations to deliver on their own objectives.

For more information on the Australian Volunteers program, contact