News & Events

Volunteering is in Lara’s blood

August 6, 2021

Lara Murray has always been involved in volunteering. Instilled with a strong sense of social justice at a young age, Lara has volunteered and supported volunteers in different organisations in Australia and overseas.

Most recently she has joined Emerge as Volunteers Coordinator, a position which embraces everything she is passionate about.

“It was as though the stars aligned when I noticed the advertisement,” Lara said.

She had been supporting a friend who had been escaped from violence and was eager to find a job which provided a service to the community, focused on supporting women and children who had fled family violence and enabled her to extend her knowledge of volunteering.

Lara’s volunteering experience began in her late teens when she joined Amnesty International in Melbourne working on campaigns before taking up the role of volunteers’ coordinator in the organisation. She left Australia to work in the volunteers’ team at the Tate Britain art gallery before returning to Melbourne to look after her family.

“The time was right for me to look for new challenges, and Emerge ticked all the boxes,” Lara said.

She joins the organisation after a year of flux with the volunteers’ program due to the lockdowns of last year.

“We have fantastic volunteers who could not work regularly with us last year, so it is a case of building a foundation again working with our existing volunteers and inducting new people,” Lara said.

Her immediate jobs are to clarify volunteer roles, induct new volunteers matching skills with needs, and introduce a training program.

“What we know is that the volunteers provide excellent support to our case workers at a time when we are seeing more children and more acute trauma than ever,” Lara said.

Some of the roles she is currently filling are volunteers with multilingual skills who can support women and children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) with tutoring and conversational English.

“When we asked women what they wanted, one of the priorities was to learn better English so they become more confident. They want to be able to speak well enough to engage in conversations and feel part of the community,” Lara said.

Other roles include becoming companions to women in crisis accommodation and in the community, teaching women to cook and budget, fill out application forms for rental accommodation, and run events.

“Women are looking for friendship, someone to get their nails done with, have a cup of tea with, be able to chat about everything and nothing and be made to feel important,” Lara said.

She is also on the look-out for IT volunteers who can help women understand how to pay bills by computer, turn locations off, and the myriad of other technology concerns women have.

A growing need is for volunteers to sit alongside women learning to drive and need to get their hours up.

“Many women in our refuge and crisis accommodation have large families and they need to learn how to drive. We provide them with the ten official lessons required before a driving test but they need to get their hours up before they go for their test,” Lara said.

Many of the volunteers applying to Emerge are aged between twenty and 60.

“We have students who are studying and want to gain practical experience, and we have retired women and stay-at-home mums who are looking to give back to the community. Each has an amazing array of skills, it really is an honour meeting with them,” Lara said.



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