For veteran Outback Links volunteer Geoff, using his skills gained working on the land to help people in outback Australia is a true labour of love. At 84, Geoff has clocked up a staggering total of 1,577 hours of voluntary work in the bush. Most recently, he returned from a property in Gravesend, helping ease mounting pressure on a farming family undergoing a medical crisis.
Geoff’s (volunteer) presence meant that travel to urgent medical surgery was possible for Geoff (farmer) and his family. It meant they could leave the property with some peace of mind knowing that their animals were tended to and their property was taken care of. Life on the farm is a 24/7 job and someone still needs to tend to those important duties.
For our farmers, volunteers like Geoff allow them to take part in life’s important milestones, surgeries, weddings, funerals and other significant life events.
With his wife Roz, Geoff joined Outback Links in 2008 to share their life skills with those on the land who needed an extra pair of hands.
“I grew up in the country and have always been aware of Frontier Services’ work across outback Australia,” Geoff says. “Once I retired, I had the time to volunteer with Outback Links.”
From property minding, maintenance jobs and looking after farm animals to gardening and painting, there’s very little Geoff can’t turn his hand to. The handy octogenarian tells us it was working on a hobby farm near Renmark, SA, growing grapes and apricots, and later rearing sheep, that taught him and his wife a thing or two about working on the land and with animals.
It’s 13 years ago now but Geoff remembers his first time with the Outback Links like it was yesterday. Leafing through his diary, Geoff recounts how a scheduled visit to a 120,000-acre property, approx 200kms from Quilpie in South West Queensland, translated into a friendship for life.
“Initially we were meant to just help run the sheep and cattle on the property but ended up helping Ross and Wendy in many other ways. Because of the remote location of the farm and their slim contact with the outside world, the family felt extremely isolated. Living with them in their house, sharing our meals with them and lending them an ear – we came away feeling fulfilled.” And that bond between
the families has stayed strong.
Geoff tells us the power of human connection inspires him to keep going. “Growing up in the outskirts of Clare, 130 kms north of Adelaide, I very quickly got familiar with the vast difference in the standard of living for people in remote areas compared to city folk. I enjoy good health and I am fortunate to be able to contribute to the community through Outback Links. I have made life-long connections in the bush.”
It’s not surprising that in 2014 Geoff was named the NSW Senior Volunteer of the Year and the NSW Mid North Coast’s Volunteer of the Year. In 2019, he was honoured as the Mid North Coast Senior Volunteer of the Year.
“It has been a humbling experience,” he says, adding, “I encourage aspiring Outback Links volunteers to walk the path that Rev. John Flynn once took. I want to reassure them that there has not once been a situation where I have felt uncomfortable. Every experience is rewarding and they leave a lasting impression in our minds and hearts.”
If you want to change lives and make lasting friendships at the same time, get in touch with our friendly Outback Links team online at frontierservices.org/volunteering-to-change-lives or give us a call on 1300 787 247. Alternatively, you can donate below to keep our volunteers on the road.