AHVISE Podcast Episode 03: Volunteers Margot & Gary Chat About Why It’s A Win Win Win for AHVISE Tutors

AHVISE Volunteers Margot & Gary Chat About Being Volunteers

KATE: Welcome to the AHVISE podcast. This is Kate and in today’s show, we’re going to talk to two volunteers, Margot and Gary Sanders. And they have been volunteering with AHVISE since we started and they actually have been doing it now over six years with other organizations as well. They’re going to share their journey as volunteers, what’s involved and how they see it as a win, win, win to be part of a program like AHVISE and we hope it inspires you to register and become part of the program to Okay, here’s the show.


KATE: So look, Thank you. I just wanted to say hi to Gary and Margot who are volunteers with AHVISE and have been working on the volunteer remote program for years basically having me so Hi guys and thank you for coming and talking to me today.

MARGOT: It’s a pleasure.

GARY: Hi Kate

KATE: Fantastic and I just wanted to chat to you guys today. And I really wanted to get a bit more insight from a volunteers point of view because this program is quite unique to match up families with volunteers, and we do all the background checks and liase on the phone, get everyone and then you go live with people for two-four months, sometimes six weeks. So really wanted to get your perspective of that. And first of all, just wanted to ask like with your current life and working as a volunteer, doing remote work, how did you come to get to that place or that particular volunteer work originally, like, how did you evolve? Was that because of the teaching or what. Where did you come from in that way?

MARGOT: We were involved in education, yes, I was teaching and Gary was involved in education towards the end of his work life but I guess all the way through we’re now retired and have been since some into 2010 – 2011 I guess all of our working life though we were involved in clubs and organizations and volunteered to do different roles within those. So I guess volunteering has always been part of our life. [Inaudible] is from our family, I guess.

KATE: So you really bought both of those aspects of what you already did, which was training and volunteering together in the one thing I guess, do it. [Yeah]

GARY: Yeah, we actually had a family friend who had done it prior to us, she’d done over 10 placements over an eight or 10 year period and we’re talking to her and she mentioned it we went Oh, actually that sounds like a pretty good thing to do. So we you know obviously logged onto the website at that stage seven years or so years ago and joined up and it’s just gone from there.

MARGOT: I guess it joins our love of travel in the outback with a passion to volunteer as well. There’s lots of things to volunteer at or for in Australia, but that sort of suited our skill set, I guess.

KATE: Yeah, and it brought together the travel so the adventure side of it came into it.

MARGOT: Yeah, absolutely

KATE: So that’s really awesome. So what would you say is your favorite thing about doing it? Because it is quite a big commitment to do. So what would you say is one of the things that you really like about doing remote outreach work like this?

GARY: I’ll start there. I think it’s one of the few things Kate in the world that is a win, win, win. [Right], and I’ll expand on that by saying that  it’s obviously a win for us because we get to visit places that we wouldn’t normally visit and we get to a real understanding of how Australia works and the issues and there may be some good things but like just getting a real understanding of how Australia operates. It’s a win obviously for the parents, particularly probably the mom because she gets a break from the school room for a period of time. And that could be because they’re busy mustering, shearing or cropping or another baby or illness or sickness or I’ve just had enough of the kids and I want to break whatever it is and the big one is it’s a massive win for the kids because they love to have someone new there and I think Sonia mentioned that that you know that love to have someone else there to be able to show around the place trying to impress with their schoolwork to get better marks and things like that. So we really regard is a win, win, win from my point of view.

KATE: Yeah. Is that same for your Margot?

GARY: Oh, yes. Yeah, it is.

MARGOT: Yeah. And I guess the other thing too, it’s really great just to see the kids develop while you’re there. [Right] just to see how they progress in the short time that you there as well just say them really come on, and particularly the younger ones or even the older ones. Just you know getting into their work and finding different ways of how to learn or how to get their work done and just getting ideas from different people I guess but you’re saying them develop is a great thing for me.

AD BREAK: [You can visit our website at www. a h v i s e. o rg. au.]

KATE: Do you guys keep seeing the same family each year? Have you seen a few now and how does that work?

MARGOT: We deliberately go to different families every year? [Right] We don’t go back to the same ones. That’s a choice that we have made. Now, I know some of the tutors do go back to the same ones. And that’s fine. [Yeah] but we like to go to different ones. It’s different parts of Australia. So we get to understand issues in different parts. But it’s also just seeing different kids, I suppose you’re learning, teaching them some different things, getting some different experiences.

KATE: Well, visiting different locations.


GARY: I’d probably just add to that our placement, we’ve been in a thing from a cropping station, to cattle stations, to sheep’s and goats. We’ve been on a bush heritage conservation park, we’ve been to a lake where the water managers and looked out and with their two children. So we try and have some variation and we’ve got another one coming up this year where we’re going to be, you know, Native type on an island. So it’ll be working with Aboriginal children. So we just try and come up with different aspects if you like so we can get a broad understanding of Australia and how it all works. [Inaudible]

MARGOT: We like to share the love, and share our expertise I suppose as well, we’re obviously learning a lot as we go around as well.

KATE: So if someone was listening to this because I think a lot of people that will listen to a considering tutoring they haven’t actually taken the leap yet what would you say is one of the biggest challenges they need to be prepared for to do this kind of tutoring work or this  volunteering work?

MARGOT: We would look at it as an opportunity to get out there and understand what is happening out there but look if you’re someone who is I guess needs the coffee every day at the local coffee shop or you need lots of people around you well it’s probably not for you but if you enjoy that travel, if you enjoy the opportunity to just get out there and mix with those rural people you don’t mind that space that outback area, and if you like helping people, you like helping the younger generation I’m pretty passionate about reading. Gary is certainly passionate about looking at different ways, coming in different ways, the study from different angles, getting outside to do the learning, might be with skipping or doing riding in the dirt or walking around the property, looking at different things, but using the literacy and numeracy not necessarily sitting at a desk. So, if you’re a bit flexible and versatile perhaps coming a bit from left field sometimes that’s what you need to be I think that sort of person.

KATE:  I know with AHVISE you don’t have to be like an ex-teacher you may be just a parent yourself you’re homeschooled or whatever and so they say look as long as you’re willing to go there and help on that farm, that, I don’t think you need to have a teaching degree. Do you what would you say?

GARY: I’ll answer that because I don’t have a teaching degree. I work at a school but I work with integration with kids and their sports coordinator and some things like that so but not as a trained teacher, however I’ve coached Junior sports teams pretty much all my life. So I’m working with kids, so I think you need to have a genuine love for kids, for youth if you want. I think that is one of the things but because of my not necessarily been trained as a teacher Margot just made the thing I look at other ways once we establish a relationship within the first few days with the students you then work out which ones don’t want to be in the classroom and I’d prefer to be outside doing something that is that a quite happy to sit down and look at the computer for a little while.

So yeah, you try and come up with what’s going to work best for them to get the best outcome. And obviously, then the best grade or the best mark are the best assessment at the end of that, well subject and that project. So I think it’s good sometimes to have a slightly different outside school approach which is what the moms do, most of the mums are not teacher-trained, [yeah, exactly], they just follow the program that’s presented by the school of the air teachers.

MARGOT: I think you do need to be pretty open minded about because every family situation is going to be different. So you need to be open minded about the family that you get to and you might not have thought of doing things that way or you might not operate that way but you can see that it’s actually working so you take that on board because you can’t change anything as such when you get there like you’re there for a short period of time. So you can’t take over necessarily run it the way you think it should be run and that might be the best way anyway really and yeah look I think if you can adapt into the family activities, you know I certainly join in with those as much as you can or as much as you want to.

GARY: We certainly make sure we go to all the school camps or the athletic sports or the swimming sports or cross country or whatever. Last year, we went to a fundraising for the ICPA, they were doing a fundraiser at a camp draft. So we went up there and assisted about four or five other mums who were catering for the all the competitors and the officials.

MARGOT: We went along with that joined in and helped out and just to see what they do on the other end.

KATE: So do you stay in touch with the kids in any way, even just on Facebook or that after it or do is once you’re done, you’re done or?

MARGOT: No, we do stay in touch but I guess that varies from family to family,[well], some families we stay in touch with more than others. And I guess that’s just a personal thing. And what sort of a relationship you’ve built in the time that you’re there as well. We feel comfortable with all our placements and the results that we’ve had but yeah there’s just some people that you gel with more than others and but certainly we do keep in touch with them and we’ve gone back to visit some of the families and caught up with them in various places in our travels.

KATE: How many years now we’ve been doing this? Would you say, are we talking 10 years?

GARY: About six, six to 7 years. We did the first one in 2012.

KATE: Seems like six months right just flown by.

[AD Break] You can visit our website at www.ahvise.org.au


KATE: Over the years have you seen ways for the kids in the remote areas that could – there could be ways for them to be better helped. Do you notice anything like that or do you think everything’s great or?

MARGOT: Things have certainly improved since we’ve looked at it just the communication with the school of the air and reporting back and things like that because it used to be the kids would send their work back by mail and then we might get to the end of a six week placement and not had any feedback from the school at all because it just hasn’t been marked or sent back. But now because they can scan it off and send it back. They might get feedback that day, which is fantastic with the kids and for us because then you sort of know whether you’re on track or not.

So that certainly has improved, but I think we just need we need more volunteers. We just need – because there’s lots of families that don’t get any help. So we need to get the message out somehow to get more volunteers.


GARY: I would agree with that the promotion of the program I think is now probably where Aussie Helpers is that and some need to have a bit of a brainstorm perhaps as to how we can attract the Southern state, retirees and want to get away for the winter to able to help out and we do a little bit of public speaking and we’re involved in groups down here but we spread the word as often as we can. And we’ve had a few people that have said, Oh, that sounds interesting, you know, and we put them onto the website to look it up and stuff, we try to [INAUDIBLE].

MARGOT: We contacted ABC yesterday to see if they could do something about it.

GARY: And we’ve had a reply from them that they’re doing a thing with Alice Springs School of the air or something will be televised August, July or Sunday or something [mid-year, yeah] in the winter season for an episode. [Inaudible]

MARGOT: We thought that was a way of probably promoting it as well, and just letting people say, what does happen and then encouraging people to sign up to get out there and I think the other thing people need to know too, is that the length of time now is negotiable with the families because when we were doing it early on was with the other organization It was a six week block but now, with Aussie Helpers was it’s negotiable with the family so if you wanted to be there for longer than that, and like a whole term thing you could or if you wanted to be even shorter, if you were just passing through and you just had a month, you could give family you know that would be fine as well because the families are happy with any length really.

KATE: Yeah, and we’re also looking at targeting through Facebook things like you know, tourists that are you know going through the outback and maybe want to stop off somewhere for a month. As long as they do our background checks because that can take a few weeks, so it’s not something they can join today and be there tomorrow. But, majority of people are like you two actually, they’re sort of semi retired, retired, a lot of singles, not just couples actually which is surprising. I guess just people wanting adventure but wanting purpose at the same time.

MARGOT: Yeah, so that’s what we would say with our travel a lot linking in with a placement I guess it gives us some purpose for travel. It gives us a reason to go to another area or it might be somewhere where we want to go back you can’t just, rock up to the station door and say, we’re here can we have a look around? You have to have – and you actually want to do something for them. So you look at the placements and you go well, we haven’t been there or that sounds interesting or, you know, that’s a bit different. So we’ll do that. And then you do you travel along the way. So you have a bit of a holiday as well as doing some work on along the way.

GARY: Just anybody who does listen to this podcast, if they can just continue to spread the word and try and encourage people to go on to the Aussie Helpers website, AHVISE link and just see what’s involved in it and how they can register as you said, they don’t have to be a teacher as long – because all the all the lessons as we know are prepared by the School of the Air whichever one you linked up to. So it’s just a matter of – and you get a workbook and you get a cheat answer book so you can look at the answers so you can refer back to it if you need to. [Learn yourself] or use regularly with maths in particular, but you sort of, you just following through, and you’re just trying to find ways to make it enjoyable for the kids to learn. That’s the key.

MARGOT: And you don’t have to do any marking or anything like that. Like, you don’t have to do any assessment. So, people don’t need to be worried about oh I’m going to make up the lesson or, I have to know all this information because it’s actually given to you, and then it gets sent off for assessment. So the workload although while you’re there, I guess it’s fairly full on in your school hours but you know, you’re not actually doing a heap of work outside that.

 And the other thing that I just find it’s just really rewarding for yourself because we just learned so much about rural life, that’s, that’s the reward for us. So hopefully we’ve been useful to the family but you get that reward and that other information I guess you get a bit of a warm fuzzy blow.

KATE: Yeah, it’s a feel good job. You feel part of the actual family for that. I guess and then you get to leave and not have all the stresses that they have to continue with the poor things.

GARY: Nah, what we do then Kate is we come back and do all of our volunteering here and this time it’s about February where we’re going, how long is it before we go again? We’ve got to get out of here.

KATE: So, you will probably do it for a few more years, you think?

MARGO: Absolutely. [Obviously] As long as we’re fit and able and still sane and think we can still offer something to the families yeah, we’d be looking forward to doing it for a few more years.

GARY: Yeah, I would suggest that is the, the prime thing would be to get more volunteers.

KATE: Yeah, I agree.

GARY: It’ll be easier if you have more volunteers, let’s say you fifty more volunteers. All of a sudden volunteers are saying, well, you haven’t got the placements for me? I reckon it would be very easy to get the message sent out via the School of Airs to say, hang on. We’ve just had an influx of volunteers, is there anybody who would like some assistance from a tutor? Right put your put your placement notice in and I reckon you’d be inundated with the idea.

MARGOT: You will be flooded – It’s a good idea because people who are heading north of you know either us grey nomads that are getting out of the Southern climbs for winter [yes true], the best thing to plan where they’re going if you’ve got that out there could be something ‘yeah we could do that for a period of time’ or ‘oh I hadn’t thought of doing that’ you know so I think it’s certainly a great idea.

GARY: A few times, as Margot said I think would be about now sort of February to March before people go away on a wee travel or head north and the other time would be maybe September perhaps end of term three-ish if you’re looking at targeting teachers for the ones that are perhaps are going to retire at the end of the school year. So they’re sort of thinking, I’m going to retire oh, what am I going to do or they might be going to take long service leave for 12 months or something. So what am I going to do? So that might be another time. You know. So about now and about term 3 [until October] just to go or hang on. Maybe I could look that up and see if that’s something I could, you know, register for or get involved. Because as we know, the cards take a little while to get your background checks and all that stuff. So it does probably take three months in reality to probably have –  [onboard them].

KATE: Yeah, well, it can. Yeah, but no checks in place. Often they already do. They’ve already done volunteering. And they come to the party with that. But I don’t get involved in that Lyn handles that with Ann.

MARGOT: So yes, although, see because although there’s working with Children’s Cards they’re different in every state. Children’s Cards in Tasmania or Victoria, because you’ve had to for your volunteering but if you go to Queensland or the Northern Territory, it’s not relevant. You have to have one specifically for that state.

KATE: Yeah, it is a bit – [it’s frustrating] yeah, it is a bit frustrating, it’s a shame there’s not an Australia wide-one.

GARY: We would love that, we keep saying that all the time. There are so many things Kate that are state based licensing or regulations or whatever and we go, why is that not federal? Like, just make it so easier to be consistent across the board whether it be fishing licenses or if there’d be working with children cards, and then all the organizations that might need to tap into that to check for federals or people that are doing wrong things or whatever it would be much easier that’s one of the things we’ve worked at in our travels


KATE: To prepare for, well look I’m going to wrap it up there but I really appreciate having a chat and we’ll have a talk again in a year’s time. Who knows every year we’ll probably have a catch up

MARGOT: I think it’s a unique thing because I think Australia is the only place that has School of the Air.

Kate: I didn’t know about that but as far as placing tutors and doing all the management of it, except for VISE who did it years ago, like, I don’t think anyone does that. I think they kind of step back maybe they just like a job placement and I don’t know it. [yeah] It’s a bit micro-managed.

MARGOT: [Inaudible] It’s organized. You can say you know what’s happening. You know there’s a process to follow, which is really good.

KATE: All right. Thanks for chatting again soon. Okay. Bye ow.

[Outro] You can visit our website at www.ahvise.org.au