Volunteers bolster healthy lifestyle program

In the City of Holdfast Bay in South Australia, volunteers are helping to deliver important council programs whilst gaining on-the-job training.

When Commonwealth funding for the Healthy Holdfast Bay program ceased in June 2014, a number of the City of Holdfast Bay’s healthy lifestyle initiatives were discontinued, due to diminished staff capacity.

With a growing number of children and families moving into the council area, Holdfast Bay’s Active Communities Team continued to look for ways to deliver the priorities identified by the council’s ‘Our Place’ Community Plan through community consultation, the Regional Health Plan, and the South Australian Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle (OPAL) program.

In September 2016, they launched an innovative solution.
“Our aim is to create a healthy environment where healthy choices are the easier choice, and to support this by offering free and low-cost leisure and recreation activities,” said City of Holdfast Bay Manager Active Communities Matthew Rechner.

“Our new Healthy Lifestyle Volunteer program increases our capacity to deliver this aim within our existing staffing levels and budgets.
“By recruiting qualified graduates as volunteers, we’re able to offer our community more while providing valuable on-the-job experience that will assist the graduates in securing paid work.”

Following consultation with the Flinders University, two recently qualified dieticians were recruited as Holdfast Bay’s first Healthy Lifestyle Volunteers in October 2016.

They now spend one day each week assisting the team with identifying opportunities to improve the health and wellbeing of employees, community members and visitors in the priority areas of ‘Healthy Lifestyle’, ‘Healthy Eating’ and ‘Be Active’.

The volunteers have undertaken a number of tasks since beginning the program: they have presented healthy eating workshops at libraries, local early learning centres and schools; developed an informational flyer and web page; recruited Breast Feeding Friendly venues; worked with sporting clubs to explore healthy canteen options; researched policies and processes on edible verge gardens; and, promoted recipe ideas and activity ideas to approximately 300 council employees.

Mr Rechner said Council is “surprised and delighted at the progress we’ve made since implementing the program”.

“It’s incredibly rewarding for the team to be able to design, plan and deliver worthwhile programs, and to see the volunteers growing as they gain this hands-on experience in their field.”