Volunteering at the Eye and Ear
For more than 90 years, beginning with a women’s Auxiliary group from the Dandenong Ranges in 1922, volunteers have offered their time, skills and experience in support of the hospital’s work. Today, our volunteer workforce continues to form a critical component of the work we do.
Volunteers are an invaluable part of the hospital and our Volunteer program continues to grow and evolve. In 2008, the Eye and Ear established its Concierge program, where volunteers provide a warm welcome, guidance and support to patients. Since then we have established a number of new roles where volunteers engage directly with patients to improve their experiences at the Eye and Ear.
Please note that due to the COVID-19 pandemic our Volunteers are currently not on-site and are supporting us in other ways from home. Learn more about COVID-19 at the Eye and Ear.
A history of volunteer support
From around the 1870s, the hospital’s first volunteers were often the wives of the Committee of Management members. Their assistance included bringing homemade goods for patients, reading to visually impaired and blind patients and taking the children staying in the hospital on visits to the Fitzroy Gardens.
The first official volunteers came to the hospital in 1922, when the first ladies Auxiliaries were established, founded by women from Olinda and Sassafras in the Dandenong Ranges. Auxiliary members both volunteered within the hospital as well as actively fundraised on its behalf. The funding and patient support they provided proved increasingly important to the hospital, as more women’s Auxiliary groups sprung up around Victoria.
It was the Auxiliary groups that established the first canteen for patients, funded and staffed wholly by the volunteers and later a gift shop.
During a second influenza epidemic in 1923, the Eye and Ear relied on volunteer staff, many of them retired nurses, to continue to operate.
In 1969, a storefront was leased by the Auxiliaries and the hospital’s Opportunity Shop established in Smith Street, Fitzroy, operated solely by Auxiliary volunteers.
During the 1980s, Auxiliary volunteers raised more than $3 million for the hospital, including $1 million to equip the second floor of the Smorgon Family Wing, including $0.5 million for equipment in what then was the new Day Surgery Unit, $1 million to refurbish the Operating Theatre Suite and $0.5 million to refurbish two four-bed wards on the eighth floor of the Peter Howson Wing.
Volunteers still remain an invaluable part of the hospital whether it be through their fundraising efforts or the time that they give.