Toowoomba the 'Giving City' thanks to 18,000 volunteers

HERE TO HELP: Former teacher Ray Callaghan, who helps out at Meals on Wheels, is one of nearly 18,000 volunteers across Toowoomba according to the latest Census data.
HERE TO HELP: Former teacher Ray Callaghan, who helps out at Meals on Wheels, is one of nearly 18,000 volunteers across Toowoomba according to the latest Census data. Tom Gillespie

IF YOU know someone who receives Meals on Wheels services, there's a fair chance Ray Callaghan will be the one to ring the doorbell and deliver their meal.

The former teacher is one of nearly 18,000 people in Toowoomba who donate their time to organisations or charities - and that number continues to rise.

The latest census employment data, has revealed the Garden City is quickly becoming "the Giving City'', with about 1200 more residents admitting to volunteer work compared with data five years ago.

One in five people aged 15 and over now complete some form of charity work each year in the 4350 post code, and Toowoomba is still way ahead of the national average of 19 per cent.

Mr Callaghan, who retired in 2014 and has always been a volunteer, said he started with Meals on Wheels because of the satisfaction it brought to his life.

"I want to make them feel happy and contribute to their lives, let them know that they are still part of the community and people care for them," he said.

"It's about meeting the people, from all ranges of ages and lifestyles.

"They've all had experiences, some have done well (in life), some haven't.

"But they've all got a story to tell, so they give back to me as well."

Toowoomba Meals on Wheels manager Maxine Thornton said the service has experienced a massive upswing in volunteers over the past five years, partially because of Work For The Dole recipients and people with disabilities.

But she said just as many were walking through the door to lend a hand simply because it's the right thing to do.

"We've got 288 active members now, (and) we have taken on a lot of people with disabilities and their carers," Mrs Thornton said.

"Another thing that's helped us is the Work for the Dole program, (so) we have a lot of people who have to do 15 hours a week to receive Centrelink payments.

"But we'd have some in their early 20s and uni students who help out - they do it from the heart because they want to be here.

"It certainly is encouraging and we are really lucky here in Toowoomba, because we have a great community spirit."


The increase in vlunteering is not the only revealing fact in the latest 2016 census data about Toowoomba, whose residents now drive to work more than ever before.

More than 71 per cent of respondents to the survey said they drove to work, up from 68 per cent in 2011.

Less than one per cent catch public transport.

Much like the rest of the country, the percentage of residents in full-time work has dropped to 57.6 per cent, while the unemployment rate increased two per cent.

Some of the figures about Toowoomba from the latest census employment data include:

JOBS: Full-time jobs are turning into part-time and casual positions in the Garden City, with the number of residents in full-time work staying the same since 2011. In contrast, more than 1100 part-time jobs were created. The unemployment rate went from 5.2% to 7.5%, above the national average (6.9%).

TRANSPORT: More people take the car to work than ever before, with nearly four in five respondents (78.6%) either driving or being driven every day. The number of people taking public transport to work was just 356, or 0.8%.

VOLUNTEERS: Toowoomba residents are volunteering their time more, hitting 17,827 in 2016 compared with 16,675 five years ago.

INCOME: The personal median weekly income in Toowoomba ($649) was very close to the national average ($662), but family incomes ($1538) are falling behind Australia's ($1734). The gap is now wider - in 2011, Toowoomba was just $164 behind the national median, but in 2016 it blew out to $194.

WORK TYPE: Professionals strengthened their title as the top job type in the 4350 postcode, now 21.1% from 19.8%, while jobs listed as "technicians and trades workers" dropped to less than 15%. Labourers, community workers, managers and machinery operators all dropped in 2016, while the percentage of sales workers steadied.

Topics:  toowoomba toowoomba business toowoomba development

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