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MS Australia celebrates National Volunteer Week

volunteers with Deb O'Neill
8 May 2017

(pictured: Volunteer National Advocates Erin Brady (left) and Lynne Smith (right) with NSW Senator Deb O’Neill (centre) at Parliament House, Canberra in March 2017.)

The annual National Volunteer Week celebrates the generous contribution of volunteers.

MS Australia volunteers play a key part in our work.

We advocate for systemic change that will lead to more effective management of MS, and ultimately to stop MS.  And we want to enable people to better manage their symptoms, enhancing their quality of life, health and wellbeing.

Our advocacy work happens in many ways and includes meeting with key decision-makers such as politicians and advisers, as well as providing responses to Australian Government enquiries and reviews.  We work with MS Research Australia and the state/territory MS Societies as well as other organisations at a national and international level with shared interests.

A network of 15 trained, volunteer National Advocates from around Australia, who either live with MS or care for someone with MS, work with MSA to advocate for the MS community, helping to raise awareness of MS and its impact.

These Advocates lobby the Federal Government through regular meetings with their local Members of Parliament and Senators; they serve on committees and advisory groups, campaign through media appearances and meet in Canberra, usually annually, to advance the MS cause and take the MS message directly to Parliament House.

Why do they volunteer?

A National MSA Advocate since 2004, ACT resident Mary Webb was diagnosed with MS in 1995.

“I first contacted the local MS Society in Canberra in 2000 when starting medication. Due to the wonderful help and support from the immunotherapy nurse, I started volunteering with local MS fundraising, which quickly expanded to the advisory board and peer support roles.”

With a wide network of MS friends, Mary understands the challenges people face beyond her own experience. Mary hopes this translates to both speaking up on behalf of the MS community, and helping in ways where having MS is an asset.

A National Advocate since 2005, Lynne Smith has spent many years volunteering in the MS community; raising awareness and funds for her local MS society and speaking to clubs and organisations on the NSW Central Coast.

Diagnosed with MS in 1991, Lynne’s over 25 years’ experience with the condition and her deep understanding of the needs of people living with MS, has her well placed as a successful volunteer National Advocate.

“I enjoy meeting with my local Federal politicians and helping them to learn and understand the needs of people with MS and the vital part they can play to help us be heard and helped”, says Lynne.

Perth-based Lynda Whitton was diagnosed with MS in 1996, subsequently attending MS WA outreach group meetings, eventually taking on the role of President.

A volunteer MSA National Advocate since 2012, Lynda enjoys working with like-minded Advocates from around Australia, adding her voice to inform governments how people with MS and other neurological diseases, need their help and support.

Lynda says, “It is always a wonderful feeling when the MPs listen to our plans. I will never not have MS, but in my position as a National Advocate, I feel I'm working to help make life easier for all”.

To read about MSA volunteer National Advocates visit:

To find out about volunteering or events during Volunteer Week, check out: