Graham Buchner with members of the Rotary Club of Warwick Sunrise, Mindi Devine, Sally Lancaster, Pat Devine, John Head and Bruce Fanning.
Graham Buchner with members of the Rotary Club of Warwick Sunrise, Mindi Devine, Sally Lancaster, Pat Devine, John Head and Bruce Fanning.

‘No new blood’: community groups on verge of extinction

THEY'VE long been a cornerstone of Warwick, but record low numbers have sparked new fears the town's volunteer organisations could soon become a thing of the past.

For most community groups, the promise of socialising while giving something back to their fellow residents through charity or volunteer work has kept them going for decades.

However, community service veteran Graham Buchner, who at 80 remains involved with 14 Warwick organisations, is fearful the lack of youth interest will see such groups fizzle out.

"It's going to be a problem, that's for sure, and I have no idea how they can change it," Mr Buchner said.

"I can see that a number of things I'm with will just fold when we pass on, because there's just no one else coming through the ranks.

"If you haven't got people coming in at the lower level and everyone keeps dropping off the top, the organisation will just dissolve."

One of Mr Buchner's most renowned act of community service was founding the Warwick Clean Up Group, and in 2005 he received an Order of the Medal of Australia for his tireless dedication to the Warwick community.

It was only recently, however, with his retirement from tidying the streets of the Rose City that he witnessed the folding of a longstanding community organisation first-hand.

"You've only got to look at the Clean Up Group - 28 years ago, we had all these people that were interested and got off their bums to do something," Mr Buchner said.

"After all that, we fizzled down to just no one when I finished.

"There were no young ones wanting to come along and pick up the rubbish and that from other people, sadly, but that's what happens."

Whether through acts of community service or simply bringing together those with similar interests, the slow decimation of volunteer groups seems indiscriminate.

Warwick Spinners and Weavers Group assistant secretary Thérèse Wallace shared the same concerns over her beloved community organisation.

"It's a craft that's got so much history to it, and I don't want to see it die - it's something that could, with so many of the older generation following it," Ms Wallace said.

"We're always looking for new members, and we'd certainly like to attract a younger membership.

"Our members come every week, and they're just there to support that community and artistic side of our community, and it would be such a shame to see it fold."

Whether it's a question of time, money, or energy, the problem of how to get youth interested and engaged with community organisations has left Mr Buchner and his contemporaries scratching their heads.

"I'm at a loss - you talk to people all the time about what we can do, and nobody seems to have a real answer," he said.

"We've given a lot of thought to how we can do it, and every organisation seems to be struggling and waiting for new blood, but it just doesn't come.

"A lot of these community things will just fade away with us. These volunteers - you can work until you drop, but once you pass you can't do much."

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