Pat Horan and Colleen Macqueen. Photo: ANDREW PERRYMAN

Pat Horan and Colleen Macqueen are community visitors who volunteer their time ensuring that consumers’ human rights are respected within disability group homes, supported residential facilities and mental health units.

The women said they gain great satisfaction from doing their work and responding to the needs of people who sometimes don’t have the capacity to voice any concerns.

“The Community Visitors Program has a critical shortage of volunteers in the Bendigo area,” Acting Public Advocate, John Chesterman, said.

Community Visitor volunteers are the eyes and ears of the community and monitor and report on people living or residing in disability group homes, supported residential facilities or mental health units.

The volunteers talk to residents or patients to ensure they are being treated with dignity and respect. They have significant powers of entry and inspection and visit unannounced.

Following their visit, they write a brief report detailing any issues of concern, but also any good practices that they have noticed.

“Community Visitors are appointed by the Victorian Governor in council making this a highly prominent and prestigious volunteer role,” Dr Chesterman said.

The time commitment is flexible with volunteers spending on average eight to 10 hours visiting each month. Training and reimbursement of expenses is provided.

For more information on the Community Visitors Program, contact the OPA Volunteer Coordinator Di Cahill on 1300 309 337 or email opavolunteers@justice.vic.gov.au