News & Events

Our volunteers – we thank you

April 19, 2017

Every day of the week the staff and residents at OCAV’s four villages appreciate our volunteers. But National Volunteer Week (May 8–14) is a chance to thank them and acknowledge the generous contribution they make to our community.


OCAV’s 164 volunteers support our residents across all villages in many different ways. They maintain the libraries, support the men’s group at Leith Park, facilitate current affairs discussions, run art programs, assist with computer help to ensure residents keep up to date with friends and family and drive residents to appointments. Last year our volunteers contributed 6,444 hours, the equivalent of $177,000 based on 2010 Volunteer Australia figures.


It’s difficult to calculate how many hours Gavan MacManus, 85, has contributed to OCAV since he first volunteered more than 20 years ago. In the beginning he was a regular, coming to sing to residents. Now he comes a few times a year and his most recent visit was for an Easter concert in early April.


He first came to Liscombe House, OCAV’s aged care facility, in 1995 after he read a notice in the local paper looking for someone to come and provide some entertainment to the residents. He had retired from his regular job, but singing and entertaining are in his blood so he jumped at the chance and has sung for residents year after year since then.


Gavan isn’t just a well-known voice around Leith Park, he is known in many parts of Australia and especially in Victoria where he has sung for almost 60 years, often with Austrian dance groups. He always loved music, but a strange turn of events when he was a young man took him from the family farm and off to Melbourne.


Born on a small dairy farm at Seaton near Heyfield in country Victoria, he started his own poultry farm at 17. Gavan grew up around music with his father playing the flute and cornet at local dances, accompanied by his aunt on the piano. He developed polio when he was 18 and spent a year in hospital. He was eventually fitted with calipers and soon realised he could not expect to make a living on the farm. He became a barber then spent six years in Bairnsdale where he first began singing.  After moving to Melbourne he took up a clerical job with the Department of Defence.


In between career moves he joined the Southern Cross Light Opera Company chorus and was soon given the second lead role as a tenor. This was the beginning of a musical passion that has endured and given joy to tens of thousands of people over the years, especially at Leith Park. He loves light opera, musical comedy and ballads, but Gavan can sing almost anything that is requested, and a favourite at Liscombe House is, ‘The Happy Wanderer’.


Gavan, who lives in Bundoora, has encouraged many other talented musicians and performers to join him at OCAV over the years including his two sons, Terence and Michael. They used to accompany him on the violin and guitar when they were secondary school students and some of their friends would join in. These days Michael is a member of the Melbourne Guitar Quartet and Terence is a member of a church choir in Geelong and last year sang in the chorus of the Melbourne Opera company.


Ellen, Gavan’s wife, also participates in some of his concerts, not as a singer, but as a belly dancer. At the Easter concert Ellen and a friend, Sheryl, performed some belly dancing routines for the resident and Sheryl’s son, Alex, played a Japanese instrument. Entertaining is a big part of the MacManus family life and they have a knack for bringing others into their world of music.


“Music has always been important to me even when I was a child. I love to sing and entertain people. It can create such a wonderful and joyful experience for people who are participating and listening,” Gavan said.


As well as volunteering at Liscombe House, Gavan also sings on special occasions with the St Damian’s Parish choir.


OCAV’s volunteer coordinator Kim D’Angelis said it was impossible to describe the entertainment and joy Gavan and his family have given to OCAV residents over more than two decades.


“He is greatly valued by us here because he gives so much of himself,” Kim said.


In the annual report, OCAV’s CEO Phillip Wohlers said volunteers form an integral part of the OCAV community on so many levels.


“They provide friendship and support to residents, both at group level and individually, and work with our staff as part of a team to deliver an array of social and physical activities. We are seeing some real impact on this front with total volunteer numbers growing by 25% in the past twelve months and we plan to grow this number to more than 200 by 2020,” Mr Wohlers said.

Caption: Gavan performing at Liscombe House with his wife, Ellen, and Sheryl Sibbison.



Evon makes it a priority to help people make the move into a village as easy as possible. She also works to ensure the new residents feel a strong sense of welcome and belonging.

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