Busselton volunteers are the backbone of the local community and we are proud to support them

When Lesley Perry moved to Busselton to be near her daughter and grandchildren she was struck by how many people were involved in volunteering.

“It was unlike any other place I’d ever visited,” says Lesley. “Almost everyone I met seemed to be helping a sporting event or cultural activity. I just had to get involved.”

Leslie Perry Leslie Perry
Lesley Perry

The effervescent octogenarian first threw herself into CinefestOZ, a regional film festival established a decade ago to boost economic activity in this pretty beachside town in Western Australia’s South West.

Each year Lesley and the CinefestOZ Movie Crew man more than 100 screenings, escort guests (some who’ve never been to the region before) and serve food and drinks at the after parties.

They help create a positive vibe that lures patrons back to the region time and again.

“It’s been wonderful. I’ve met people I wouldn’t normally get the chance to meet. And it keeps me young,” laughs Lesley, whose high-energy dance moves on the event’s closing now have passed into local legend.

CinefestOZ Movie Crew CinefestOZ Movie Crew
CinefestOZ Movie Crew

“One of the reasons the volunteers keep coming back year after year is the support they receive from Rio Tinto,” says CinefestOZ deputy chair Margaret Buswell.

“CinefestOZ wouldn’t exist without its volunteers. So our relationship with Rio Tinto is vital in keeping alive an event that’s become important to the cultural life of the region,” says Margaret.

The efforts of Lesley and the Movie Crew have ensured CinefestOZ has blossomed into a major event on the Australian cinematic calendar.

Busselton volunteers supported by Rio Tinto: Lesley and Jody

Rio Tinto has been an integral part of the journey CinefestOZ has been on to become one of the biggest cultural and economic drivers for the region, partnering with the event since 2010.

CinefestOZ now boasts a headline-grabbing $100,000 prize for the best Australian film, one of the biggest of its kind anywhere in the world.

While Rio Tinto’s main operations are in the Pilbara, 1,500 kilometres to the north of Busselton, Rio Tinto has almost 700 fly-in, fly-out workers in the region.

FIFO map FIFO map
Busselton is 1,500km south of Rio Tinto's main operations in the Pilbara

It makes sense for Rio Tinto be part of such a close-knit community. In addition to CinefestOZ, they also sponsor international sporting event Busselton Ironman. Both events bring a global audience to the region, making it a more vibrant and interesting place for the community, while boosting the local economy.

Lesley also volunteers for the Busselton Ironman, which since its establishment in 2004 has become one of the premiere events on the global triathlon calendar.

Matt Walker, who’s in charge of the finish line at the Busselton Ironman, believes Rio Tinto’s support has been crucial to its success.

Matt Walker Matt Walker
Matt Walker

“Without Rio Tinto’s support we’d struggle to get the volunteers we need to run the Ironman,” says Matt, whose day job is managing a local travel company.

Busselton folks get more involved in volunteering than just about anywhere in the country because of their love for the region and grasp of economic reality, according to Matt.

Without volunteers, events like Busselton Ironman and CinefestOZ would not happen. Volunteers are essentially forming the backbone of the community – driving the economy of the region.

Busselton volunteers supported by Rio Tinto: Tony and Matt

In turn local businesses benefit, not only through the increasing visitors to the region, but also through the many local procurement opportunities with these events.

“We’re fiercely passionate about our corner of the state and we are keen to show it off. We know visitors are good for the local economy which is, in turn, good for all of us.”

Busselton’s extraordinary tradition of volunteering is also forging friendships - the glue bonding an entire community.

“I was dragged into the Ironman by Tony Best [a local GP],” says Matt. “‘Bestie’ and I are now best mates and we regularly paddle together. When there are events out in the water we often do the paddle support.”

Tony Best Tony Best
Tony Best

Tony, the director of the medical team, says doctors, nurses and paramedics love to get involved because it allows them to engage more deeply with an event that’s important to the region’s economic well-being.

“Busselton people are proud of where they live and want to be a part of everything that makes the place great. It can only get better with the support we’re getting from Rio Tinto.”

Lead image: Matt Walker and Tony Best paddling in Busselton