St Vincent's Private Hospital Brisbane and Northside pay tribute to their invaluable Volunteers

St Vincent's Private Hospital Northside & St Vincent's Private Hospital Brisbane

Volunteer Week is a national celebration of volunteering in Australia. St Vincent’s Private Hospital Brisbane and Northside pay tribute to the invaluable work of its passionate and dedicated volunteers who support patients, their families and staff every week of the year.

Long-time St Vincent’s Hospital volunteer Kath Graham knows ‘that look’ on the faces of arriving patients as she waits in the foyer of the Chermside hospital as a ‘concierge’ and ‘meet and greet person’ just inside the front door.

 It’s often an anxious face, sometimes a furrowed brow, with patients casting nervous glances around them. It commonly features an unsettled and disoriented look as the patient might be wrestling with doubts, fears and uncertainty about their hospital visit for what could be anything from a routine colonoscopy to lifesaving cardiac surgery.


And then out from the Welcome desk steps Kath or one of her volunteer colleagues with a smiling, comforting look and reassuring words. 

“We greet people as they come in the door and it’s always busiest in the morning between around 5.30 and 9am when we can have over 50 people arriving for surgery or appointments,“ says Kath.


“We get to meet lots of lovely people upon arrival and we aim to make them comfortable especially as part of their preparations for surgery. We check that they know where they are going whether it be an admission, a doctor’s visit, medical issue, imaging or visiting a patient.  

“If they’re coming in for surgery, I wait until they are admitted by the Reception staff, then I take them up to the Day Surgery Admissions Lounge so they can be prepared for surgery. 

“For the others, I provide them with directions to ensure they get to the right place which means I need to have a good knowledge of the hospital layout and the specialist doctors who have rooms at St Vincent’s.”

Darren Walters

"It's a wonderful feeling knowing that I can, and do, contribute."

Kath, aged 76, has been a volunteer with St Vincent’s since 2016 after she and her husband returned to Queensland from Canberra after decades working in the Federal public service.

She volunteers for two shifts a week at St Vincent’s, both starting at 5.30am and says that her early career and training as a nurse makes her feel comfortable in a hospital environment and says “it’s a wonderful feeling knowing that I can, and do, contribute.”

Her work involves a wide array of tasks, including:

  • Taking the patients up to the Day Surgery admissions lounge
  • Asking for a patient’s name when they are coming in for a procedure and getting their files out ready for the reception staff 
  • Being aware of when someone needs help and providing directions when people don’t know where to go. Sometimes, if they are very confused, she escorts them up to a relevant doctors’ office
  • Breaking up the identifier bands for the reception staff to use
  • Providing assistance by delivering documentation to the Pharmacy or the wards or samples to Pathology as required
  • Selling raffle tickets for fundraising projects
  • Plus “having morning tea with the lovely group of vollies I work with and walking lots and lots of steps.”

Kath says there’s so many things she loves about working as a volunteer with St Vincent’s.


“It gives me a structure and purpose for my daily/weekly life and it always makes me feel good to be there. St Vincent’s Northside has a lovely culture and is a happy place to be in 99% of the time. Working with a fantastic group of people from different areas within the hospital including our Volunteer Coordinator and the other volunteers is enjoyable and rewarding,” says Kath.


“In our team of volunteers, you are with a group of like-minded people and they have become a very lovely social group and very supportive of each other in good times as well as in the bad.   

“There is always someone to talk to who can listen and just be a good friend as well as often providing practical ideas and solutions for our problems. It keeps me active physically and mentally which is a really good thing as I get older.

“I have always been a volunteer. It’s something I was brought up with and volunteering has always been a huge part of my life. The volunteering program at St Vincent’s covers so many things and there is a role for everyone. 


“The volunteers are certainly appreciated within St Vincent’s and while you don’t do it for the thanks, it is always lovely to be acknowledged by staff and the Executive Team particularly with our amazing Christmas party each year.”

Kath Graham

But there’s another side to Kath’s volunteering and her ‘other life’ which hospital visitors would be completely oblivious to - the trailblazing international Men’s gymnastics judge and coach who’s had the ‘privilege’ of judging at two Commonwealth Games and international competitions in far-flung countries such as South Africa, Turkey, New Zealand, the United States and Canada. 

Kath became involved with gymnastics when her two sons took up the sport and while she coached men’s gymnastics from 1977, she became more active in the judging side of men’s competition 38 years ago, even triggering a change in the international rules and becoming the first female international judge for men’s competition.

“It took me about 12 years to get the rules changed internationally and in 2001, I became the first female in the world to get my international judging accreditation to judge men’s gymnastics which was very satisfying,” she says. 

“All of the judging and presenting judges courses and developing resources and education material are also done as a volunteer. So many hours have been given and while I have had many challenges, I’ve had so many opportunities to travel within Australia and overseas and judge at state, national and international competitions and being part of an amazing community and I am still involved with the sport today, recently judging at the National Championships which I’ve done for 35 years.”

During this Volunteer’s Week, St Vincent’s Private Hospitals around Australia will honour and recognise its volunteers, ever grateful of the fact they are woven into the fabric of the hospitals and are an integral component of the hospitals’ culture.


St Vincent's Private Hospital Brisbane and Northside CEO Oli Steele says volunteers are part of the lifeblood of the everyday work and operations at St Vincent's hospitals and last year contributed over 15,000 hours of work to supporting patients, their families and staff.


"It's getting more challenging each year to maintain and recruit a full team of volunteers, which was the experience across the state for all organisations according to a recent survey of Volunteering Queensland," said Mr Steele. 


"But we're blessed at St Vincent's to have a fantastic team of over 100 dedicated volunteers and when you have evergreen and passionate volunteers such as Kath who help out day in, day out and week in week out without fail, the impact on the care and experience for our patients is significant." 

Better and fairer care. Always.

In a rapidly transforming world, St Vincent's has created a refreshed vision and strategy to help shape Australia's health and aged care future.