Recognising a Decade of Kindness and Generosity

Derwent Views, National Volunteer Week |

Celebrating National Volunteer Week (NVW) with Claude Conlan, much-loved volunteer at Respect

Each year, May provides us with an opportunity recognise the impact of volunteers, in all industries across Australia, through National Volunteer Week (NVW). 

At Respect, we believe it’s the people at the very heart of our communities who make them so unique and special. That includes our generous and dedicated volunteers, who continue to play an essential and irreplaceable role supporting our residents and staff.

To mark NVW this year, we wanted to profile just one of those special individuals – Claude Conlan – who for more than a decade has been a much-loved and ever-present fixture of our Lindisfarne community in Greater Hobart, Tasmania.

A friend to so many across our Lindisfarne retirement villages and Derwent Views aged care home, his generosity and selflessness have profoundly impacted countless staff members, residents and their families since the moment he and his wife, Frances, first joined the growing care community in 2014.

At the time, Frances was battling ill-health, and began receiving care at Derwent Views (then called Freemasons Home). Determined to be by her side, Claude moved into our neighbouring retirement village, so he could continue to be an adoring presence to the love of his life.  

“I used to come into the home at 7am in the morning to help Frances with breakfast and then leave at about 8pm at night,” Claude says. “After a while, the General Manager at the time had the idea to sign me up as a volunteer. I was spending so much time at the home and helping out, they thought I was at least worthy of a complimentary lunch!

“That was the start of it. Up until a couple of months ago, I’ve been volunteering at Derwent Views for 10 years.” 

Unfortunately, Frances passed away the year after the pair moved into the Lindisfarne community. However, Claude has continued to honour her legacy by positively influencing the lives of others, especially those battling challenging times.

With Claude now 93 years old, it’s amazing to consider the level of impact he has had across a decade of volunteering, and the numerous lives he has touched. With an endearing outgoingness and a warm and pleasant demeanour, he provided residents of the home with social connection and companionship, particularly those who didn’t have many visitors. 

“At one stage, I was volunteering four days a week. I got along really well with everyone, I enjoyed it so much. I suppose that’s what I found most satisfying too – I was connecting with others while also staying connected with the community. 

“I loved doing activities with each of the residents I was supporting. I would play 8-ball, chess, cribbage… whatever they wanted to play, I was happy to share the time with them. One resident even taught me mah-jong.” 

Claude has twice been nominated as Tasmanian Volunteer of the Year, and is proud to hold the title of the oldest person to be given the distinction.   

“What I’ve learnt from volunteering is how important it is to spend one-on-one time with others, particularly those who are feeling lonely,” he says. “It’s a great way to help, as people will often just want someone to talk to. You just need to be a good and thoughtful listener.  

“My approach to life has always been ‘love thy neighbour’. Do your bit to help other people through their life, through their difficulties, or any problems they may have. Even if it’s just the little things like smiling or having a chat with someone, you can make a big difference.”  

Maya Cuatt is Respect’s Retirement Living Manager in Southern Tasmania, and she pays tribute to Claude and how much of a popular figure he is for the entire Lindisfarne community and villages.  

“Claude is so caring, an absolute gentleman who looks after everyone around him,” Maya says. “Up until recently, whenever I walked through Derwent Views, I would see Claude, helping out, engaging others. It just warms my heart to know he’s giving back in such a lovely way. He brightens everyone’s day and we’re lucky to have him part of our lives.”  

While volunteering has played a major part of Claude’s life, it also enabled him to continue his passion for community involvement and collaboration. From working as an organic farmer, owning a sports and electronics shop in Huonville, running for state government, teaching at Sunday school, and being involved in scouting, his life has been about giving back and supporting others.  

“I’ve done a lot of things in my life that I’m proud of, but my greatest accomplishment was marrying my wife, Frances, and having four children. Frances was the most beautiful woman and had a lovely nature. Together, we were able to help a lot of people in our way through life.” he says. 

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