Still busy at 81 years old

Tireless efforts: Bruce Bland outside one of the many courthouses he visits, Campbelltown Local Court. Picture: IDRS
Tireless efforts: Bruce Bland outside one of the many courthouses he visits, Campbelltown Local Court. Picture: IDRS

Most people at the age of 81 are well into their retirement, enjoying days away from the hustle and bustle of working lives.

But most people are not Bruce Bland.

The Campbelltown resident still clocks up countless hours each week helping people with intellectual disabilities to navigate the legal and criminal justice systems.

In the past two years alone, the volunteer visited court 189 times. The 2017 Campbelltown Citizen of the Year nominee is not one to openly brag about his endeavours but takes great pride in the work he does.

“I get personal satisfaction from ensuring that people with an intellectual disability are not unfairly spending their lives in prison,” he said.

“It feels great when it turns out well. I am not alone – I’m one of 130 volunteers across NSW who commit their time to doing the same.”

Mr Bland often leaves home at 6.45am to make sure he can beat the Sydney traffic to attend 9.30am court appearances.

“We are all supported by the great team at Intellectual Disability Rights Service,” he said. “All of us are passionate about ensuring everybody’s rights are upheld.”

The IDRS is a specialist legal and advocacy service working with people with intellectual disability throughout NSW.

Volunteers work to ensure people with disability are able to make their court appearances, receive legal assistance and understand exactly what is going on with their cases.

Volunteers like Mr Bland helped more than 1100 people with disability in 2015-2016.

“Volunteering keeps me young at heart,” Mr Bland said. “Really, I am the lucky one being able to meet so many interesting people and knowing I have made a real difference to their lives.”

IDRS executive officer Janene Cootes said it was great to have a team of volunteers who could meet demand.

“We have only been able to respond to the expanding demand for our services due to the dedication of volunteers like Bruce,” she said.

Mr Bland and other Sydney-based volunteers were invited to a morning tea in Redfern last Friday in recognition of their commitment to IDRS, to coincide with National Volunteering Week. 

The IDRS said more than 10 per cent of the NSW prison population had an intellectual disability – a significantly larger percentage than the general population, which is just two-three per cent.

The IDRS is calling for more western Sydney volunteers to become involved in its free service. All volunteers receive comprehensive training.

Contact Kelly Watson on 9318 0144 to find out more.

I get personal satisfaction from ensuring that people with an intellectual disability are not unfairly spending their lives in prison.

IDRS volunteer Bruce Bland