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Creating Connected Communities Through the WayFairer Project: Interview With Marie Scott

Since its inception, the WayFairer Project has gone from strength to strength, having matched hundreds of members (WayFairers) with fulfilling volunteer opportunities as well as supporting individuals in forging a greater sense of belonging in their local communities. We sat down with Marie Scott, Project Lead in Mandurah, to get to know her, learn about the project’s positive impacts on members and the community, and hear her best advice for people who are curious to join!


The WayFairer Project is now in its 4th year. Can you tell us more about the project and how it began?

The WayFairer Project’s main objective is to connect older adults (+55) to their community. This could be through volunteering with a club or organisation or making new friendships over a cuppa during one of our many social events. The keyword here is “connection”!

The biggest reason the project came to fruition was to boost the mental health of older Australians and improve their sense of belonging. When we retire, many of us risk losing the benefits we enjoy in the workforce – such as feeling valued for our knowledge and skills but also our sense of relevancy in our community. We’re also at risk of losing valuable connections and friendships – unsurprisingly, this can take a massive toll on a person’s mental health.

The keyword here is connection.

The secondary reason was to respond to the decline in volunteerism we see across Australia. The WayFairer Project addresses both of these issues. Not only do we provide individuals with opportunities to find a new sense of purpose and grow new connections in the community, but we’re also addressing the needs of local community groups, clubs, and organisations by helping them find local talent.


You joined as project lead in 2022. What drew you to the project?

I joined the project for two reasons. Firstly, I was relatively new to Mandurah, and the project offered me an excellent opportunity to get involved in the community.

The second reason is that I love spending time with people and am very socially minded. I’ve also volunteered my entire life, so when I saw the job advert, I thought, “Yep, that’s what I want to do”.

Today, two years on, I’ve built many wonderful and strong connections with the community!


The WayFairer Project highlights the importance of creating a reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationship between community organisations and WayFairers. Can you tell us more about the process you go through in matching organisations out in the community with WayFairers?

As a project lead, I connect with the individuals who join the project. I work with them one-on-one to get to know them and get a fuller picture of what makes them “tick”. I also ask them to reflect on their experiences, knowledge, and skills.

I believe meeting people face-to-face and being a good listener is critical in my role. It’s only through talking to people, finding out what motivates them, and learning about their experiences or new areas of interest that we can work towards making solid matches.

Secondly, I meet with clubs, groups, and organisations in the community to learn more about what needs and skillsets they’re looking for. And from there, the process of matching a WayFairer with a potential group out in the community begins! Of course, it’s not always a perfect match straight away, but that’s part of the process!

For example, I recently worked with a couple who were relatively new to Mandurah, and they wanted to find a way to get more in touch with the community. They had tried a few different options – through other volunteer organisations – but hadn’t found anything they thoroughly enjoyed.

The man wanted to get out and help people on the street, while the woman loved admin work. After pairing them up with a few different options, we finally connected them with a social group in Mandurah. Now, she’s working in the office, and he’s out talking to homeless people on the street in addition to being a Street Walker at night.


It’s only through talking to people, finding out what motivates them, and learning about their experiences or new areas of interest that we can work towards making solid matches.

The outcome for this couple is excellent! Not only are they using their transferable skills and doing something they’re passionate about, but they are also contributing to the safety and wellbeing of the Mandurah community.

I also organise ‘Cafe Connects’ at Mandurah’s Falcon and Lakelands libraries. These sessions are mainly for social purposes, where we invite guest speakers to talk about different topics; we also invite presenters from clubs, groups, or organisations looking for volunteers. These are great opportunities for members to connect and see what options are out there!


What are some of the positive impacts you see the WayFairer Project has on individuals who join? 

I have a few different things that come to mind: connection to community, improved mental health, and how this has a flow-on effect on improving the general quality of life.

It can be tough to take the first step. But the reality is, you have nothing to lose but a lot to gain!

The most fascinating thing for me is the cross-connections and how people form strong relationships through the program. For example, after attending a “Cafe Connect” recently, a big group went out for lunch and talked about the exciting projects they’re involved with. This was completely spontaneous, and as the project lead, it’s incredibly satisfying to see these types of connections forged.


What benefits do clubs, organisations, or community groups experience from being part of the project? 

Previously, people used to be very connected to their community. Unfortunately, that has changed, and today, volunteerism has steadily declined across the country. Personally, I believe social media, combined with other factors, might be to blame for this trend. This is a massive issue for clubs, groups, and organisations that used to rely heavily on volunteers.

So, being put in touch with a group like the WayFairers, who highlight to people the benefits of being connected to a group in the community and put energy into the matching process, organisations and groups can access individuals with a lifetime of experience and skills. This is knowledge that would otherwise go completely untapped.


Some people can find it challenging to take the first step in joining a community group or start volunteering. What advice do you have for people interested in becoming a WayFairer but haven’t made the move yet? 

It can be tough to take the first step. But the reality is, you have nothing to lose but a lot to gain!

The WayFairer Project is a collaboration between Inclusion Solutions, the City of Mandurah, and the City of Kalamunda. Besides offering personalised volunteer matching opportunities, the project hosts coffee catch-ups and other social events, providing opportunities to connect. If you know someone who is isolated or would benefit from greater community connection, you can contact:

Marie Scott (Project Lead Mandurah) at [email protected] or 0423 760 581.

The WayFairer Project

Through the WayFairer Project, adults aged 50+ year old will be matched with community clubs and organisations to gift their time, skills, talents and interests to help address the challenges faced by clubs.

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The WayFairer Project – Learn More (Yellow Img Right)

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