Timothy Ben Zweifel

Boomerang Bags - Mandy Burns

Timothy Ben Zweifel
Boomerang Bags - Mandy Burns

Mandy lets a tide of social change out of the bag.

After eight years as the Ardoch Youth Foundation’s CEO, Mandy Burns has learnt that social change requires the mobilisation of many willing minds and hands. A Port resident, Mandy played a pivotal role in the local charity’s expansion and development, establishing Ardoch activities in primary and secondary schools and early years services in Melbourne, Geelong, Brisbane, Perth and Sydney. 

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Joining Ardoch as a volunteer, Mandy moved on from her 19-year association with the Foundation late last year. “Taking Ardoch from a founder-led organisation to a National voice in the support of vulnerable children’s learning and wellbeing was a great privilege.”

Having established strong partnerships between business, community and philanthropy, it is no surprise that Mandy’s latest position has her taking her passion for social justice into the digital sphere. “I have always been driven by great causes that tap into the community’s collective desire to make a difference and our capacity and resources to have real impact.” 

Now working with Be Collective, a digital platform designed to help communities realise positive social impact, Mandy is driving the expansion of the organisation from Start-up to Global Movement. This cutting edge platform radically changes how we find volunteer opportunities, manage volunteers, run events, and engage new audiences, by making it easy, fun and global. “Be Collective is committed to creating a social infrastructure that promotes a culture of kindness, recognition, sustainability and support.” 

But Mandy’s job driving social change isn’t limited to her working life. Earlier this year Mandy was inspired by a community driven initiative tackling plastic pollution at a grassroots level. Despondent at the number of plastic bags used in Australia, Mandy came across the brainchild of Tania Potts and Jordyn de Boer of Burleigh Heads in Queensland. Their initiative, Boomerang Bags, uses recycled materials to make alternatives to plastic bags. “Boomerang Bags is about more than just reducing plastic bag consumption, it’s about starting conversations, making friends, up-cycling materials and working to shift society towards a more sustainable revolution of re-use.”

Starting Port Melbourne’s own chapter of Boomerang Bags, Mandy and a dedicated team of volunteers are working to make the South Melbourne Market a plastic bag-free shopping environment. “Using donated materials, and the significant skills of super-volunteers, we have already made 45 Boomerang Bags.” 

Placed in designated boxes at shopping precincts, Boomerang Bags are free to take, use, keep or return. A simple idea at its core, the 55,000 Boomerang Bags made by 170 groups around the world, aim to make a difference to the 1 million plastic bags used worldwide every minute. Causing roughly 3.5 million tons of waste per year, it is sobering to learn that only 5% of single-use plastics disposed of are recycled. Roughly 50% is buried in landfills, a small proportion is made into durable goods, and the remaining is “unaccounted for” – lost in the environment where it ultimately washes out to sea through drains and waterways. In the ocean, sunlight and wave action causes the plastic to fragment into smaller and smaller pieces, resulting in all kinds of hazards for our marine life.*

The opportunity to get back into community projects has been relished by Mandy. “As clichéd as it sounds, I believe that Margaret Mead was right when she said; Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. It is the only thing that ever has.”

And Mandy is certainly living that message. You can get involved with Boomerang Bags in Port Melbourne by contacting Mandy directly at mandy.burns@becollective.com. Help with running sewing bees, sewing and collecting donated material and bags is needed to keep Port Melbourne’s Boomerang Bags in production.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities in your area, including Boomerang Bags, or to mobilise volunteer support for your community cause, jump onto becollective.com