Government Volunteer Funding Criticised
21 June 2004 at 1:06 pm
Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) has welcomed extra government funding for volunteer organisations, but questions the effectiveness of such funding as a long-term community building tool.
Responding to the Minister for Victorian Communities John Thwaites’ announcement of $20 million in funding over three years to support volunteering in Victoria, VLGA President Julie Hansen says clearly state governments should support volunteer organisations and the work they do.
Hansen says they play an important role in society; indeed society would fall apart without the work of volunteers.
However Hansen says the VLGA does not want to see support for volunteers as a way of opting out of key services to the community where volunteers are being used as a cheap way of providing services that should be provided professionally, with clear lines of accountability.
Hansen also indicated a deeper level of concern with the direction the State Government is taking with the volunteer funding.
She says it has a great ‘feelgood factor’ – and who can argue against supporting volunteers?
The VLGA believes more is needed. Hansen says just throwing money at volunteer organisations is not enough. They are not just volunteers, they are citizens and that means they need governments to engage with them, and to be let into the decision-making processes.
Hansen says this style of funding for volunteer organisations shows a shallow and old-fashioned way of viewing the community, in which relations are defined by exchange of money rather than forming genuine partnerships based on community development principles.
She says giving support to volunteer organisations is not effective community engagement, rather it is a way of dealing with the community at arms length.
She goes on the say that despite the State Government’s stated commitment to community strengthening, the VLGA believes they are heading down the wrong track.
She says her organisation believes there will be many local governments and community groups who will be saying, ‘Thanks for the handout, but what we really need is a government that engages with us in a genuine way and is willing to look at new ways of deepening democracy’.
The Victorian Government announced the funding package saying it will work in partnership with local government and existing volunteer organisations to ensure there are volunteer resource centres across the State.
The Minister says funding will be made available through the package to support the existing network of volunteer centres and develop new ones to link volunteers to charities, community groups and other volunteering organisations.
He says the Government will back their work by investing $9 million in building up the networks of resources and support that volunteers and organisations need.