Golden Age of Volunteering Predicted for 2020
7 April 2008 at 12:10 pm
The Rudd Labor Government is predicting a ‘golden age’ of volunteering in Australia by 2020.
Senator Ursula Stephens, the Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector has outlined ways to foster a new wave of innovation and inspiration in volunteering.
The prediction came during her recent speech to the Volunteering NSW Forum: Diversity & the Volunteer Workforce.
Sen. Stephens said volunteers are important actors in the social inclusion agenda which is about recognizing that the whole nation benefits when everyone has equal opportunity to participate in social, cultural, civil and economic life.
She asked delegates to imagine the future where volunteering efforts are being harnessed in all communities in inspirational, innovative and imaginative ways:
– With a national strategy and approach to volunteering;
– All Australians are participating in their community in a range of exciting new projects – it’s even part of every school student’s education;
– Corporate volunteering is built into all business plans and acknowledged as genuine public service for the public sector;
– Australian educational institutions play host to international training and accreditation for volunteers through clever online programs;
– Volunteering is viewed as a viable, genuine and valued pathway to sustainable employment;
– Australia is a world leader in local-specific solutions and development, demonstrating how volunteerism can build peace and sustainability in our region;
– and, as active citizens, volunteers from diverse cultural backgrounds are strengthening local ties, preserving their culture, supporting the young and the old across the nation.
Sen. Stephens says such a ‘golden age’ of volunteering is possible. While it requires political will to make it happen, it depends on organisations not giving up on the effort to contribute to an inclusive and sustainable Australia.
She says the Australian Government also understands that the voluntary sector is facing a range of challenges. Challenges which are directly impacting on the sector’s ability to grow, diversify and adapt.
She says it is important for organisations to be organic and continue to respond to their communities, rather than existing for existence sake. The Not for Profit sector must be a partner in achieving identified policy priorities.
Sen. Stephens told the meeting that the Government is aware of the restrictions that red tape associated with sourcing and keeping government funding, unclear and inconsistent tax treatment for different parts of the Not for Profit sector, including the vexed question of DGR status.
She says to develop new governance for the sector, there must also be a better understanding of the sector itself, and its contribution to Australia’s society and economy. To do this the Government will look at new tools to understand the productive input of the sector.
Upcoming discussions with the sector and state governments will include exploring options for developing a compact between government and Not for Profits to build a new and strong relationship.
She says voluntary sector organisations must also be willing to recognise that there are significant external changes that will continue to influence the way you work in the community. All organisations can be more successful by considering these changes and using them to develop strategic direction.
She says Australia has been tardy about investing in volunteers and there is a lot to learn from other countries. The US, NZ, South African and Canadian volunteer sectors can teach a great deal.
Sen. Stephens says to achieve the golden age of volunteering and to tackle disadvantage and exclusion is exciting and challenging.
But it, like a true social inclusion agenda, she says, cannot be delivered in isolation by one entity, department or sector. It is a society-wide challenge.
The Senator says an important step is the willingness to build a new relationship with the voluntary sector and remove the barriers preventing Not for Profit sector organisations from evolving to make an even more significant contribution to the community.
She says Australia must harness the opportunity for every community to realise the benefits of volunteering and build a golden age for volunteering into the future.