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Abbott's HECS Volunteering Plan "Needs More Work"

19 August 2010 at 1:26 pm
Staff Reporter
Volunteering Australia says any plan to set up a volunteer scheme to allow university students to offset some of their HECS debt needs much more work.

Staff Reporter | 19 August 2010 at 1:26 pm


Abbott's HECS Volunteering Plan "Needs More Work"
19 August 2010 at 1:26 pm

Volunteering Australia says any plan to set up a volunteer scheme to allow university students to offset some of their HECS debt needs much more work.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott announced that the coalition would initiate a pilot scheme if elected to Government, in response to a question during the Forum at the Broncos Leagues Club in Brisbane held last night.

Abbott told the audience that students who volunteered would receive $10 per hour, which would come off their tertiary study HECS debt.

The Labor Government also flagged a similar scheme in January 2010 based on an idea from the 2020 Summit.

Today the Liberal Party released more details about the scheme saying it will encourage the development of Australia’s next generation of community volunteers with a $7 million pilot volunteering program to be known as AUSCORPS.

Under the pilot program, up to 1,000 university students per year will be eligible to receive a $10 credit against their HECS debt for each hour of volunteer work they undertake, up to a maximum 200 hours or $2,000 per year.

Volunteering Australia CEO Cary Pedicini says he has concerns about the implementation of such a scheme and whether it addresses the ethical issues that challenged the traditional definition of volunteering.

Pedicini says one important concern was that any program should not be activated until students finished their studies and that the scheme did not add to the burden of their studies.

In a Position Paper released by Volunteering Australia after the 2020 Summitt, it said offsetting or reducing student debt through volunteering could be construed as financial payment for volunteering, which again is not consistent with current definitions of volunteering.

It said Volunteering Australia supports an initiative of encouragement and choice, without compulsion and with the benefits to individual participants not being likened to payments.

The Position Paper said it is the view of Volunteering Australia that the initiative as it has been articulated does not fit with the accepted definition of volunteering and as such Volunteering Australia does not recommend that a proposed scheme be considered as volunteering.

However it said Volunteering Australia believes that the initiative could be reframed as a “community investment” scheme – the Higher Education Community Investment Scheme (HECIS) – the reallocation of (student) debt to the Not for Profit sector in the form of time, commitment, skills and expertise.

In developing the HECIS scheme of “community investment” Volunteering Australia said it recognises that it would benefit volunteering in general, as research suggests exposure to active community participation in youth and through family involvement increases participation in adult life.

Volunteering Australia said it commends initiatives that increase opportunities for more people to engage with communities in the ways that they choose. Whilst it should not be viewed as volunteering, it said a scheme of “community investment” for students to reduce their HECS debt is one way to encourage greater engagement and create pathways to sustained volunteering that offers potential benefits to individuals, volunteer involving organisations and communities in general.

The Coalition responded today saying it recognises that no government could ever replace the work undertaken by Australia’s dedicated community volunteers and it’s important for government to leave space for community and volunteer activities.

The Liberal party has released a Fact Sheet about the proposed scheme that can be downloaded HERE

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  • Anonymous says:

    The above argument above is well thought out.

    But there are many University students already volunteering their time without financial compensation, for these people, this plan would be beneficial, as they are volunteering for the right reasons

    If this plan is implemented, it would be wise for all volunteer organisations to choose applicants wisely, choosing those who are volunteering because they want to and not because it will help them pay back their HECS.

  • Anonymous says:

    My husband and I are both mature age university students and we both spend significant amount of time volunteering for various local organisations. We do this because we want to help, not for any personal gain. We don’t have money to give so we give our time to help others who need it more than ourselves. This scheme would be an excellent way to assist us and would be an appreciated thanks for our work, but I question the level of effectiveness in assisting up to 1000 students. How many thousands of students are studying in tertiary institutions, and what monitoring would be available to ensure that those who genuinely help are benefited? I wonder if this is a last minute ploy to try and get younger voters interested in voting for this political party?!?

  • Staff Reporter says:

    Why can’t this be just one of many benefits of volunteering? I don’t understand Volunteering Australia’s resistance to this and their arguments don’t stack up. They talk about definitions of volunteering. Whose? Theirs?


    In an election campaign bereft of policy from any side on volunteering one wonders what Volunteering Australia’s true agenda is in having a go at this policy.

    Their own policies are inconsistent. For example: VA has a problem with this yet embraces corporate volunteering?

    Many organisations and open minded communities who see the benefits of encouraging more youth to volunteer will welcome this initiative.

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree – interesting comments from Volunteering Australia.

    Perhaps it is time we re-defined what volunteering actually is in the 21st century rather than holding on to 1980’s volunteering romantic stereotypes?

  • Staff Reporter says:

    If you undertake a 'volunteer' role to knock $10 off your HECS debt how can it be volunteering.  Also, does this rate the value of volunteering at $10 per hour.

    Please, let's call it what it is, perhaps 'Student Community Work' and leave the term 'volunteer' unsullied.

    • Staff Reporter says:

      If you argue this point then you must argue for a name change to corporate volunteering. Volunteering Australia has no issue with this form of volunteering. Most corporate volunteers receive paid leave to volunteer for various organisations.

  • Thewatcher says:

    If the Coalition are elected and whatever you decide to call this scheme I have no doubt that "these people" will be managed by Volunteer Managers at organisations! Volunteering Australia should know this. Rather than whinge over outdated views on volunteering itself why not argue the case for proper resourcing of volunteer management!

  • Anonymous says:

    Concerning that people who would love to volunteer for the love of it or even work in non profit areas would not get the opportunity as the places are taken by people doing this to conform to Centrelinks employment plans or to reduce debts.
    Let us hope these people have the empathy and willingness to go the extra mile to help the needy and not just see it as a “job” like any other.

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