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National Review of the Definition of Volunteering

13 May 2014 at 11:14 am
Staff Reporter
As Australia celebrates the 25th anniversary of National Volunteer Week peak body, Volunteering Australia says it’s time to challenge long held assumptions of what constitutes volunteering in Australia in 2014.

Staff Reporter | 13 May 2014 at 11:14 am


National Review of the Definition of Volunteering
13 May 2014 at 11:14 am

As Australia celebrates the 25th anniversary of National Volunteer Week peak body, Volunteering Australia says it’s time to challenge long held assumptions of what constitutes volunteering in Australia in 2014.

The CEO of Volunteering Australia, Brett Williamson, said as part of the landmark year VA is kicking off a national review to update the definition of volunteering.

“In 1996 Volunteering Australia identified a set of principles to describe volunteering. These principles still underpin volunteering policy for not for profits, business and government,” he said.

“25 years ago volunteers expected to commit long-term and work in traditional organisations. Now volunteering opportunities have exploded with options like corporate volunteering, micro and episodic volunteering to meet the myriad of needs and opportunities now out there.

“The 1996 definition has not really kept pace with emerging trends of how over 6.1 million Australians are volunteering their time today with over 600,000 Not for Profit organisations.

“The definition of volunteering is a critical reference for the volunteering sector. It has a bearing on decision making by governments, volunteer resource centres and volunteer involving organisations. Not only does it enhance workforce planning, it underpins the integrity of volunteering and volunteers, ensuring a common understanding of what volunteering is.

“It will also influence how companies manage employee volunteering programs, how organisations manager insurance needs for volunteers, how we measure volunteering and how we implement best practice standards across the sector.”

Williamson said Volunteering Tasmania will lead the review.

Volunteering Tasmania CEO Adrienne Picone said Volunteering Tasmania was very excited to be taking the lead on the nationwide review.

“We look forward to working with all of the state and territory peak bodies to produce a modern and comprehensive definition of what it means to be a volunteer in Australia in 2014 and beyond,” Picone said.

“In 2012, Volunteering Tasmania challenged Australia’s long held assumptions of what constitutes a volunteering act for the first time in Australia’s history.

“Following this state-based review, we released a set of principles that redefined what it meant to be a volunteer in Tasmania, incorporating activities where there is a financial benefit to the volunteering act such as the reimbursement of expenses incurred or a tangible reward such as a movie ticket or an enabling amount of money such as a living allowance.

“The new principles also included volunteering that occurs in both a formal and informal setting – not necessarily defined by organisational settings,” she said.

The review is expected to completed by December 2014.

As part of the week’s celebrations Volunteering Victoria has launched an online petition and message board to enable leaders of organisations and services that rely on volunteers to express their gratitude and celebrate the power of volunteering.

CEOs, Board Chairs and Directors have been urged to sign-up to say ‘thank you’ to their volunteers, who are among more than 1.5 million volunteers in Victoria making it possible for Not for Profits to perform the services and activities they do.

CEO Sue Noble said she hoped Victoria could top the number of signatories achieved when the petition was launched  in 2013.

“Last year we had 225 leaders who stepped up to say ‘thank you’ to their volunteers. It’s a simple and powerful act of recognition and acknowledgement,” she said.

“We wanted leaders everywhere to take a moment to imagine what it might be like in their organisation and in their community, without the commitment and work of their volunteers.  Most Australian Not for Profits have no paid staff – they operate entirely on the power of volunteers. We owe all of them a thank you.”

Messages posted on the Petition by leaders are being distributed through social media networks and shared with volunteers in those organisations and groups.

“We know volunteers are really encouraged when they see a leader in their organisation taking  the time to articulate the difference those volunteers make. Some of the messages are very warm and heartfelt and I urge everyone to read them,” she said.

To see which leaders and organisations have pledged their thanks to their volunteers and signed the petition, click here.

Read Brett Williamson’s Opinion 25 Year On …Volunteering in 2014

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