Volunteering Australia CEO Brett Williamson Stands Down
6 September 2016 at 11:14 am
Volunteering is the heart and soul of society says Volunteering Australia CEO Brett Williamson OAM who has announced he is set to stand down at the end of the year.
Williamson, who has held the position for three years, has advised his intention to resign as CEO of VA, effective 1 December 2016 to return home to Queensland to spend time with his family on a permanent basis.
Williamson told Pro Bono Australia News he had “mixed feelings” about the move, but it had been an “absolute privilege to be part of a team so totally committed to growing volunteering and civic participation in Australia”.
“I am sad to be leaving but also very much looking forward to spending a lot more time with the family who have been very patient with me,” Williamson said.
“I’d love to have stayed but family comes first, particularly as it’s expanding.
“I’ve been working remotely from home for several years now, including previously when I was with Surf Lifesaving Australia, so the family has been very patient and supportive so it’s time for me to repay that support and I’m looking forward to getting home and being around the family on a full time basis.
“I haven’t even got any plans or anything at this stage, so my main focus at the moment is to finish off and move forward a number of very important projects for Volunteering Australia before I go, that’s why I gave such a long lead time.”
VA president Tim Jackson said the board was appreciative of the advance notice and would shortly finalise arrangements for finding a replacement.
“It is with great regret that VA has accepted Brett’s resignation,” Jackson said.
“In his three years as CEO, Brett has done an outstanding job in building VA’s reputation, outputs and fostering a strong collaborative culture within the volunteering network as well as strengthening relationships with the sector and government.”
Williamson said he was proud of what VA had achieved in the last three years.
“We had to reestablish… Volunteering Australia, basically closed down in Victoria and relocated to Canberra,” he said.
“As a national peak body that’s been good in terms of being able to connect with government and other national peak bodies that are Canberra based.
“But I suppose I am also particularly pleased that we ran a successful World Volunteering Conference for the first time in 40 years in Australia and there’s been the review of the definition of volunteering that’s been done, the update of the national standards.
“Overall I would like to think that the collaboration and engagement with our state bodies has been certainly magnificent, indeed Volunteering Australia’s achievements are really the achievements of a very strong collaborative network of partners.
“Hopefully Volunteering Australia is well poised to capitalise on the opportunities and deal with the challenges in a somewhat challenging economic and policy environment.”
Williamson said the best thing about working at VA had been the people.
“They are such a passionate bunch,” he said.
“Personally I’ve been a volunteer most of my life and one thing that never ceases to amaze me is when I see and hear wonderful stories about people and organisations, the diversity and scope of people who are giving of their time, and skills and knowledge to help others is really very humbling and it’s a great privilege to play a very small role in helping promote and hopefully enhance that for Australia.
“It has been a very humbling experience, very, very enjoyable and I’ll be sad to go but as I said we are too busy getting some big things underway at the moment.”
Williamson told Pro Bono Australia News the sector was facing a number of challenges.
“The biggest challenge is in recognising the diversity of the way people volunteer in modern society,” he said.
“It is vastly different to what it may have been, even a decade ago.
“One of the others thing we have achieved over the last period of time, which was launched at the National Conference in April this year, was the State of Volunteering Report. That showed that 86 per cent of the organisations that involve volunteers need more volunteers… and the organisations that do engage with volunteers are crying out for support either with resources or assistance to support and we’ve got to try to prioritise finding some money and resources to build those systems and provide those tools to help maintain and grow volunteering in all its forms in a more flexible, targeted approach.”
Williamson said volunteering was the heart and soul of society.
“It’s not only good, and people giving goodness and looking after other people, other causes, whether it be the environment, or the arts, or sport. It’s integral to the wellbeing for society,” he said.
“Also volunteering is good for the volunteers themselves in terms of their health and mental and social wellbeing as well.
“So it’s all about growing positive civic participation and if people can give whatever time they can give, some people are able to give more, others aren’t able because of work or family commitments or financial situations, but if we can encourage or find a pathway for everyone to get involved and give and learn and grow through volunteering, that would be wonderful.
“We are seeing more and more, particularly the younger generation using volunteering to road test careers as a pathway to employment, learn skills, which is good as well. So it is really an untapped potential.
“We perhaps take volunteering in Australia as part of our DNA and a lot of people take it for granted, but if it was supported more robustly and sustainably we could really untap the potential which is not only good for Australians but also for Australia.”
Williamson said his advice to the future CEO would be to harness the power of the collective.
“Build on the engagement and the collaboration and basically the power and strength of the collective network of volunteers,” he said.
“There are state and territory and regional and metropolitan volunteer resource centres and all the organisations, particularly the peak organisations that have any numbers of volunteers, so to build on that because it is an awesome collective when everybody is pulling in the same direction which I have been fortunate to be part of over the last few years.”