Message to Government: ‘Volunteering Doesn’t Just Happen By Itself’
25 January 2017 at 11:50 am
The federal government needs to increase its funding of and recognition for Australia’s multi-billion dollar volunteering sector, the peak body has said in its pre-budget submission.
Volunteering Australia’s 2016/17 budget proposal focused on the upcoming government review into the Strengthening Communities grants program – the primary source of funding for volunteer-support services.
The submission is one of Adrienne Picone’s first acts as CEO of Volunteering Australia, having taken over from Brett Williamson in December last year.
She told Pro Bono News the grants program was vital to the sector.
“Volunteering doesn’t just happen by itself, it needs planning and support and leadership,” Picone said.
“At the core of this is our local… volunteer-support services that are funded through the strengthening communities program.
“These services are really well placed to deliver services that address the needs of the community.
“They support volunteers, they help them find volunteering opportunities, they work with volunteer-involving organisations and managers of volunteers. They help volunteering to be as effective as possible.”
Volunteering Australia said volunteering-support services help coordinate the 5.8 million Australians who volunteer every year and contribute $290 billion in economic and social value.
The organisation, supported by state and territory peak bodies, called on the government to engage in meaningful consultation during the review and, ultimately, increase funding and the length of funding cycles.
“As part of the Strengthening Communities program we were given a one year grant, and then, because the government decided they needed to review the program, there’s been three lots of six-month extensions,” Picone said.
“What started off as a one year grant has turned into a two-and-a-half year grant, but we’ve had that uncertainty.
“The uncertainty and the unrest and distress that this causes is really quite significant for our services.”
Last year’s budget cuts shook the sector. It was announced that funding for the Strengthening Communities program would shrink from $40.5 million to $28.4 million
Former Volunteering Australia CEO Brett Williamson said at the time: “[We’re ]concerned that this cut represents the federal government’s intention to get out of the business of funding volunteering altogether, and this would come as a terrible loss not just to the volunteering community, but to Australian society.”
Picone said the impact of any cuts announced in the 2017/18 budget would be “absolutely enormous”.
“We know that there’s a decline in formal volunteering, and our concern is that we needed to address this, and part of this is recognising what our world would look like without the volunteer contribution,” she said.
“Volunteering touches every corner of our community from emergency services to environment, education, as well as community welfare. If volunteers were to down tools today, that would leave a significant gap in services right across the country.”
The full submission of 13 budget measures is available here.