What volunteering wants: For the voluntary workforce to be valued and invested in
30 April 2019 at 8:29 am
It is time for our political leaders to recognise the varying skills, abilities and value of Australia’s diverse volunteering community and appropriately invest and support this irreplaceable workforce, writes Volunteering Australia CEO Adrienne Picone, as part of a series of articles looking at what the social sector wants from the incoming government.
Throughout this election volunteers will be engaged by all parties and independent candidates to support their campaigning activities.
Every day there are millions of volunteers supporting community organisations to assist them to deliver on their vision and mission. But how much thought do we really give to those that willingly give their time, and to ensuring that they are able to volunteer safely, effectively and sustainably?
Australia has more than 5.8 million formal volunteers who donate an estimated 734 million hours of time to the community. This volunteering yields a 450 per cent return for every dollar invested. Nationally this is an estimated annual economic and social contribution of $290 billion.
Too often the contributions of volunteers are overlooked, despite comprising a significant part of the Australian workforce. We can’t take people’s “good will” for granted. It is long overdue for volunteering to be effectively valued, invested in and amplified by our governments.
This federal election Volunteering Australia is calling on all parties and candidates to adopt a policy platform that responds to the needs of the volunteering sector and to lead a culture of giving in Australia.
Volunteering Australia’s key policy proposals centre on three priority areas:
- the need for all parties to value the role of volunteering peaks, volunteers, Volunteer Involving Organisations and Volunteering Support Services in supporting and strengthening communities;
- for all parties to commit to investing in the future of volunteering in Australia and the subsequent benefits it provides to the community; and
- for all parties to commit to amplifying the efforts already being achieved by the sector.
We are asking candidates to think seriously about the impact volunteering makes on the Australian economy and about how volunteers support key programs and services in society, particularly in high-demand community services such as disability, mental health and emergency services.
Volunteering Australia’s election policy platform highlights that there needs to be adequate consideration of volunteer rights and legislative reforms to provide stronger protections for volunteers in Commonwealth legislation. If we do this, we will foster a safe, effective and sustainable environment for volunteering to grow and flourish.
This investment includes adequate support for the volunteering infrastructure and recognition that volunteering would not occur without the dedication and hard work from committed managers of volunteers, Volunteer Involving Organisations and Volunteering Support Services.
It is imperative that there is sustainable and consistent investment into volunteering to support Australia’s volunteer workforce. This includes ongoing (indexed) funding for volunteer management into the future, funding for National Volunteer Week to recognise Australia’s volunteers, a restoration of funding for the Volunteer Grants to 2010 levels at $21 million per annum, investment in the national online volunteering recruitment platform GoVolunteer, and a commitment to the continuation of the equal remuneration supplementation where affected grants rise to incorporate the shortfall.
There also needs to be consideration of the voluntary workforce in all grants and funding. With no dedicated resource allocation for volunteers, volunteer management, training, insurance and other overheads, services are often forced to absorb costs or use other funding to support their voluntary workforce. This is an issue in areas such as disability support, community mental health, emergency services and the NDIS, and puts enormous pressure on services to find funds to ensure uninterrupted service delivery, as well as support and manage their volunteers safely and effectively.
Volunteering Australia asks all candidates this election to thoughtfully consider the role volunteers play in communities and to ensure volunteering is articulated in their policy commitments.
Volunteers and those who champion them should not be taken for granted. There must be commonwealth investment and support to lead a culture of giving in Australia.
You can read Volunteering Australia’s election platform – Leading a Culture of Giving in Australia and access campaign information here: www.volunteeringaustralia.org/cultureofgiving.