Volunteering gets blueprint for the future
1 November 2021 at 4:19 pm
Volunteering Australia will lead the development of a national strategy to identify current problems in the volunteering sector and how to tackle them
With the past two years characterised by back-to-back disasters, volunteers have played a key role in protecting communities and the country’s most vulnerable. But despite these efforts, the volunteering sector has struggled without a solid plan to move forward.
Now, the sector is getting its first strategy in over a decade, something experts hope will reboot and reshape the future of volunteering in Australia.
Led by Volunteering Australia, the strategy will take around 12 months to complete, in partnership with volunteer-involving organisations, volunteering support services, state, territory and national volunteering peak bodies, community organisations, philanthropists, business, and governments.
The announcement follows a lengthy campaign by Volunteering Australia to get a strategy off the ground.
Volunteering Australia CEO Mark Pearce said that with volunteers playing a pivotal role in supporting their communities across the country, it was critical there was a strategy that guided and supported the sector.
“At the moment, volunteering lacks a cogent way forward in terms of the policy and the advocacy that we develop,” Pearce told Pro Bono News.
“It’s important there are appropriate tools in place to ensure that volunteers and the communities they serve are acting as efficiently as they can.”
Earlier in the year, research found that Australian organisations were struggling to re-engage their volunteering workforce, even after COVID-19 restrictions had eased in many parts of the country.
On top of this, the number of people volunteering across the country has been in steady decline, a phenomenon only worsened by the pandemic.
He said that this strategy would provide a blueprint for the next decade.
“A strategy will enable us to get a great idea of where volunteering exists, identify the opportunities, understand the problems and then provide a blueprint to move forward, which addresses a lot of those problems and looks to the future,” he said.
A chance to create a more inclusive volunteering workforce
A big focus of the strategy will be on how to encourage diversity and inclusion across the sector.
Recent research found that many culturally diverse people faced barriers to becoming an emergency services volunteer, despite the proven benefits of encouraging diversity.
Pearce said that while volunteering did “extraordinary things”, there were many things that could be improved upon.
“I really think that a strategy will provide a blueprint to enable [better diversity and inclusion,” he said.
Along with the strategy, Volunteering Australia will produce a “Volunteering in Australia report”, which will provide a view of the volunteering landscape in Australia, map current trends, and provide insight into how volunteering may evolve in the future.
The federal government will provide $600,000 for the development of the strategy, something that Pearce said was a testament to the importance of the sector.
“We know that the planning for addressing major national crises relies heavily upon volunteering, and we also know that community cohesion is built on community participation and volunteering,” he said.
“So I think that the government has understood that a critical part of not only the health of communities but also a very large part of the national labour force is in fact volunteering,[not] funding the development of a strategy is a missed opportunity.”
But, he said that funding the project was only the first step, and that it was critical that all parts of the government engage in the process from start to finish.
“Volunteering contributes to realising the goals of every federal portfolio apart from defence, so as a major stakeholder we need them to join us on this journey,” Pearce said.
Find out more about the strategy here.