National Volunteering Strategy Consultation Report
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This report presents the findings of a consultation process conducted by the Australian Government to inform the development of a National Volunteering Strategy. The National Volunteering Strategy will outline the Australian Government’s vision for volunteering over the next 10 years and provide a framework that encourages a responsive and supportive volunteering environment.
The consultation process was from 9 June 2010 to 25 July 2010 and was designed to seek feedback from a broad cross‑section of the volunteering community about the proposed direction of the National Volunteering Strategy. Feedback was sought through a consultation paper (Appendix A) seeking written submissions and an online survey (Appendix B).
A total of 854 responses were received. More than half of all respondents indicated that they are from not-for-profit organisations, with the largest number of respondents involved in the community sector. Responses were received from organisations of varying size and number of paid staff and volunteers.
The key findings from the consultation process are outlined below.
A diverse range of issues arose in relation to the engagement and retention of volunteers.
- Governments and community need to better promote volunteering as a positive avenue for community contribution, as well as specific opportunities for volunteer participation. Promotional activities need to target a diverse cross-section of the community, such as culturally and linguistically diverse communities and young people.
- Suggested mechanisms for achieving greater awareness of volunteering include the establishment of a national online database, use of new forms of technology to engage with, and disseminate information to, a range of audiences, and promotion of volunteering opportunities through local media.
- Increased promotional efforts should be matched by the development of appropriate and diverse opportunities for volunteer participation within volunteer‑involving organisations.
- The various costs associated with volunteering, both for volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations, can be significant barriers to participation.
- Training and skills development opportunities should be increased in the emergency management sector to help engage new volunteers and grow the pool of potential volunteers.
Addressing protection, risk management and training issues for volunteers
Issues related to volunteer protection, risk management and training emerged as significant from the consultation process.
- National standards for volunteer-involving organisations are useful, but need to be flexible, available online, free of charge and relevant to a range of organisations and different sectors.
- Regulatory and legislative protections for volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations are vital, but also cumbersome due to their quantity and lack of consistency across jurisdictions. Greater collaboration between regulatory bodies and more in-depth consultation with the volunteering community are required in order to reduce red tape, establish streamlined, uniform and relevant regulations, and eliminate duplication.
- Police and working with children checks are essential, but costly and time consuming to undertake. They need to be transferrable between organisations and jurisdictions.
- Liability insurance is essential for volunteer-involving organisations but is overly complex and expensive. Suggestions for alleviating the financial and administrative burden include the introduction of a national insurance system, umbrella insurance coverage for small agencies, and government subsidisation of the cost of insurance.
- Effective volunteer management helps improve the efficiency of organisations and increases their capacity to comply with and implement risk management strategies.
- Ready access to appropriate and inexpensive training for volunteers and volunteer managers is vital and needs to be increased.
Responding to emerging trends and issues
Feedback from consultation highlighted the changing nature of volunteering in Australia and the increasingly diverse range of ways in which people want to volunteer.
- People increasingly want to volunteer with a range of different organisations, participate in episodic and project-base volunteering, combine travel or work with volunteering, and volunteer online.
- Volunteer‑involving organisations need to accommodate and encourage these emerging trends through the development of suitably flexible opportunities for involvement, while continuing to cater for traditional forms of participation.
- Information technology, especially the internet, can be better harnessed by volunteer-involving organisations to make participation in volunteering more accessible.
- Some emerging forms of volunteering may pose new challenges in regulation and insurance. Solutions to these new challenges are needed.
Recognising, supporting and valuing volunteers
A range of views were expressed through the consultation process relating to volunteer recognition, including how and by whom it should be undertaken.
- Recognition and celebration of volunteer efforts is important and would encourage more volunteers to get involved.
- There are diverse ways to recognise volunteers, including large-scale celebratory events, smaller community-based activities and the distribution of tangible items to volunteers such as certificates of appreciation.
- Volunteer managers and coordinators are important but often unrecognised and inadequately supported.
- Volunteer recognition should incorporate practical support measures, such as improved resourcing, accreditation of skills gained through volunteer work, increased training opportunities for volunteer managers and, from the corporate sector, time off/paid leave for employees to volunteer.
The feedback to the consultation process is evidence of a committed and engaged volunteering community that cares strongly about its future. The diversity of views expressed will be a valuable source of information in the development of the National Volunteering Strategy.Top