Volunteering Victoria firmly believes that resilient communities are built on the contribution of empowered and active Victorians from every walk of life. Our diverse membership and long-standing partnerships are the source of our strength and credibility as a peak body. And yet, we know that so much remains to be done to create a stronger, more resilient, and truly inclusive Victorian volunteering community. 2022 offers us all a unique opportunity to rebuild better and give Victorians the chance to thrive together once more.
In our recent State Budget submission, Volunteering Victoria has set an ambitious agenda which requires the Victorian Government’s support to drive volunteering reengagement and strengthen social connection, community cohesion and individual wellbeing.
Volunteering is key to community resilience
The COVID-19 crisis and recent natural disasters have greatly tested the capacity of communities to come together for the collective good and health of its members. As always, volunteers have been and will continue to be at the forefront of delivering essential community responses and services during times of crisis. Accordingly, Volunteering Victoria has asked the State Government to ensure the long-term financial viability of the weVolunteer program. By retaining the current program model and expanding to accommodate spontaneous volunteering, weVolunteer will be able to continue to support the most urgent volunteering needs across Victoria.
Supporting innovation to increase participation
Volunteering participation is often hindered by the administrative burden that comes with onboarding volunteers. We are therefore recommending for the Victorian Government to fund a Victorian Volunteer Passport pilot project and feasibility study as part of the impending Victorian Volunteer Strategy. This Passport would streamline the process for volunteers and organisations by providing a consistent, sector-wide platform for the recruitment and training of volunteers. This would include the integration of formal government screening requirements for volunteers (including vaccination status, Police and Working with Children checks), and resources and e-learning modules for volunteers and organisations.
Beyond the reduction of administrative obligations for organisations, a free state-wide digital Volunteer Passport would improve the engagement and mobility of all Victorian volunteers. The Passport would also facilitate mutual recognition by organisations of the base level of volunteering training and certification.
Volunteering should be for everyone
The benefits of volunteering for individuals and communities are manifold. Those who volunteer report a greater life satisfaction, an enhanced sense of wellbeing, connection, meaning and purpose, and a positive impact on their physical and mental health. However, despite the universality of community giving across population groups, many cohorts are underrepresented in formal volunteering due to systemic disadvantages and social determinants.
The State of Volunteering in Victoria report (2020) highlights the out-of-pocket costs absorbed by individuals who volunteer. In 2019, volunteers reported spending an annual average of $1,710 on their volunteering and being out of pocket by $1,497.11.
Volunteering expenses are highly problematic for marginalised and financially disadvantaged individuals. These individuals may be willing to devote their time to making a difference in their communities but are rarely able to afford such costs. This significant barrier is likely to contribute to the under-representation of large cohorts in volunteering and every Victorian community is poorer from their ongoing and systemic exclusion.
To meet this challenge head on, Volunteering Victoria strongly believes that the Victorian Government should create a competitive fund for organisations to support the participation of financially disadvantaged individuals by reimbursing the full costs incurred through volunteering. This fund would go a long way to address a significant barrier to volunteering and enable under-represented communities to access the benefits of volunteering.
While we know that 2022 will bring its fair share of challenges, Volunteering Victoria approaches the road ahead with resolute optimism and looks forward to working alongside the State Government and the whole volunteering community across Victoria to build a strong, resilient, and inclusive future for the sector.