Volunteering conflict resolution
Unfortunately, disputes may occur between you and other people at the organisation where you volunteer.
This can be greatly upsetting for all concerned. You may feel that your commitment to the organisation and its cause has been rendered worthless. You may also be concerned about your reputation within the organisation, or the broader community.
There are no equivalent ‘Fair Work’ regulations for volunteers and in most cases no external body can intervene in disputes amongst volunteers or between volunteers and organisations.
Your first step should be to consider how you would like to resolve the issue.
- Do you wish to continue in your volunteer role, or in a different role within the organisation?
- Is this conflict affecting your relationships with other people, either inside or outside the organisation?
- For some people, walking away will be a heartbreaking option, but may be the least taxing emotionally and practically.
Is it discrimination?
Federal and Victoria State Equal Opportunity legislation is currently unclear on when volunteers are legally protected from discrimination. We recommend you seek advice from the Victoria Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
Taking a stand
Members and committees
Certain volunteers in legally incorporated organisations may have rights under the law, e.g. if they serve on the committee, or are a signed-up member of the organisation. If this is the case, you should refer to your organisation’s rules or constitution. You are entitled to contact the relevant regulating body for advice and assistance. Find out more about legal incorporation and relevant regulating bodies.
If you decide to pursue the matter, refer to your organisation’s policies and procedures for grievances or conflict. If a policy doesn’t exist, or isn’t made available, think of someone within the organisation you can approach to help work through the issue. For example:
- your supervisor
- the volunteer manager
- the head of the program, area or department
- a member of the committee of management
Don’t be afraid to raise the matter with someone senior if need be. Satisfied, happy volunteers help not-for-profit organisations achieve their mission in the community and should concern all senior officers of an organisation.
The Dispute Settlement Centre Victoria provides free mediation services. N.B. Participation in mediation is voluntary; the mediator cannot rule on the matter.
Not-for-profit Law Information Hub
Volunteering Victoria strongly recommends Justice Connect’s Not-For-Profit Law Information Hub to ensure volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations receive up-to-date legal advice.
Not-for-profit Law ‘helps the helpers’ by providing tailored legal information, advice and training to not-for-profit community organisations. By relieving the burden of legal issues, organisations can better focus their time and energy on achieving their mission – whether that’s supporting vulnerable people, delivering community services, enhancing diversity or bringing together the community.