Motion against $7.4 million Federal funding cut to volunteer support services offers hope

Volunteering Peak Bodies from around the country met in Canberra this week to lobby parliament against the abolishment of a $7.4 million funding stream for volunteer support services.

Their combined efforts resulted in a motion proposed by Senator Louise Pratt (Shadow Minister for Social Services) who called on the government to:-

  1. recognise the importance of funding volunteer management services, and
  2. retain funding for volunteer management as part of the Federal Budget.

Senator Jacquie Lambie supported the motion, stating that:

“First they go after our most vulnerable, then they go after those that help the most vulnerable. Volunteers are the foundation of our community and must be supported.”

Currently, through the Federal Government’s Strengthening Communities program, grant funding of $7.4 million is allocated to a range of organisations that deliver volunteer support systems such as volunteer matching for community organisations, best practice resources for managers of volunteers, research, advocacy and dispute resolution.

The Turnbull Government is currently redesigning the Strengthening Communities program to the Strong and Resilient Communities program, dropping the $7.4m stream for to volunteer support services.

“This loss of funding will have a wide-reaching impact on volunteering across the nation, including Tasmania” said Alison Lai, CEO of Volunteering Tasmania.

“Volunteers are everywhere and many of the services, opportunities, assistance, activities and events that Tasmanians have access to would not exist without volunteer support.”

But volunteering doesn’t just happen.

Whilst people will happily provide assistance at no cost, the process of setting up systems that make it easy, safe and effective for people to volunteer takes time and financial investment.

Most volunteering support organisations don’t charge for their services, which are critical for many Tasmanian community groups, particularly not-for-profits that rely on them to recruit their volunteers.

The removal of this funding stream will force volunteer support organisations to apply for other grants, often competing with other worthwhile community groups for the same funding.

Volunteering Australia’s CEO, Adrienne Picone stated that the removal of these funds will “rip the heart out of local volunteer support services, these are organisations which play an important role in Australian communities by leading, enabling and building capacity to recruit and retain volunteers”.

Research conducted for the 2014 State of Volunteering Report identified that Tasmanians donate 7.1 million volunteering hours in a single year. Flinders University research estimates that 31 per cent Australians volunteer, which equates to an annual contribution to Australia of $290 billion.

“Getting this motion passed was the first stage. Volunteering Tasmania will continue to advocate strongly on behalf of all organisations that rely on volunteers until Federal funds for volunteering support services is guaranteed.” said Lai.

Motion against $7.4 million Federal funding cut to volunteer support services offers hope 2017-09-25T11:00:51+00:00

Volunteering Tasmania to lobby against Federal Budget cuts

Volunteering Tasmania will be joining forces with volunteering organisations across Australia to lobby the Turnbull Government for increased recognition of the value of organisations that facilitate volunteering.

Volunteering Tasmania chief executive Alison Lai says that the Turnbull Government’s decision to cease funding for organisations that deliver services which connect volunteers with community organisations will have a wide-reaching impact on volunteering across the nation, including Tasmania.

“Volunteering peak bodies were informed last week that the funding given to organisations to deliver volunteer support services will no longer be available,” Alison said.

“Federal funding is currently given to a range of organisations, including Volunteering Tasmania, through the Strengthening Communities program and this funding helps us to connect volunteers with organisations that require volunteers.

“The Turnbull Government has redesigned this program and decided that these services will no longer be eligible for funding, a decision that has been made without consultation with the volunteering sector.”

Flying to Canberra this weekend, Alison will join other representatives from volunteer peak bodies across the nation to discuss their concerns ahead of a parliamentary function on Tuesday.

Alison has stated that this decision was extremely disappointing and showed a lack of understanding of the volunteering sector.

“Everyone has the right to experience the benefits of volunteering and it’s wrong to assume that everyone knows how to find opportunities in their community,” she said.

“There will always be people in our community who easily enter volunteering. But equally a large number of people need support finding suitable volunteering opportunities matched to their skill set. Volunteering programs, which by nature are not flush with funding, also need good volunteer matches so they can provide consistent, sustainable volunteering programs. The demand on Volunteering Tasmania’s services to effectively connect individuals with volunteering opportunities continues to grow.”

With the funding due to expire at the end of this year, Alison confirmed the changes had the potential to impact services in Tasmania.

“Volunteering Tasmania receives funding through Strengthening Communities to support the delivery of our online and face-to-face volunteer referral services,” she said.

“We don’t charge for these services, which are critical for many Tasmanian community organisations, particularly a large number of not-for-profit organisations that rely on it to recruit their volunteers.

“If the service was diminished it would put pressure back on an already stretched community sector to invest more of their funds into volunteer recruitment.

“We are very lucky that in Tasmania we have a State Government that is a very strong supporter of volunteering but any reduction in Federal funding would require Volunteering Tasmania to reassess how we provide this assistance.”

Volunteering Tasmania to lobby against Federal Budget cuts 2017-09-25T11:00:51+00:00

VT’s new CEO – why she took the job..

alison-lai_vtbanner_croppedHaving the opportunity to lead the organisation that supports and advocates on the behalf of Tasmania’s volunteers was a key drawcard for incoming Volunteering Tasmania CEO, Alison Lai.

Alison, the former Manager Sport and Club Development with the Department of Premier and Cabinet, said that she was excited to be given the opportunity to step into this important role.

“I passionately believe that an active and healthy volunteering sector is the backbone that supports a connected and resilient community,” Lai said.

“As an active volunteer for more than 20 years, I know firsthand the significant impact of volunteering.

“Whether it be on the sports field, in a classroom, in the bush or in our homes, volunteers are providing an irreplaceable helping hand across Tasmania.”

With increasing pressures impacting the national heath of volunteering, Lai is setting her sights on forging strong relationships across all sectors that engage volunteers to ensure a united and strong voice for volunteering in Tasmania.

“The contribution of volunteering to the Tasmanian and national economy are very well documented, as are the personal benefits gained by those who volunteer,” she said.

“But there are pressures facing the volunteering industry which are creating a range of challenges that are impacting how people volunteer and how organisations support them.

“These issues are not impacting just one industry, they’re common across all sectors.”

Believing that there has never been a more pivotal time for the volunteer sector to work together, Lai says she plans to drive those discussions.

“Government funding for programs that support volunteers and the organisations that rely on volunteers is declining but demand for volunteers continues to grow,” she said.

“These are critical issues particularly for the delivery of essential Government funded community services, which rely heavily on volunteers.

“These discussions will important because I don’t think anyone likes to imagine a world where volunteering is not a key part of our Tasmanian way of life.”

Volunteering Tasmania Chair, Rachel Johnson said that Lai’s passion for the volunteering sector was evident.

“Alison comes to the role with an impressive business background but also an extensive personal volunteering story,” Johnson said.

“Alison is well known across the Tasmanian community through her work and volunteering roles and the Board of Volunteering Tasmania is looking forward to working alongside Alison as she leads our organisation, and our volunteering sector into its next stage of growth and success.”

 

VT’s new CEO – why she took the job.. 2017-09-25T11:00:51+00:00