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Senate Inquiry has positive impact on Arts Sector funding review

The Federal Government has recently announced changes to arts funding – reversing a decision to remove $104 million from the Australia Council, the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body.

In 2015, Volunteering Tasmania joined a number of arts and cultural groups to raise concern about the cuts to the Australia Council. Our concerns highlighted the impact on small to medium sized arts organisations – many of whom are reliant on volunteers. The multiyear funding offered by the Australia Council would have been felt most significantly by these groups.

We know that their contribution is vital to the continuation of many of our much loved festivals and events.

We hope these funding changes will continue to allow the Australia Council to focus on supporting these activities and continue to allow the social and cultural events in our community to flourish.

Volunteering Tasmania sent a submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Impact of the 2014 and 2015 Commonwealth Budget decisions on the Arts, which you can read on our website here.

You can read the full article from Pro Bono Australia here: Arts Sector cautiously optimistic about new funding arrangement

National Volunteer Advocacy Campaign to ramp up

Following the Federal Government’s decision to cut funding allocated to programs and services that support volunteering, the national advocacy campaign to protect this funding is about to ramp up.

Volunteering Tasmania chief executive Alison Lai recently met with representatives of the Department of Social Services in Canberra to discuss their new Strong and Resilient Communities funding program, raising concerns regarding the abolition of the funding stream for volunteer management.

“The Department has assured me that whilst the dedicated stream of funding that previously supported volunteer management programs and services has been removed, the organisations that provide these services will remain eligible to compete for funding under the new program,” Alison said.

“Whilst this news seems positive, the reality remains that there will no longer be any direct investment from the Federal Government into supporting organisations that depend on volunteers.

“Organisations that were previously funded to provide volunteer management programs and services will now have to compete against other worthwhile community groups from a pool of funds that make no mention of the importance of volunteers in our communities.

“It is very concerning that the volunteer management stream was considered appropriate to abolish in the first place. “As a result, I have grave concerns about the ability of organisations across the nation, like Volunteering Tasmania, to secure funding to support volunteering in our communities.”

Alison said that Volunteering Tasmania will continue to advocate alongside its national counterparts, led by Volunteering Australia, to ensure that the value of investing in volunteering is not overlooked by the Federal Government.

“It remains imperative that we advocate on behalf of the importance of the programs and services that support volunteering in our State,” Alison continued.

“Volunteering in Tasmania is a multi-billion dollar industry, with the volunteer contribution estimated at $4.9 billion each year.

“With national volunteering rates declining, the Federal Government cannot overlook the importance of investing in establishing sustainable, best practice volunteer management services.

“Even a small decline in volunteering rates in Tasmania would have a significant impact, not only on the delivery of community services, but on all aspects of community life.”

The next meeting of state and territory volunteering peak bodies will be in Melbourne on Monday, 20 March.

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.

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.”

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 responds to funding uncertainty

Alison Lai, the CEO of Tasmania’s volunteering Peak body, Volunteering Tasmania, has echoed the sentiments in Volunteering Australia’s Federal Government pre budget submission, which calls for a number of changes to the way the Government invests in volunteer support services.

Volunteering Australia’s submission highlights a number of critical opportunities for improvement in the way that the Federal Government approaches volunteer management, in particular emphasising the critical message that volunteering does not happen for free.

“I agree that there is at times a perception that volunteering ‘just happens’,” Lai said. “But those who volunteer, or rely on volunteers, fully understand that 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.

“Not-for-profit organisations who deliver vital community services on behalf of the Government are not flush with cash.   Ongoing Government financial investment is essential to ensure these organisations can continue to deliver volunteering programs that keep up with community expectations.”

Other key recommendations in the report include:

  • ongoing funding support for volunteer support services and volunteer management programs;
  • that funding be increased annually in line with CPI; and
  • that recognition is given to the value of place based volunteer support services.

Lai welcomed Volunteering Australia’s submission in light of current concerns that the Federal Government will decrease funding to the volunteer sector through its reshaping of its Strengthening Communities grant program.

The existing Strengthening Communities grant program provides vital funding to state and territory volunteering support services, including Volunteering Tasmania.

“The Federal Government has confirmed they will be undertaking face-to-face consultations with volunteering peak bodies in each state and territory, with the exception of Tasmania,” she said.

“We’ve been informed that these consultations will commence in just over two weeks’ time but no information has been provided regarding the key discussion points and it’s my understanding that Tasmania will be expected to travel to Melbourne to have the opportunity to meet with government representatives.

“This is very concerning and I’ll be working closely with Volunteering Australia to ensure that Tasmania’s voice is included in these critical discussions.”

The full Volunteering Australia submission can be viewed here.

Federal funding for volunteering under review

There is a high level of uncertainty facing the Australian volunteering industry, due to the Federal Government currently reviewing the Strengthening Communities grants program – one of the core funding streams for volunteering.

Volunteering Australia have picked up the advocacy mantle in their pre-budget submission to the Federal Treasury, which highlights some key points:

Nationally, volunteering is a multi-billion dollar industry – for example, for every dollar invested in volunteering in Tasmania, at least four dollars in benefits are returned to the community (State of Volunteering Report, 2014);

  • Effective volunteering doesn’t happen without the right infrastructure – volunteers are not a free and unlimited resource and they need a well supported industry if the current levels of volunteering are to be sustained into the future;
  • This is particularly threatened by the upcoming changes to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Aged Care under the Commonwealth Home Support Programme.

Volunteering Australia have also highlighted that volunteering aligns well with the Federal Government’s desire for ‘jobs and growth’, as volunteering is a great way of growing work skills and professional networks.

More on the Volunteering Australia’s submission to the Federal Government can be read in a recently published article by Pro-Bono News titled ‘Message to the Federal Government – Volunteering Doesn’t Just Happen by Itself‘.

Click here to view the Volunteering Australia PreBudget Submission in full.

Bush Fire Awareness – How Prepared Are You?

Most Tasmanians will have heard of ‘Black Tuesday’, 7 February 1967, which saw the most deadly bushfires that Tasmania has ever experienced. Sixty-four people died, nine hundred injured, sixty-four thousand farm animals lost and over seven thousand people homeless.

2017 marks the fifty year anniversary of that terrible day in Tasmania’s history, with the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery commemorating the event and sharing clippings, recordings, footage and memories of the people who experienced Black Tuesday. Clarence Council also have a fascinating exhibition called “What Would You Take?“.

The Tasmanian Fire Service, in conjunction with the Australian Government and Flinders University, are conducting a survey on bushfire preparation and management. They are seeking feedback on  South Eastern Tasmanian residents’ actions and plans in the event of future bushfires – please consider participating. More information in their flyer (download, 306KB), with the  survey link found here.

If you want to do more than just be prepared, please visit this page on our website to find out more about volunteering during and emergency, and/or as part of community recovery efforts. By signing up to EV CREW before a natural disaster, you will be proactive and a vital extra pair of hands when it’s needed most.

Stay safe.

Half-price membership offer – join and support VT!

Volunteering Tasmania is the peak body for volunteering in the state, supporting volunteers, working closely with Volunteer Involving Organisations (VIOs) and advocating for the volunteering industry to funders and government.

Our small team is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to represent the interests of all Tasmanians involved in volunteering.  Alongside many VIOs, we also put considerable resources into ensuring we have funding to continue representing the volunteering industry.

Part of this funding is made up of our membership fees, for which we offer a host of exclusive benefits and returns.

From 1 January 2017, memberships will be at a pro-rata (half price) rate, this reduced rate buys membership for the remaining half of the 2016-17 Financial Year, so is valid until 30 June 2017.

Benefits and application forms can be found online below:

To discuss how Membership might benefit you, or to find out more, contact the Member and Corporate Liaison Bonnie Tuttle on 6231 5550, 0439 032 499, or email BonnieT@volunteeringtas.org.au

FAREWELL AND FORWARD – Adrienne’s thoughts on the future of Volunteerism in Tasmania

In 2009 Volunteering Tasmania talked about successful volunteering as being like a ‘three legged stool’: willing volunteers, meaningful roles, and effective leadership. Today, I would add a fourth essential leg: the need for a credible, reliable and measurable evidence base.

One of the first pieces of work that VT produced during my tenure as CEO was a Positioning Paper highlighting the need to better understand volunteering in Tasmania. This paper became our first State of Volunteering Report – research letting us finally measure and understand trends in Tasmanian volunteering. Since then, VT has released two more State of Volunteering in Tasmania reports (2012 and 2014). Each sought to understand volunteering and its incredible social, cultural and economic impact in Tasmania. Despite this, I believe we really have only touched the ‘tip of the iceberg’. The volunteer effort still goes unrecorded, unmeasured and unseen.

Volunteers hide in ‘plain sight’ as they are embedded in the very fabric of our community. I never cease to be surprised by the number of people that tell me they ‘don’t have time to volunteer’, yet I inevitably find out later that they donate their time to the community in some way, just don’t identify as volunteers – in their mind they are just do what needs to be done so that they can have the kind of community they want to live in. In fact,
volunteers are Tasmania’s ‘movers, shakers and doers’. They donate 7.1 million hours each year to make our world better. That’s a lot of people showing up, stepping up and creating change.

Our evidence base shows that our volunteers are not just a ‘nice to have’ in our community. Volunteers – and the organisations in which they give time – are key economic and social contributors.

VT’s 2014 State of Volunteering Report, produced in conjunction with the national Institute of Project Management, has been an absolute game changer, making an unequivocal case for investment in volunteering. Its cost benefit analysis of volunteering showed that for every $1 invested in volunteering $4 in benefits are returned to the community. Volunteering is also one of Tasmania’s most economically valuable industries, contributing $4.9 billion to our community.

It has been two years since VT released this unarguable economic evidence for volunteering. We’ve had time to absorb its impact. It’s now time to get serious about this industry.

How? Firstly, by recognising and valuing the unpaid work that we do ourselves, our friends, families and neighbours. I believe our state-wide Volunteering Awards, now in its second year, will help bring this about. My vision is that Tasmania becomes known as the ‘giving state’ and that we never hear someone say, ‘I’m just a volunteer’ again.

But as a society, we will still need to do more. If Tasmania continues to do what it has always done, we may, if we are lucky, sustain current levels of volunteering. But if we were to heed the economic evidence and get proactive and visionary in our approach, we would see real remunerative and social returns.

If we took a strategic approach to volunteering and made it our mission to grow volunteer participation by 1% per year, we would add an average of $70.6 million per year in value to the Tasmanian economy. In today’s economic climate that is a significant return.

How do we get to this point? We need to treat volunteering with the strategic importance it deserves. We need to have a Tasmanian Strategy for Volunteering; something that provides a blueprint for where we need to go and how we will get there.  VT has advocated for this in our 2018-2018 Budget Priority Statement to the Tasmanian Government.

There are many challenges facing Tasmania’s volunteering sector – adapting to new trends in volunteering; managing our ageing population and growing corporate and skilled volunteering, to name but a few. Now is the time to plan for this future. If we want to live in a Tasmania that is socially, culturally and economically prosperous, we need to create an investment in the cornerstone of our community – volunteering. Let’s work together to encourage people to give and be part of the change they want to see in their backyard.

Adrienne Picone is the outgoing CEO of Volunteering Tasmania. She will take the position as CEO of Volunteering Australia in January 2017.