Launch of National Volunteer Week 2018
21 May 2018
When I think back to my childhood, volunteering is among the most memorable things I did. Working with the Australian Trust for Conservation Volunteers to build a track in Nowra. Standing in Hornsby shopping centre dressed in a clown suit, selling juggling balls to raise money for Oxfam. Volunteering at Redfern Legal Centre and the ACT Welfare Rights Centre as a law student and junior lawyer.
But while we have this huge strength for volunteering which Minister Tehan has referred to, the overall statistics suggest a problem. As Australia has become more ‘disconnected’ on a range of dimensions. So too, volunteering has fallen. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that the share of people who volunteered in the past year has fallen from 36 per cent to 31 per cent. We need to turn that trend around. That’s why Labor leader Bill Shorten after the last election made the historic decision of creating a portfolio for charities and not for profits, recognising that volunteering doesn't sit neatly within environment, law or social services but spans all of those areas and much more.
As Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-Profits, I've been pushing back against a range of measures that Labor sees as being contrary to the interests of volunteers. The attempt to close down the charities commission. The attempt to reinstate gag clauses in social services agreement which Louise Pratt has warned about. The attempt to regulate the advocacy work that environmental charities do. The recent attempt to bring charities that do issue advocacy within the ban on foreign political donations.
In the 2017 Budget, Volunteering Australia spoke out against the measure that reduced the ability of mature-aged job seekers to use voluntary work to meet their participation requirements.
This year, Volunteering Australia said of the budget:
It is worrying that volunteering for a P&C, school canteen or coaching of a school sporting team are not permitted volunteering activities for the [Child Care] package.
As Volunteering Australia summed up the 2018 Budget:
we are disappointed that there is no strategic approach to grow a culture of giving in Australia.
One of the things I’ve been doing as Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-Profits is holding a series of Reconnected forums around Australia. We just held our 13th reconnected forum in Redfern last week, which means we’ve engaged with more than 1200 charity leaders across Australia (and I see Sharon Clayton here with whom I ran an excellent volunteering forum in Newcastle).
Through these Reconnected forums, we’re garnering the ideas of charities and non-profits about how we can boost the culture of volunteering, giving and donating. I’m looking forward to speaking at your National Volunteering Conference on 22 June in Sydney about some of the ideas that have emerged from those forums.
Volunteering really does make us a stronger community. It is valuable for those who receive the benefits of volunteering work, and valuable for the giver, who gains a better understanding of our community, and a stronger sense of compassion for those less fortunate.
In launching National Volunteer Week, I acknowledge and celebrate the thousands of volunteers across Australia who are looking to government to partner with them to boost volunteering in Australia and make us a more connected nation.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra