KATIE WOOLF: Joining me on the line right now to tell us about a bit of a town hall meeting that happened a little earlier this morning is Andrew Leigh, the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and also Treasury. Good morning to you Minister.
DR ANDREW LEIGH: Good morning, Katie. Great to be with you.
WOOLF: Yeah, good to have you on the show. Tell us a little bit more about this meeting that took place earlier this morning.
LEIGH: Luke Gosling and I got together with NT charities this morning to talk about some of the big challenges facing the sector. Over the last generation, we've seen a drop in the share of Australians joining community organisations, donating money, participating in sporting activities, or volunteering their time. So what we wanted to do is to get together some of those remarkable NT charities to talk about how we turn this around. We had people there from religious organisations, animal welfare organisations, disability support organisations, and it was really valuable sharing the ideas and getting a sense of what we can do to build a more reconnected Australia.
WOOLF: So what were some of the concerns that they were raising at that meeting this morning?
LEIGH: One of the big ones is the stability of funding. We saw under the previous government a nine‑year long war on charities, which left many organisations feeling that if they spoke out and advocated for the people they cared about, that they might lose their funding. It’s important for charities to know that those gag clauses are gone and people don't need to fear that they will have their funding cut off just because they advocate in the public debate. We also saw concerns about sustaining a volunteer base. COVID's really impacted volunteering. We need to do more to ensure that organisations have a stable volunteering base.
WOOLF: So really what can be done, in terms of making sure that there is that stable volunteer base, because it can be really difficult to actually run an event and make sure that you've got all the volunteers you need?
LEIGH: Yeah, that's right. One of the things that organisations are doing quite successfully is trying to allow people to tick two boxes - to offer an event which fulfils a couple of purposes. Katie, I actually think your ‘Run with Dad’ event is a classic example of this. It raises money for prostate cancer, it allows people to stay fit, and it also gets men talking about prostate cancer. Those kinds of events where people are able to fit something into their busy schedule, because they know they're serving multiple purposes, are the way of the future for many volunteer organisations.
WOOLF: Well, we all hope so. We always want to make sure that you've got plenty of volunteers because it takes an army to put on a charity event. And I guess that's a tough part, you know, the bigger the event gets for some of our wonderful Northern Territory charities, sometimes the harder it gets, if you can't find those volunteers. Are there ways for some of those different charities to link up with some of the bigger organisations around the place, and maybe organisations could be slightly more generous in terms of giving people a half a day to volunteer for a charity?
LEIGH: That’s a great point Katie and one of the things we're trying to do is to work in with big corporates as to how their corporate volunteering works. The worst of corporate volunteering is a team‑building exercise on a Friday afternoon where everyone goes down to paint a fence of a charity. Now, the best of it is when you're tapping into the expert skills of organisations. Having tradies helping out using their expertise, or getting accountants to do the books of a charity. So one of the things I want to do as the Assistant Minister for Charities is to be a better bridge between corporate Australia and our fabulous volunteering sector.
WOOLF: And so where to from here, following on from the town hall meeting this morning? Obviously there's been some concerns raised that charities are grappling with. So where to from here?
LEIGH: We really want to create an Australia in which the next person who wants to set up a Run with Dad event, is easily able to do it – where they have the mentors, the access to donations, and the volunteer base. So, that's our starting point. We've got an ambition to double Australia's philanthropy levels by 2030. We're working with states and territories to streamline the fundraising process. And we are engaging with volunteering groups to make sure that people who want to give more time are able to easily find an opportunity. Volunteering SA and NT have a great website - any of your listeners who want to volunteer, I'd urge them to jump on that website and they'll be able to search through the database and find a good volunteering event for them.
WOOLF: Good stuff. Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury Andrew Leigh, we really appreciate your time this morning. Thanks so much for having a chat with us.
LEIGH: Pleasure Katie, it's always great to chat to a fellow runner.
Haha. Thank you, although it's a bit hard at the moment. It's very hot.
LEIGH: It is. I went for a swimming park in Parap Pool this morning. I decided it was safer than going running. I’ll save my running for when I get back to Canberra.
WOOLF: Probably a good plan. Good on you Minister. Thank you.