The National Conference on Volunteering included the launch of the National Volunteering Strategy by Tanya Plibersek MP, the Minister for Human Services and Social Inclusion. The Strategy has six key priorities including:
- Responding to trends in volunteering;
- Harnessing technology;
- Better regulation and risk management;
- Strengthening management and training;
- Strengthening relationships and advocacy;
- Recognising and valuing volunteering;
One of the workshops included further discussion on these priorities, providing an opportunity for participants to discuss key issues facing these areas and actions to assist in implementation.
Like any new initiatives there are opportunities and challenges in the implementation of the six focus areas. The Commonwealth Government has made it clear that additional funding will not necessarily be forthcoming, requiring volunteer based organisations and particularly volunteer resource centres to consider their approach to the priority areas.
Encouragingly, the Commonwealth Government has recognised the need for the sector to embrace technology in the recruitment and matching of volunteers including the usage of social media. This will assist in broadening the ability to attract volunteers and establishing new methods of highlighting volunteer roles. The Commonwealth Government has also recognised the need for training to deliver new skills for the sector to assist in implementing the volunteer priorities.
Innovative approaches, such as the Eastern Volunteers agreement with Swinburne should assist in delivering new training programs for volunteers and staff within community organisations. This will not only provide new skills to the sector but also create career pathways for volunteers, broadening experiences and creating further reasons to volunteer within the community.
The Commonwealth Government also stated the need for clear representation within the sector, particularly in regard to the role of peak bodies. Currently the role of the peak bodies differs across the states, leading to varying degrees of effectiveness and advocacy. The sector needs to clearly articulate the roles and expectations of these organisations to ensure a strong advocacy role in representing the interests of volunteer based organisations.
The National Volunteering Strategy should assist in highlighting Government priorities for volunteer based organisations and it is essential that the sector considers how it can strengthen the implementation and delivery of these six priority areas.