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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Volunteer Week acknowledges silent workforce

Volunteers are often an invisible workforce but their work is essential to the response and recovery phases of emergencies, according to VolunteeringACT.

“Volunteers have been involved at every stage of the current crisis and will continue to be as we come out the other side,” VolunteeringACT CEO Vicky Darling said.

“The mental health and wellbeing benefits of volunteering cannot be understated and we anticipate volunteering will become even more important as restrictions are lifted.”

For the moment, however, more than 70% of organisations in the Canberra region that involve volunteers in their programs have stood down volunteers during the last eight weeks, according to a survey of members of VolunteeringACT. 

“Many of our members informed us that they followed Australian Government guidelines and temporarily stood down their volunteers aged 70 and over, and those at most risk of contracting coronavirus,” Ms Darling said.

“However, most volunteering programs that stopped did so in full because the activity the volunteers were supporting was suspended, such as sports, environment, and arts programs that were not considered essential services.”

Survey results also showed that 31% of organisations are experiencing an increase in demand for their services and 64% of organisations indicated they had found innovative ways to continue involving volunteers in service delivery.

“Many volunteer-involving organisations are keeping in regular contact with their volunteers, and VolunteeringACT has been providing advice on keeping volunteers engaged while programs are suspended,” Ms Darling said.

“Some organisations, including our own, are holding regular video conferences with volunteers, sending volunteer newsletters and involving volunteers in other duties like social media and administrative tasks.”

VolunteeringACT is currently engaging with the ACT Government so that they can provide more advice to organisations and volunteers on transitioning back when restrictions are lifted, and will provide further resources and advice in coming weeks.

Ms Darling said the ACT has the highest rate of volunteering in the country at 36.8%, with all age groups volunteering in large numbers. Young people (aged 14-17) are the biggest cohort of volunteers (52.4%) followed by those aged 35-44 years (46%).

National Volunteer Week is on 18-24 May with the theme ‘Changing Communities. Changing Lives’. VolunteeringACT is supporting Volunteering Australia’s smile campaign, that is calling on people to wave their appreciation for volunteers by taking a photo of themselves waving with a smiley face on their hand and share on social media using the hashtags #NVW2020 and #waveforvolunteers.

VolunteeringACT also has a number of online events planned including introduction to volunteering information sessions. For more information, visit their website.

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