Volunteering Australia has made a pre-budget submission to the Federal Government, giving the report on research into volunteering in Australia and the impact of Covid-19 on volunteering. The submission makes several recommendations to the Federal Government, which is acting in train to establish a national resilience and recovery entity in the light of the Bushfire Royal Commission’s recommendations.
The government has accepted that recommendation, announcing a National Resilience, Relief and Recovery Agency will be established by July 2021 to drive the reduction of natural disaster risk, enhance natural disaster resilience and ensure effective relief and recovery to all hazards.
Volunteering is essential to the nation’s recovery and its ongoing wellbeing. Volunteers play vital roles in disability, health, welfare and aged care services, sports and the arts, environmental protection, and disaster resilience, response, and recovery. Volunteering supports the mental health of volunteers and builds social cohesion and community resilience which will be much needed in the coming years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on volunteering. Overall, two in three volunteers (65.9 per cent)1 stopped volunteering during COVID-19, amounting to an estimated loss of 12.2 million hours per week of volunteer work. The capacity to recruit new volunteers, adapt volunteer programs and absorb higher operating costs (due to COVID-19 safe workplace requirements) is constraining recovery.
Volunteering was facing challenges prior to COVID-19. Volunteering participation has been declining over time. The formal volunteering rate declined from 36% in 2010 to 29% in 2019, with the decline most evident for women. Volunteers contributed nearly 600 million hours to the community in 2019; a 20% decrease since 20142.
1. A Reinvigorating Volunteering Action Plan. The plan would enable volunteers to re-engage safely, support the adaptation of volunteer programs, and facilitate the recruitment of new volunteers to ensure services and programs can continue.
2. A National Strategy on Volunteering. Investment in developing a strategic and whole of government approach to volunteering will address the decline in volunteering and enable key government-funded services to be sustainable.
3. A National Youth Volunteering Initiative. At a time when paid jobs are scarce, this initiative could mitigate against poor mental health outcomes for young unemployed people and support pathways to paid employment.
4. A nationally co-ordinated approach to volunteer engagement in emergencies. As the frequency and scale of emergencies in Australia increases, a nationally co-ordinated approach will help to mobilise volunteers rapidly, safely, and effectively.
5. Investment in the Aged Care volunteer workforce. Sector Support and Development funding within the Commonwealth Home Support Program should be extended nationally, and investment allocated to fund the Aged Care Royal Commission’s