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Vital Volunteering 2011-2016

Last updated: 4/05/2017 9:47 PM
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Vital Volunteering 2011-2016

Volunteering has long been a crucial part of building stronger and more compassionate communities in Western Australia.

The Department of Local Government and Communities (DLGC) invested extensively in community consultation and research to understand the changes, trends and challenges in volunteering and to appreciate the volunteering aspirations of the community.

Nearly one thousand Western Australians directly shared their views on volunteering with the department. This knowledge and input was pivotal to the development of 'Vital Volunteering 2011-2016', a document that identifies the state government's role in supporting volunteering development through legislation, policy development and a range of relevant funding programs. The state government is a key player in research, communication, promotion and recognition of volunteering, partnering with those who make volunteering work – volunteers, organisations and groups that involve volunteers, Volunteering WA as the peak body for volunteering, volunteer resource centres, local governments, the Commonwealth Government and businesses.

'Vital Volunteering 2011-2016' comprises the following chapters.


'Vital Volunteering 2011-2016' is the state government’s commitment to volunteering. The value, importance and contribution of volunteering to the social, cultural, economic and environmental well being of Western Australia is of immense significance.

The state government’s vision for volunteering

Communities are strengthened and connected through the contributions of volunteers.

The state government’s ethos

Volunteering is promoted, supported and valued in a partnership approach to building strong, connected, vital and sustainable communities in Western Australia.

Aims of Vital Volunteering

  • To encourage and assist Western Australians from a range of backgrounds and age groups to be engaged in volunteering and be enriched by their experiences.
  • To assist communities and organisations across the state to effectively involve volunteers for their mutual benefit.

What is volunteering?

Volunteering comes about because of the goodwill, generosity, creativity and compassion of the individual people who volunteer. It is no longer useful to ascribe a single definition to volunteering. The contemporary parameters of what
now constitutes volunteering are broad and growing broader every year. Volunteering is better understood by outlining its characteristics.

  • Volunteering is undertaken through free will and is of mutual benefit to both the volunteer
    and the community or recipient of the volunteer service.
  • Formal volunteering activities are those undertaken through public, private, and non-government
    and community organisations.
  • Informal volunteering activities are undertaken outside of an organisation.
  • Volunteers receive no personal financial gain (apart from reimbursement of expenses if appropriate).

In some communities and groups, a sense of reciprocity and attachment to extended families, neighbourhood groups, religious and social networks means that volunteering is viewed not as a separate or unique activity, but as an intrinsic part of belonging to that group. In such cases, people may not identify that what they do is ‘volunteering’ and may think of it as ‘helping out’ or ‘being a member’. Consequently this kind of volunteering may not be included in formal volunteering surveys such as those conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. While this type of volunteering may be statistically invisible, the state government acknowledges the importance of these volunteering contributions.

What do we know about volunteering patterns?

  • In 2006, almost 38 per cent of Western Australian adults volunteered with an organisation, up from 25 per cent in 1995.
  • The number of hours spent volunteering has grown. The average hours spent volunteering per adult in the population rose 13 per cent from 1992 (139 hours) to 2006 (157 hours) with the
    biggest growth being in people who volunteer with an organisation. It is projected that this
    may rise to 164 hours by 2011.
  • 245 million hours were spent by Western Australians in 2006 in volunteering – this is projected to rise, by up to 288 million hours in 2011.
  • 131 million of those hours were spent in informal volunteering, that is, providing help through personal networks of family, friends and neighbours. Another 77 million hours were spent volunteering through organisations, and the remainder of hours were spent in travel
    associated with volunteering.
  • This was equivalent to 146,000 full time jobs, or 13.6 per cent of the paid workforce, and is 40 per cent more than the paid workforce in health and community services.
  • The total value of volunteering was estimated in 2006 at $6.6 billion per year, with this projected to rise, by up to $9.4 billion in 2011.
  • In 2006, 33 per cent of young people aged 18 to 24 years volunteered, along with 49 per cent of people aged 35 to 44 years and 29 per cent of people aged 65 and over.
  • Formal volunteering rates are highest among some rural communities with rates over 50 per cent reported in the shires of Mount Marshall, Nungarin, Wickepin, Kent, Kondinin,
    Corrigin and Mingenew.

¹The Economic Value of Volunteering in Western Australia (Ironmonger, 2009).

Where do volunteers come from?

  • from the community, as individuals who want to make a difference

  • from the corporate sector and the public sector with support to use work time to contribute
    to the community

  • from schools and tertiary institutions, as part of a structured program of community

  • from religious and service organisations committed to the betterment of the community.

Where do volunteers contribute?

Organisations might include volunteers in some designated positions or they may rely entirely on volunteers to achieve the group’s mission.
Volunteer–involving organisations include:

  • clubs and societies that are focussed on self-help, social activities and the recreational interests of members
  • community-based service groups
  • larger organisations that are part of a national or international mission
  • businesses operating for profit.

State government agencies may run ongoing or one-off programs and projects that benefit from or rely on the voluntary contributions of community members. This volunteer inclusion practice may also provide community consultation or networking benefits for the
agency. The government agencies with volunteer programs include Fire and Emergency Services, Department of Environment and Conservation, Department of Water, Department of Sport and Recreation, Department of Fisheries, Department of Agriculture and Food,
Department for Communities, Disability Services Commission, Tourism WA, Drug and Alcohol Office, Department of Corrective Services and the Department of Culture and the Arts.

Most local governments deliver programs, projects and services that rely on volunteers, most commonly emergency services, youth sport and recreation, local festivals and cultural services. Involvement of volunteers in welfare services is more common in urban councils.
In 2006, sport and physical recreation involved 217,000 volunteers, the largest single area engaging volunteers, while organisations focussed on education and training involved 176,000 volunteers. Organisations with a religious mission or that deliver community welfare and health services involved 240,000 volunteers. The remaining volunteers contributed to emergency services, the environment, animal welfare, arts and heritage, parenting/children and youth, and other kinds of recreation.

Contemporary volunteering trends and issues

From broad community consultation in 2010 and 2011 and a detailed survey of local governments in 2010, the Department for Communities has identified a number of trends influencing volunteering practices and issues challenging the development of volunteering over the term of Vital Volunteering 2011-2016.

Time given

  • More people are volunteering but they are giving fewer hours.
  • Organisations are learning to deal with an increasing interest in shorter term and project-specific volunteering commitments.

Interests and commitment

  • Volunteers want to give their time to causes they are passionate about and they expect their contribution to make a difference.
  • Succession planning can be an issue in some community organisations with longstanding and committed volunteers reluctant to pass along responsibilities to new

Young volunteers

  • Urban-based younger people are volunteering in new ways, often creating their own volunteering opportunities with a strong focus on social connections.
  • There is an emergence of youth-led community-action groups of an informal nature.
  • There is an increasing use of social media to connect volunteers and groups.

Rural and remote

In rural and remote communities where many services are provided by or managed by
volunteers, the risk of burn out by some volunteers who take on multiple commitments
continues to be of concern.

  • Spontaneous volunteer responses are often relied upon in rural and remote communities with limited services, to address urgent needs.
  • Rural and remote communities may lack the human and physical resources and services to support and develop volunteering capacity.
  • Volunteer roles in rural and remote communities are often more traditional in nature than in urban communities.

Informal or volunteer-led volunteering

  • Most volunteering takes place within informal contexts in communities and particularly within volunteer-run groups, often with little media or political attention.
  • Volunteer-run organisations are challenged by increasing work related to organisational management. Many feel this diverts group resources from achieving their mission.
  • Many volunteers, smaller community groups and volunteer-run groups in the consultation indicated they are keen to get on with the core activities of their group with as little red tape or government control as possible. They note that
    as they are not part of a structured or organised sector, they find it hard to have a coherent case heard by government.
  • The ageing population will increase the need for support for older adults, both through organisations and informally.

Volunteering with organisations

  • The rate of incorporation of groups is increasing, which increases legal protection for volunteers within such organisations.
  • The attention given by media and government to emergency services volunteering has resulted in some other kinds of volunteering feeling under-valued.
  • Formal student volunteering programs are increasing within tertiary education institutions.
  • Support for employees to contribute to community organisations through volunteering is increasing among the corporate and public sectors.
  • Formal volunteering through not-for-profit and government organisations is becoming increasingly professionalised and volunteers are considered part of workforce capacity.

What do organisations say they need in relation to volunteering support?

 Consultation input is clear that the highest priority remains the need for an ongoing supply of volunteers. Underpinning volunteer recruitment and volunteer retention, organisations indicate a need for:

  • ongoing promotion of the importance of volunteers and recognition of volunteer contribution profiling of less well known groups or causes paid administrative staff to allow volunteers to focus
    on the goals of the group
  • access to information and skilled support for occasional strategic and operational matters such as legal and governance requirements or marketing plans, particularly for smaller
    groups and those in rural and remote locations
  • access to information about best practice in relation to volunteer management access to appropriate and affordable training for volunteers
  • reduced or subsidised National Police Checks for volunteers and Working with Children Checks
  • information on the latest trends and research about volunteering freedom to run their activities unhampered, as much as possible, by complex
    governance requirements.

The state government's commitment to support volunteering

 In response to the needs identified through the consultation process the state government, through the Department for Communities, will:

  • provide leadership in policy development, research and information provision to assist with development of planning and funding
    for volunteering in Western Australia
  • work collaboratively with major stakeholders in the community sector, the corporate sector and with all three levels of
    government to build the state’s volunteering capacity
  • provide funding and other support to non-government and local government partners to deliver services that assist with recruitment, training and management of volunteers
  • provide leadership and funding that increases community awareness of volunteering and the many ways individuals may contribute
  • ensure recognition by the highest levels of government as well as across the community of the significant contributions of volunteers and volunteering
  • provide leadership to assist state government agencies to use best practice processes for involving and managing volunteers within their own programs
  • encourage the public sector to provide opportunities for public sector employees to contribute to their communities through volunteering
  • streamline and simplify grants processes
  • encourage and facilitate innovation through grants and other strategies

Vital Volunteering 2011-2016 - The state government’s strategies and future directions

The state government, through the Department for Communities, will progress its commitment to volunteering during 2011-2016 through a partnership approach with community organisations involving volunteers, Volunteering WA, volunteer resource centres, with local governments, Regional Development Commissions, the Commonwealth Government and the corporate sector.

The following strategies will be progressed:

  • support the expansion of effective communication channels to share information and other resources related to volunteering, and particularly to volunteer management build and support the governance capacity of volunteer-involving organisations and
    volunteer-run groups, and take initiatives to reduce administrative red tape in grants processes
  • support and promote the benefits of corporate volunteering through the development of best practice guidelines and models for employee volunteering
  • explore strategies to expand the involvement of staff from the public sector as volunteers in the community sector
  • support and encourage the development of innovative and inclusive strategies for the recruitment and retention of volunteers that respond to contemporary volunteering trends and patterns
  • support and undertake research on volunteering to inform the development of new volunteering initiatives and directions
  • develop strategies to strengthen and support volunteering in regional and remote communities
  • promote greater awareness and understanding of the roles of volunteer resource centres and Volunteering WA
  • recognise the valued contribution of volunteers through funding community recognition events such as Thank a Volunteer Day and National Volunteer Week
  • reduce the financial burden to organisations by subsidising National Police Checks for Volunteers and Working with Children Checks
  • review legislation impacting on volunteers and volunteering.