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Volunteering Australia says the Federal Budget lacks strategic consideration of volunteers

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Volunteers are central to key government priorities identified in the Budget, including the environment, aged care, disability, domestic and gender-based violence, and cost of living. While volunteering is mentioned throughout the Budget, it lacks a strategic, whole-of-government approach to resourcing and supporting volunteering in Australia. 

More strategic support for a thriving volunteering ecosystem is essential to progressing these priorities. 

Volunteering Australia welcomes the continuation of the Volunteering and Community Connectedness funding stream and measures to address cost-of-living pressures for everyone in Australia.  

However, volunteers and volunteer-involved organisations remain under immense pressure. Cost-of-living pressures increase operating costs and demand for services, and at the same time reduce people’s capacity to volunteer. Half of all registered charities in Australia engage no paid staff and are run entirely by volunteers. Increased resourcing for Australia’s not-for-profit sector is needed to support volunteers and address the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. 

The Budget includes funding for the Australian Bureau of Statistics to deliver an enhanced annual General Social Survey, which has previously collected key national data on volunteering.  

More comprehensive and frequent data on volunteering is vital to support the implementation of the National Strategy for Volunteering (2023-2033).  

“Securing funding for the enhanced annual General Social Survey underscores the critical importance of comprehensive data on volunteering,” said Volunteering Australia CEO Mark Pearce.  

“This investment is essential for driving forward the National Strategy for Volunteering, ensuring we have the insights necessary to empower and strengthen our volunteering ecosystem in the years ahead.” 

Volunteering Australia’s Pre-Budget Submission called for targeted, strategic investment in volunteering to enable the Australian Government to meet key priorities and progress the co-designed National Strategy for Volunteering. 

Volunteering Australia recommended the following initiatives: 

  1. Provide volunteering cost-of-living relief through an expanded Volunteer Grants program.
  2. Fund volunteering infrastructure and the continuation of the Volunteer Management Activity.
  3. Resource National Strategy for Volunteering implementation.
  4. Develop a National Volunteer Passport.
  5. Establish an Environmental and Climate Change Volunteering Capacity Building Program.
  6. Implement a national initiative to address loneliness through volunteering.
  7. Develop a National Disability Services Volunteering Framework.

“The Federal Budget demonstrates the need to think strategically about how volunteering contributes to societal and economic outcomes,” added Pearce.

“We continue to call upon the government to invest in the implementation of the National Strategy for Volunteering.” 

According to Pearce, the role and value of volunteer workers need to be explicitly recognised and better understood in these reform agendas, and further measures taken to promote sustainable volunteering into the future.  

“The work that volunteers do is not a ‘nice to have’; it is essential work that supports our schools and hospitals, our aged care and disability services, and our ability to support the community in times of crisis,” said Pearce.  

“As the National Strategy for Volunteering shows, volunteering requires deliberate and ongoing strategic investment underpinned by adequate resourcing. We cannot afford to ignore the impact that the cost-of-living crisis is having on volunteering,” said Pearce. 

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