Australian Volunteers – 'ordinary people, extraordinary contribution'
(This was Australia's theme for International Year of Volunteers)
- Long Tradition of Volunteering in Australia
- Australia's volunteer and IYV background
- Highlights of Australia's contribution to IYV 2001
- Funding for volunteer organisations
- Development of key partnerships and communication strategy
- Conclusion and thank you to volunteers
Long Tradition of Volunteering in Australia
Australia welcomes the report of the Secretary-General on the International Year of Volunteers: 2001 outcomes and future perspectives. As this statement will detail, Australia was an active and keen participant throughout IYV 2001.
The International Year of Volunteers 2001 was a great success in Australia and it is our privilege to provide the United Nations and member countries with information about some of the highlights for us.
There is no doubt that activities and events held during 2001, the International Year of Volunteers (IYV), left a lasting impression on the Australian community.
There is a long held tradition of volunteering in Australia. Volunteers are involved in a very diverse range of activities from running the school canteen, delivering 'meals on wheels' to the elderly, coaching sporting teams and surf life-saving to fighting the most dangerous and life threatening bushfires. The spirit that underpins the work of the Australian volunteer is the glue that binds Australian society together.
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Australia's volunteer and IYV background
The International Year of Volunteers 2001 provided the impetus for the Federal, State and Local Governments, as well as the community, business and the media to recognise and celebrate the extraordinary contribution that volunteers give to this country, and to the Australian way of life. It gave all Australians the opportunity to say 'thank you'.
Senator Amanda Vanstone, Australia's Minister for the former Family and Community Services (the former FaCS) oversaw Australia's successful IYV 2001 program, at the request of the Prime Minister of Australia, the Honourable John Howard. The Governor-General was appointed National Patron of IYV.
Some 32% of adult Australians volunteer their time and energy to not-for-profit organisations. Volunteers contribute to Australia - and specifically to their own communities - some 704 million hours at a value of $A42 billion each year.
Volunteers raise funds, sit on boards of management, share their skills and help others. More Australians are choosing to volunteer. The strongest growth is among people aged under 25, and also among 55-64 year olds, who these days have very valuable labour force skills, and some time on their hands after children grow up.
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Highlights of Australia's contribution to IYV 2001
Work in preparation for IYV 2001 began in 2000. The Australian government recognised that IYV 2001 would assist in capacity building within communities and provided funds through its innovative Stronger Families and Communities Strategy. FaCS conducted extensive consultations with community organisations, business and government. Together, Australia's key objectives for the year were developed:
'The International Year of Volunteers should leave a lasting impression on the Australian community, acting as a springboard for strong voluntary activity in years to come. Through participation in IYV in Australia we aim:
- to recognise and celebrate the outstanding contribution volunteers make to a strong, cohesive Australian society;
- to have community, business, the media and government work together to build an Australian society that encourages and nurtures a culture of volunteering; and
- to support Australian communities in their engagement in valuable and productive voluntary activities.'
Australian government IYV 2001 initiatives were divided into three key areas
- Funding to the Community and Voluntary sectors
- Development of key partnerships
- Communication strategy.
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Funding for volunteer organisations
One of the highlights and successes of IYV 2001 in Australia was the response by the community sector to the IYV 2001 Small Grants and Small Equipment Grants Programs. These Programs provided $AUS12.9 million in grants to the community with an overwhelming 96% of sampled groups stating the grants had positively impacted in their organization.
More than 2100 organisations received funding under the IYV 2001 Small Grants Program designed to recognise, celebrate and support volunteers. For example St Vincent de Paul in Tasmania held a Vinnies Youth Day to thank some 400 young volunteers in their Youth Support Program. The day's highlight was a theatre performance where the audience's volunteer stories were re-enacted spontaneously by the actors – a creative way to celebrate success and recognise achievement.
In Canberra a disability organisation used their grant for an Active Volunteers project, which recruits, trains and supports volunteers with disabilities and addresses barriers that prevent people with disabilities from volunteering in the community.
Through the IYV 2001 Small Equipment Grants Program, a further 2,800 organisations were able to purchase equipment to make the work of their volunteers easier, safer or more enjoyable. A South Australian mental health organisation wrote that:
'The computer equipment will enable us to connect with the wider community and enhance our professionalism. The volunteers will now have the resources needed to gain further education and keep up with the demands of the program.'
A Greek Senior Citizens Club in Victoria bought cooking utensils, such as stock pots and a trolley so that the Club's volunteers can cater more safely for their 90 members.
Many letters of appreciation were received from recipients under each of these programs. Typical was a letter from Longreach Meals on Wheels (in rural Queensland) who held a very successful function to celebrate 20 years of service by many of their volunteers. The Acting Secretary, Elaine A Britton, wrote, 'Thank you for the grant of $500 to assist Longreach Meals on Wheels… The State President presented our association with a 20 year plaque. He also presented our President with a life membership badge (the first one issued) as well as bars to those who had worked 20 years continually for the service.
The Australian government also provided larger grants aimed at building the capacity of communities through volunteering. Projects funded included a Touring Photographic Exhibition run by Australian Volunteers International, the development of six volunteer parks by Volunteering South Australia, a Volunteering Northern Territory research project into the participation of Indigenous women and volunteering, and a Community Referral Guide by Volunteering Western Australia.
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Development of key partnerships and communication strategy
Promotion of IYV 2001 was done in partnership with businesses and the community including:
- sponsorship of a major national IYV conference as well as IYV awards in partnership with the National Australia Bank and local government;
- funding of Volunteering Australia's 'GoVolunteer' recruitment database;
- organising a Corporate Volunteering Virtual Roundtable;
- the Body Shop's National Day of Action for National Volunteering Week;
- Clean Up Australia day celebrated volunteers preserving the environment; and
- a $AUS10 Telstra phone card and a $AUS1 IYV commemorative coin.
While obviously the aim of the IYV communication strategy was to promote IYV, it also aimed to raise awareness, particularly among non-volunteers, of the range, scope and positive experience of volunteering. The Australian government launched a different celebratory theme each month. These themes assisted organisations in planning their IYV activities. For example the 'environment' was the theme for the month of March.
Many Parliamentary Members and Senators took the opportunity to present Certificates of Recognition, signed by the Prime Minister to volunteers in their electorate, along with commemorative IYV pins and information about IYV 2001.
Other elements of the IYV 2001 communications strategy included:
- a 1300 number linking callers to their nearest Volunteering Resource Centre;
- a website;
- a range of products including IYV resource kits, posters, car stickers, postcards, tattoos, banners, badges, t-shirts and mugs;
- an IYV 'Celebrating Volunteers 2002' diary featuring over 250 stories contributed by volunteers in the community; and
- an advertising campaign (on television, in magazines and on milk cartons). Communicating the IYV 2001 message was also done in partnership with another major, historical milestone for Australia – the Centenary of our Federation. It was most appropriate that many of the achievements within Australia since Federation were the result of the hard work and dedication of many volunteers. The Commonwealth recognised this through the production of Community Service Announcements broadcast on national television.
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Conclusion and thank you to volunteers
The Australian government also recognised the invaluable contributions by community groups in Australia during IYV. An IYV 2001 Community Council of Advice, co-chaired by Volunteering Australia and Australian Volunteers International actively gathered input throughout the Year for 'A National Agenda on Volunteering: Beyond the International Year' that was presented to the Commonwealth government at the IYV 2001 finale event on 5 December - International Volunteers Day.
The Australian Government is confident that the activities and events held during IYV 2001, have left a strong and lasting impression. Since the year prior to IYV 2001, ongoing Federal government funding to support volunteering has more than doubled and research continues as to how volunteers can be best supported. The capacity of the sector is being further developed through programs which for example enhance volunteer skills development, as well as leadership by Volunteering Australia in very important areas like standards and risk management. Furthermore, the Australian Mint recently launched a 2003 collector's six coin set, saluting the work of our volunteers.
On behalf of the Australian community, the Australian Government wishes to thank and acknowledge the efforts all of our volunteers – 'Ordinary People – Extraordinary Contribution'. It is fitting that this can take place here today in this Plenary Session of the 57th General Assembly of the United Nations.