National Volunteer Week

19 May, 2022

The Hon. J.S. LEE (17:19): I move:

That this council—

1. Notes that National Volunteer Week 2022 is being held from 16 to 22 May;

2. Recognises the valuable contribution that volunteers make to the economic and social wellbeing of local communities;

3. Commends the Marshall Liberal government for abolishing the screening fee for volunteers wishing to work with children and vulnerable people which has helped more than 135,000 volunteers; and

4. Commends the Marshall Liberal government for the release of the 2021-2027 Volunteering Strategy for South Australia to increase participation of young people, build the capacity of organisations to upskill, retain volunteers and help more people enjoy the rewarding experience of giving their time.

It is a great honour to rise today to move this motion to acknowledge the importance of National Volunteer Week 2022 and to recognise the significant contributions made by our wonderful volunteers in South Australia.

Yesterday marked Wear Orange Wednesday, or WOW Day, which is a national day of recognition to say thankyou to all SES volunteers across Australia. The State Emergency Service is a volunteer organisation with more than 1,600 volunteers across 67 units in South Australia. It was great to observe many honourable members wore an orange ribbon or a tie around Parliament House yesterday to express our thanks to the many SES volunteers for their courage and for providing response to day-to-day incidents such as vehicle crashes, searches, rescues, and crucial storm and flood responses.

As the shadow minister for communities and multicultural South Australia, I am passionate about supporting the hard work and dedication of our amazing volunteer and not-for-profit sector. I wish to put on the public record the Liberal Party's commitment to support volunteers and volunteering organisations throughout South Australia.

National Volunteer Week is Australia's largest annual celebration of volunteering and is an opportunity for us all to celebrate and recognise the vital work of volunteers and thank them for their contributions to our community. From Monday 16 May to Sunday 22 May 2022, Australians from all walks of life come together on National Volunteer Week to say thankyou to millions of Australians across the country who work compassionately to give their time, skills and experience to help others.

Pioneer organisation the SA Volunteer Centre, later to be known as Volunteering SA, opened in Adelaide on 23 August 1982. The centre was the brainchild of two dynamic women, Mavis Reynolds and the late Joy Noble, and was initially staffed by volunteers. Over time, with support from the SA Council of Social Service (SACOSS), funds were made available through the then Department of Community Welfare and the Co-op Building Society, which saw a part-time coordinator employed.

Careful placement of volunteers and adopting follow-up procedures, along with the skills of the staff in the organisations which took on volunteers, paved the way of success for the centre. From the very beginning the SA Volunteer Centre cast a wide net in its search for people with multiple skills who might become volunteers for various registered organisations, not only from the not-for-profit welfare sector but also those involved in sport, schools, museums, galleries and libraries.

In 1994, the SA Volunteer Centre was incorporated as Volunteering SA Inc. and in 2007 expanded and changed its name to Volunteering SA&NT Inc. As the peak body representing the interests of volunteers and the volunteering sector in South Australia and the Northern Territory, its mission is to promote volunteering and play a key leadership role in advocating and advancing volunteering by providing an extensive range of services, support and resources for almost one million volunteers and for all volunteer organisations.

On Monday 16 May, Volunteering SA&NT launched National Volunteer Week in South Australia. It was the only volunteer parade and celebration held in Australia this year. In its 10th year the parade involved hundreds of participants, including volunteers, volunteer managers and anyone working in the volunteering sector.

In South Australia almost one million volunteers provide invaluable support to all organisations which are operated by the sheer efforts of volunteers. Whether in aged care, the arts, community welfare, disability, education, emergency services, health, recreation and sport, or multicultural organisations, volunteers are the backbones of these organisations, and they must be recognised, valued and well supported.

Throughout my time in parliament and as a community leader in my various capacities before entering parliament, I have volunteered my time all my life, and I continue to be inspired by the compassion and commitment of so many South Australians who give up their time, who lend a hand and who share their skills, knowledge and network to help those in need.

Volunteers provide much-needed care, support and services to our community, and in South Australia their contributions are valued at around $5 billion annually. This year the theme of National Volunteer Week is 'Better together', recognising that volunteering brings people together, builds communities, and creates a better society for everyone. The enormous and selfless effort of volunteers helps to make our community welcoming, safe and inclusive and supports our community spirit and wellbeing in challenging times like the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 2010, due to a number of factors, including an ageing population, the increased challenges of work-life balance, and working people being very time-poor, there has been a decline in the rate of formal volunteering participation across Australia. During the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteer organisations have faced additional challenges, with reports that two-thirds of volunteers stopped working during the pandemic. These additional challenges highlight the importance of the former Marshall Liberal government's support for the volunteering sector throughout our term of government.

It is a common courtesy to give credit where credit is due. This motion seeks to commend the Marshall Liberal government for abolishing the screening fee for volunteers wishing to work with children and vulnerable people. It was under the Marshall Liberal government that we provided free volunteer screening checks, making it easier for people in South Australia to volunteer as the cost of screenings was no longer a barrier to participation.

As of June 2021, more than 135,000 volunteers applied for free volunteer screening checks, and South Australian volunteers and organisations have saved $8 million. These savings were injected back into the sector. This has assisted volunteer organisations like sports clubs, community service organisations, emergency services, multicultural organisations and charities to recruit and retain volunteers who deliver vital services for the community. I would particularly like to commend my colleague the Hon. Michelle Lensink for driving these policy settings when she was the Minister for Human Services. I would like to thank her for her ongoing commitment to supporting the South Australian volunteering sector.

The global coronavirus pandemic has impacted our lives and changed the way we go about volunteering. Therefore, it is vital that I also take this opportunity to commend the Marshall Liberal government for the release of the 2021-2027 Volunteering Strategy for South Australia. This strategy aims to increase participation of young people, build the capacity of organisations to upskill, retain volunteers, and help more people enjoy the rewarding experience of giving their time.

I have the honour of working with and meeting with many volunteers every single day in my working life and community life. Just about every single time I have asked them why they want to be involved as volunteers, their answers have been consistently clear: because these individuals or groups found volunteering work to be rewarding and they feel that they are the lucky ones who have the privilege and the opportunity to help others, and they want to give back to the community and make a difference.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the outstanding work of the former minister the Hon. Michelle Lensink and the former Liberal government's important work in releasing the 2021-2027 Volunteering Strategy for South Australia a year ago during National Volunteer Week. The volunteering strategy was developed in consultation with more than 600 people from across local and state government, business and not-for-profit sectors. The strategy brings together a shared vision for volunteering in South Australia with a focus on cross-sector partnerships to ensure that volunteering remains at the heart of the community. The strategy outlines a road map consisting of four focus areas to ensure we maintain the status and profile of volunteers in South Australia. The strategy aims to:

1. Build the capacity of volunteer-involving organisations to engage, train, support and retain volunteers, including young volunteers;

2. Promote the benefits of volunteering to encourage greater participation;

3. Support organisations to support effective practices, structure, governance and training opportunities for volunteers; and

4. Foster continuous improvement through partnerships and collaborations between sectors to sustain volunteering.

It is vital that this strategy continue to be implemented. The Liberal Party calls on the Malinauskas Labor government to support the 2021-2027 volunteering strategy. It is critical that we continue to find ways to increase flexibility for volunteers and organisations, and that we continue to encourage young people to participate as volunteers.

We have seen time and time again that volunteering not only benefits our community, it helps individuals reconnect with one another, foster better mental health wellbeing and even creates potential pathways to employment. Coming out from the global pandemic there is much work to do to help our community recover. It is through helping others in our community in difficult times or giving our time to support a good cause that we value, we are much better and much stronger as a community.

Once again, I wish to sincerely thank Volunteering SA&NT and all the wonderful volunteers and organisations in our community who give their time, skills, efforts and compassion to help others. We are truly better together and I look forward to working with everyone towards a more inclusive and stronger South Australia. A very happy National Volunteer Week, honourable members.