OzVPM HOT TOPIC – JULY 2003
By OzVPM Director, Andy Fryar
I am lucky to live on the edge of the Barossa Valley, one of the premier wine growing regions on earth. I have at my doorstep some of the world’s most well respected wineries producing some of the world’s greatest wines – but guess how often I visit?
It seems the only time I venture into what could easily be referred to as my ‘back yard’, is when guests travel many thousands of kilometres to visit the area from the USA, Canada or Europe.
In truth, the ‘valley’ is so local to me, that I take it for granted – often struggling to put into some sort of perspective the way that others must view it.
My point here is not to give a discourse about the international wine market, but to draw some analogies with the Australasian volunteering sector.
Sadly, all too often, my experience has been one of disappointment when it comes to the way we value our own voluntary sector and the people in it. Our willingness to unquestioningly seek out and accept all things American, Canadian or European while ignoring the tremendous culture of our own volunteering sector is at times, disappointing to say the least.
Don’t believe me? Then take a look at any substantial Australasian text on volunteerism. Chances are that more than 50 percent of the references will be credited to overseas material!
The biggest reason this is a problem is not because authors have chosen to quote overseas sources (because let’s face it you want to quote the best sources wherever they are from). Rather, it is a problem because authors and researchers generally have had only a very limited amount of Australasian resources to choose from!
You see, it becomes self-perpetuating – we don’t value highly enough what we have so we don’t recognise the quality of the product we can produce. In turn, we don’t bother to produce it!
Before I write any further, allow me to clarify that I don’t have any difficulties with us looking abroad for trends, research and guidance – believe me, many of my closest friends and colleagues in this field live abroad. What does annoy me is when we look abroad in deference to what exists locally.
What’s more, it is ironic that my international work has taught me that volunteering leaders overseas look to our region as being a benchmark for many aspects of volunteerism internationally
One example springs immediately to mind.
While attending a volunteer management conference in Denver in 2002, I attended one particular workshop being presented by international leaders in the field, American Steve McCurley and Canadian Linda Graff, on the topic of diversity and inclusion. Guess what they used as a handout and discussion point for the workshop? A discussion paper developed by Volunteering SA!
Do you think Australians might have considered using that same paper for a local conference?
Here are just a few more examples of ways that we are seen as leaders in the field internationally:
- Australian volunteerism pioneer, Margaret Bell was world President of IAVE (the International Association for Volunteer Effort) for 8 years and played a major role in having the UN declare 2001 the International Year of Volunteers
- The VolunteeringAustralia network structure is unique as far as national volunteering structures go, and is viewed as a favourable model internationally
- The Sydney 2000 volunteer program is still viewed as being the best Olympic program ever
- The Australian Journal on Volunteering continues to be considered one of the premiere volunteerism journals internationally
So my questions to all of you are:
- Do you share my view (and frustration!) on this topic?
- Do you have ideas about how we might improve our self image and encourage more people in our own region to contribute back to the sector?
- What are you planning to do to make a difference?
Let’s hear from you