OzVPM HOT TOPIC – OCTOBER 2004
By OzVPM Director, Andy Fryar
With Australia in the throes of a federal election campaign at present, I’ve been keeping a particularly keen eye out to see what policies and promises the various political parties are making to improve volunteering within Australia. Sadly, at the time of posting this Hot Topic, I’ve not as much as even heard the word ‘volunteer’ muttered by any of the major or minor parties.
A search of the ALP website reveals that the only use of the term volunteer in any policy to date refers to volunteers only in a military context. The Australian Liberal Party website also lists no election policies aimed specifically at the enhancement of volunteers or volunteering – nor do those of the Australian Democrats, the Greens or Family First.
Now that’s not to say that volunteers and volunteering are not seen to be important elements within other broader and more established social policies. However the fact that none of our major national political parties see volunteering as an important enough ‘stand alone’ issue to campaign against staggers me.
Consider the following:
. A third of all Australians are volunteers (and presumably the majority of these are also voters)
. In spite of the above, major parties ARE campaigning on policies that include tools for apprentices, indigenous Australians and problem gambling. All are important issues in their own right, but all affect far less Australians (proportionally) than volunteering.
. The economic value of volunteering in Australia has been estimated to be worth as much as $42 billion per annum. According to Liberal party campaign ads, this equates to around 1/16 th of our annual national economy – a substantial enough amount that you would imagine warrants attention
. Political parties themselves rely on the goodwill of many volunteers to help run their electoral campaigns (not to mention donors to help fund them)
Through all of this thinking, two things have become apparent.
Firstly, it appears that most state and territory governments in Australia are taking volunteering (as a political tool) much more seriously than their national counterparts.
Secondly, I am wondering if volunteering at a national level is seen a little like ‘eye candy’. That is, while it is great to resource the sector to assist with service delivery, there appears little strategic thought has been given to the true long term impact that volunteerism does and can play within our country.
So what are your thoughts ?
. Do you agree that Australian Federal political parties are dragging their tail in regards to properly acknowledging volunteering as a part of its political armory?
. Are you surprised by the lack of volunteering policy coming out of Canberra ?
. What can we do about it?
. If you’re an overseas reader – how does this situation compare with politics in your own country? (especially as the US are also in election mode at present)
Let’s have your vote!