Volunteer support services facing closure

Volunteer support services facing closure

NXT Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has warned that seven centres in South Australia helping organisations such as Trees For Life and The Fringe to recruit and train volunteers are facing closure thanks to funding changes announced in the Federal Budget.

The changes mean funding for volunteer support will only be available for people considered “disadvantaged” and for projects targeting disadvantaged people.

Rebekha says the policy shift leaves groups involved in the arts, the environment, heritage, sport and even emergency services out in the cold when it comes to accessing support for finding, training and supporting suitable volunteers.

“This is such a short-sighted decision by the Government and a blow for the sector which now has to work with about half the $21 million in volunteer grant funding it had a decade ago,” she said.

“Volunteering adds so much to the social fabric of our society and keeps so many of our groups and clubs running functioning.

“I can’t believe this Government will take away a support network that cost so little when you compare it with massive return it delivers for our communities.

“That return is valued at $290 billion across Australia - $4.9 billion in South Australia alone which is the equivalent to about 107,400 full-time jobs across the state.”

There are about 50 volunteer support service centres funded directly by the Federal Government across Australia and most are set to shut their doors under the volunteer management changes, including seven of the eight funded services in South Australia and four in the Northern Territory.

The services facing closure in SA include the Limestone Coast volunteer resource centre; Northern Volunteering; Southern Volunteering, which operates in the Southern Vales, the Fleurieu and Kangaroo Island; and Volunteering SA & NT, which has programs in the Eyre Peninsula, the Mid North and the Riverland.

Collectively these centres receive about $560,000 a year to operate.

The centres have offered subsidised training in topics such as governance and strategic planning for organisations such as the Eastern Hills and Murray Plains Catchment Group, Multiple Births SA, the Neighbourhood Watch Volunteers Association and the Royal Adelaide Show.

Volunteering SA & NT alone has helped recruit thousands of volunteers for Trees for Life, the Fringe and Cleland Wildlife Park.

Its centres have also provided consultancy services and volunteer-support  programs for the CFS, the SA Ambulance Service, the Greyhound Adoption Program and the Adelaide Horse Trials.

In her own electorate, Rebekha said Southern Volunteering would close after 30 years of funding support.

“This is a service that supports groups such as the Encounter Centre in Victor Harbor and the Strathalbyn Neighbourhood Centre,” she said.

“This service has also provided training courses attended by organisations such as the Goolwa Library, Fleurieu Families, the South Australian Whale Centre and Genesis Pregnancy Support.”

Rebekha said she was also concerned that a lack of specialised support services would make it much harder for jobseekers attempting to meet their volunteering obligations.

“This policy change fails to acknowledge the role volunteering plays in providing potential pathways to employment,” Rebekha said.

“We know there is a clear link between volunteering and employment, and with the mantra of 'jobs and growth', I really expected better from this Federal Government.”