Volunteering is a core part of Australian society, contributing significantly to community cohesion, the economy and individual wellbeing across a wide range of sectors, including aged care, disability, family and community services, disaster resilience, environmental management, sports, arts, and culture. In recent years the volunteering landscape has been impacted by bushfires and other crises, including COVID. At the same time there has been, changes in demographics, advances in technology, societal change as well as changes to government policy.
Volunteering Victoria is the peak organisation for volunteering in Victoria and has a critical role in advocating for and supporting volunteering organisations in Victoria. Most recently the federal government introduced new funding policy with changes to the Volunteer Management Activity (VMA) which aims to increase opportunities for people to participate in the social and economic life of their broader community through volunteering. The new, redesigned Volunteer Management Activity commenced on 1 July 2021 representing a radical departure from how volunteer management services have previously been delivered across Australia.
The redesigned VMA puts Volunteering Victoria in a new role as jurisdictional provider and funder of services. Volunteering Victoria continues to advocate and support volunteering organisations.
Volunteering Victoria engaged LDC Group to develop a framework and implementation process that could meet the aims of the redesigned VMA and engage with a wide range of stakeholders across Victoria.
Recognising the significance of the change for the sector our consultations with stakeholders including volunteer involving and volunteer supporting organisations focussed on understanding how organisations are currently operating, their capacity to transition to the new VMA requirements and the best ways to provide funding and support to assist in the transition. Our recommendations to Volunteering Victoria reflected consideration of the diversity across rural, regional, and metropolitan Victoria encompassing different community needs and supporting infrastructures. Consultations included focus groups, key informant interviews as well as two surveys disseminated to stakeholders. Informed by desktop research and consultation data we worked with an expert advisory group to consider the options and recommendations for a framework and implementation process that best fits Victoria.
From the outset our consulting team was very aware of the sensitivities of this project involving significant changes and some uncertainty to both the volunteering sector and Volunteering Victoria’s role. Our approach was to provide a series of facilitated activities including consultations and workshops to engage key stakeholders and involve them in shaping the framework and implementation model.
The recommended model offers a new arrangement that focuses on regional responses to regional needs. The implementation of the new model however also invokes thinking about what community volunteering will look like in the future and how it will be delivered. The value of volunteering to individuals and communities must now be considered in relation to community building and belonging, community governance as well as the practical supports provided by volunteers that are integral to the successful delivery of many health and welfare services.