Missed Budget opportunity to invest in volunteering during emergencies
Volunteering is central to Australia’s economic and social resilience. As the ongoing flood crisis in New South Wales and Queensland highlights, the contribution of volunteers is essential to emergency response and recovery. Yet, the 2022-23 Federal Budget overlooks investment that would enable volunteering during emergencies and in their aftermath. Without explicit recognition of and greater strategic planning for volunteering, the resourcing announced in the Budget will be insufficient to achieve its aims.
Volunteering plays a vital role in crisis response and recovery. Volunteers and volunteer involving organisations have played a crucial role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, contributing to skills and employment, supporting mental health, improving the lives of people with disability, and providing quality care to older Australians. However, volunteering has not been strategically considered in response to recent crises, including in the development of coordinated, national natural disaster arrangements and throughout the Australian Government’s response to COVID-19.
“Despite their importance to emergency management in Australia, volunteers are overlooked in planning and resourcing for the sector. This is part of a broader issue surrounding the omission of volunteering in workforce planning. It is also still unclear whether the announced skills and employment package will include measures for the volunteer workforce.”Volunteering Australia CEO, Mark Pearce
The Budget outlines some funding which will help support the volunteering ecosystem. Volunteering Australia welcomes the allocation of $52.3 million over 4 years for Lifeline Australia to provide mental health supports as part of the implementation of the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan. We also welcome funding to improve the availability of mental health services and treatment to people impacted by natural disasters and other emergency response events, including $4.0 million to the Black Dog Institute to establish a new National Mental Health Service for Emergency Service Workers and Volunteers.