Final Report Analysis
In the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangement’s final report, the vital role of emergency and recovery volunteers was recognised. The report includes 80 recommendations for consideration by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments and ‘observations’ offering ‘key insights’. On 13 November, the Commonwealth Government responded to the report stating its intention to support every recommendation for which it is responsible.
Volunteering Australia welcomes the report and the Government’s response, in particular the proposed enhancement of national coordination mechanisms. In our pre-budget submission, Volunteering Australia recommended the Australian Government invest in a nationally co-ordinated emergency management approach to volunteer engagement. Here is our summary analysis of the report.
Key recommendations that impact volunteers include:
- Consider whether employment protections under the Fair Work Act 2009 are sufficient to ensure that fire and emergency services volunteers will not be discriminated against, disadvantaged or dismissed for reasons associated with their volunteer service during natural disasters.
- Establish a national mechanism for sharing of trained and qualified recovery personnel and best practice during and following natural disasters.
- Convene ongoing national co-ordination forums including volunteer groups, with a view to support continuous improvement of recovery support.
‘Key insights’ relevant to volunteering acknowledge:
- That volunteers should not suffer significant financial loss because of prolonged periods of volunteering, including self-employed volunteers, and that mental health responses are appropriate for addressing the impacts of natural disasters.
- The importance of refreshing the Spontaneous Volunteer Strategy, developing specific action plans, guidelines and consistent registration and coordination mechanisms.
- The importance of considering a more effective national legal framework for charitable fundraising.
Volunteering Australia’s Further Recommendations
We welcome the above recommendations and acknowledgements. In our submission, we made the following recommendations, which we hope to see further considered:
- Clarify compensation for future emergencies in consultation with fire and emergency service volunteers.
- Develop an emergency management workforce strategy.
- Lead a recruitment drive for emergency volunteers.
- Ensure there are comprehensive mental health support services for emergency volunteers.
- Invest in the enabling infrastructure of the volunteering sector
- Actively promote emergency volunteerism and corporate social responsibility (volunteering leave policies) to the private sector.
- Develop and communicate a policy on Commonwealth welfare support compliance obligations for volunteers during disasters.
We also included a series of guiding principles:
- Maintain a clear conceptual understanding of volunteering as “time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain”.
- Reimburse and cover out of pocket expenses of volunteers.
- Protect the health and safety of volunteers.
- Recognise the contribution of volunteers.
- Consult widely with the experts, including volunteers.
Volunteering Queensland also made a submission which can be found here.
Photo courtesy of CFA (Country Fire Authority)