Volunteering Australia and Save the Children Australia are pleased to announce a new partnership to promote and positively impact volunteering – volunteering that helps build better communities for children.
Today is World Children’s Day – a day which marks the 30th anniversary since the UN General Assembly adopted both the Declaration and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is a significant day for the two organisations to come together and acknowledge the contribution of volunteers who help create a better world for our children.
Volunteers play a critical role within the Save the Children community with over 2,500 volunteers around Australia including more than 500 in fundraising, almost 2000 in retail and over 80 in program support.
Save the Children manages and implements programs that support children in more than 197 communities and locations across Australia. By donating their time and expertise, volunteers are helping achieve Save the Children’s vision for a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection and education.
The partnership announcement comes as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on children and their rights. Save the Children has predicted that as many as 10 million children will never return to school following various lockdowns around the world. Many children will be forced into early marriage or work as a consequence of the economic impact of COVID-19.
The impact of COVID-19 on volunteering has also been significant. Volunteering Australia has published research showing a 65 per cent decline nationwide in the number of volunteers because of the pandemic. Many of these volunteers are not returning to their previous roles and it is having a major effect on our communities.
Save the Children Australia CEO, Paul Ronalds said that 2020 had been an incredibly difficult year for children, but it had also been a challenging year for volunteers who work so hard to make a difference for those children.
“Without the support of volunteers, we could not continue our work to protect and support children across Australia and around the world. We need them now more than ever.”
“At one point during the COVID crisis, we had to shut all of our op-shops which are staffed by volunteers. That had an impact on our income obviously, but it was also a really difficult time for our volunteers.”
“The challenges we’ve faced in 2020 due to COVID-19 have shown how important it is to have a coordinated approach to volunteering across the community sector.”
Mr Ronalds said the challenge was not only re-engaging volunteers but providing a plan to better support and promote them in a changing environment.
Volunteering Australia CEO, Mark Pearce emphasised how giving one’s time as a volunteer can improve lives, strengthen communities, and overcome language and cultural barriers like few other endeavours. However, to better support volunteering, we require a broader recognition of the whole-of-society benefits volunteering delivers.
“COVID-19 may be the catalyst we need to reshape how Australia values volunteers,” he says. “Volunteering Australia is therefore delighted to be partnering with Save the Children to further highlight the importance of volunteering and ensure Australians have the opportunities to offer the time and expertise so vital to guaranteeing children in our communities continue to have a voice and a champion.”
Volunteering Australia and Save the Children have identified key focus areas to explore under their new partnership – attracting more volunteers to the sector and resources to better support them; encouraging a ‘whole of government’ volunteering strategy, to be developed with the sector; and promoting and celebrating the contribution of volunteers.
 Australian National University Centre for Social Research and Methods (May 2020), ‘The Experience of Volunteers during COVID-19’. In this research commissioned by Volunteering Australia, 65 per cent of volunteers were estimated to have stopped giving their time between February and April 2020, equivalent to 12.2 million hours per week.