Volunteering Australia welcomes the opportunity to provide evidence to the Select Committee on the impact of COVID-19 on volunteering and the response of the Australian Government.
Volunteering has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. To safeguard the return of volunteering and allow volunteering to play its role in social and economic recovery, we need a package of measures to reinvigorate volunteering and a seat at the table in response and recovery institutions.
Inclusion of volunteers in COVID-19-related guidance and investment in a ‘safe-return-to-volunteering’ awareness campaign will ensure that volunteers are protected and enabled to make their contribution as we learn to live with COVID-19. The reinvigoration of volunteering will help safeguard the mental health of the millions of people who volunteer, in addition to the wider contribution that volunteers make to the Australian community.
Volunteers play essential roles in community, health and welfare services, many of which are anticipating an increase in service demand in coming months. Volunteering needs to be involved in key institutions and forums set up by the Australian Government to guide the nation’s response and recovery. Without this, the voices of millions of people who have a critical role to play in the social and economic recovery will be missing.
Finally, to ensure a more strategic response in the future, including in future pandemics and emergencies, we recommend that the Australian Government co-design a National Volunteering Statement with the volunteering sector. A National Volunteering Statement would enable a much-needed strategic approach to volunteering and guide future government action and investment.