Wollongong volunteer numbers trailing, ageing
While volunteer rates in Australia slowly rise, Wollongong trails behind. Without volunteers there wouldn’t be nearly as much community work happening in our society. Statistics show most volunteers range from 40 to 50 years-old. Does this mean there’s a lack in youth volunteering?
Volunteers are some of the most valuable members of our community, but are young people volunteering as much as older generations – those who pioneered programs like Meals on Wheels? UOWTV spoke to the Wollongong PCYC and the Cancer Council NSW to find out.
Multimedia Reporter: Jon Bragg
Is volunteering dying?
As the Country Women’s Association of NSW plans to vote on the future of its Potts Point Headquarters next month, concerns have been raised about the future of volunteer organisations.
While volunteer rates in Australia have been slowly rising over the last decade, Wollongong is still trailing behind.
In 2010, only 17 per cent of Wollongong residents had volunteered their time to a charitable organisation. This figure is under half the national average of 36 per cent of the population.
This isn’t from a lack of opportunity – from home tutoring, to bush regeneration, to Surf Lifesaving, prospective volunteers have the pick of over 80 community organisations throughout the Illawarra.
The average volunteer in Australia is in their forties or fifties, is married with dependant children, and is employed in either full-time or part-time work.
Women are also slightly more likely to volunteer than men, at 36 per cent compared to 34 per cent.
According to Volunteering Australia, younger Australians are far less likely to volunteer.
Head of the Youth and Community Department at Volunteering NSW Jacinthe Brosseau said there are many reasons young people aren’t volunteering.
“It’s more of a challenge for young people to volunteer for a variety of reasons – including a lack of awareness of volunteer opportunities, a lack of availability due to uni and paid work commitments, and in some cases, being told ‘you’re too young’ to volunteer,” she said.
Ms Brousseau said of the 9.4 per cent of volunteers under 24, the majority are give their time to sport or physical activity related groups.
Volunteering Illawarra has created a list of tips for students who are considering volunteering. The tips include knowing your availabilities, balancing your workload, and considering more short-term positions, such as bush regeneration projects rather than long-term commitments.
“There are certain factors which can make a volunteering experience more attractive to young people,” Ms Brousseau said.
“Fun and socialising activities along with skill development and a sense of ownership are incredibly important for younger generations.”
Penny Dunnint has been a volunteer for over 40 years. She gives her time to eight separate organisations, including Meals on Wheels, Cancer Care, The Red Cross, DOCS, and Barnardos Australia.
Penny said volunteering is crucial to the lives of many in need, but she admits that the process of volunteering has changed drastically over time. There was not much protocol when she started delivering Meals on Wheels in her early 20s.
“We would just show up, see if people needed help with the deliveries. There was no such thing a police check back in those days,” she said.
Penny said increasing regulations about volunteer work are a deterrent for people looking to give their time. She and her husband have to submit police checks every three years, to the eight different charities they work with. It costs them $65 per police check alone.
Under current work, health and safety laws, volunteers are considered employees, and must be included in regulated training and induction, food handling procedures, police checks, and third-party policies and insurance.
The SafeWork Australia website contains resources for volunteers and organisations looking to understand the current laws.
‘I just love helping people. Volunteers just love that they do. The attitude is that there are always people who slip through the cracks, and they are the ones that need your help.’
Still some goodwill out there
Dermoid MacShane and his wife Teresa have had St Vincent de Paul in Wollongong as part of their lives for 30 years. Proudly representing volunteers in the Illawarra, the pair prove that goodwill and giving up your time for the community is not a thing of the past.
Multimedia Reporter: Lauren Markham