Today marks the start of National Volunteer Week, held annually in May to recognise those who give their time in support of others. Raising awareness of the vital role volunteers play is more important than ever after COVID-19 saw volunteering numbers plummet across Australia. At Centacare, we are welcoming back familiar faces and recruiting new volunteers keen to support community services.
Two in five Centacare volunteers have returned to unpaid roles since COVID-19 restrictions were eased.
This is compared with Australian Bureau of Statistics data which shows one in five volunteers have resumed their roles in the wake of the global health pandemic.
The Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey found 21 per cent of Australians did unpaid voluntary work for an organisation or group in the 12 months from March 2020 to March 2021, compared to one in four (26 per cent) prior to 1 March 2020.
Collectively, Centacare’s 26 active volunteers have given 74 years of service across the organisation in roles including gardening, administration and site maintenance.
The longest-serving volunteer has eight years under their belt, with six people regularly donating their time and expertise for five years or more.
In recent months, Volunteer Coordinator Jacinta Toy has been reconnecting with Centacare volunteers and shaping roles for new faces as programs are introduced and evolve.
A new homework club to provide secondary students with extra support around their studies began at Wandana Community Centre last week with the help of two volunteers.
Jacinta said she is increasingly fielding enquiries from young people looking to volunteer as a pathway to employment. Previously social connectedness was the most common reason people put up their hands to help.
About 10 people approach Centacare each week for information about volunteering.
Jacinta has begun capturing in-depth data to gain a better understanding of the breadth and economic value of volunteers’ contributions.
“It’s not just their time, it’s everything else they bring,’’ she said.
“They give freely of their skills and resources for no personal gain, purely because they love helping and bringing joy to others.’’
Since 2014, Australia has seen a 20 per cent decline in the number of hours volunteers give.
“Now more than ever, it’s important for us to adapt volunteering practices so that we can provide people with opportunities and offer flexibility in how they can perform their roles, whether that’s face-to-face on sites or through volunteering remotely,’’ Jacinta said.
*National Volunteer Week is being celebrated from May 17 to 23. The theme this year is Recognise, Reconnect and Reimagine.