Australian Volunteers: a great asset to society

Volunteers are an important part of Australia’s social fabric, helping to support and strengthen communities.

As the Federal Member for Parramatta for over a decade, I understand how important volunteers are, and what a difference they make. Around 600 volunteers help campaign for my re-election every three years and in between, support my community initiatives and help out in the office.

In my work, I regularly come into contact with people whose lives have been touched by volunteers and people who enrich our community through their volunteer work.

From the parents and teachers that fundraise for schools to locals that are committed to preserving local heritage and bushland to the men and women that respond to life threatening situations and people that help migrants adapt to a new life in Australia, my own electorate of Parramatta is significantly better because of the work of volunteers.

When people are down and out or something needs to be fixed, volunteers are often at the frontline providing hope and ensuring the best possible outcomes. Their work underpins the transformative experience many people need and that can only be provided by human connection.

One of the highlights of my position is ensuring good initiatives have much-needed resources to get off the ground. It has been a pleasure to ensure that volunteer organisations receive grants funding to allow them to focus on serving the community.

Volunteers are the backbone of a number of organisations making a real difference in people’s lives and help to get things done in my electorate.

However the social and economic benefit of volunteers is spread much further than Parramatta. Approximately 30% of Australians volunteer in communities all around the country. Because volunteer work is unpaid, there can be a sense that it is less important however Volunteering Australia reports that 5.8 million Australian volunteers contribute $290 in economic and social good.

There are real and tangible benefits to our country due to the work of volunteers.

People often come into my office looking to contribute to the community. Volunteer management and support service organisations are a great way to develop people and connect volunteers with opportunities to contribute in a meaningful way.

It is one of the many reasons why we need to acknowledge the work of volunteers and ensure the right infrastructure exists to support them.

One thing we need to do is ensure the Government does not remove funding for volunteer management and support services.

The current proposal in the Government’s redesign of the Strengthening Communities programme, which provides the only source of Federal funding for volunteer management and support services, will no longer have a dedicated funding stream for volunteer management.

Our communities would not be the same without the compassion and strength of volunteer organisations and those people who give up their time, energy and resources.

If you care about volunteers, Please sign Volunteering Australia’s petition to retain funding for volunteer management and support services – I have.

Sign the petition here >

Julie Owens

Julie Owens, MP

Julie Owen is the elected member of House of Representatives for Parramatta. She was educated at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and at the University of Sydney.
She is the Shadow Assistant Minister for Small Business, Citizenship and Multicultural Australia. Prior to MP, she was a small-business owner and head of the Association of Australian Independent Record Labels.