Legislative Council: Thursday, July 07, 2022


National Volunteer Week

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. J.S. Lee:

That this council—

1. Notes that National Volunteer Week 2022 is being held from 16 to 22 May;

2. Recognises the valuable contribution that volunteers make to the economic and social wellbeing of local communities;

3. Commends the Marshall Liberal government for abolishing the screening fee for volunteers wishing to work with children and vulnerable people which has helped more than 135,000 volunteers; and

4. Commends the Marshall Liberal government for the release of the 2021-2027 Volunteering Strategy for South Australia to increase participation of young people, build the capacity of organisations to upskill, retain volunteers and help more people enjoy the rewarding experience of giving their time.

(Continued from 19 May 2022.)

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE (20:34): I rise to also join in celebrating the dedication and hard work of the 900,000 South Australians who generously give their time and skills to volunteering in so many areas across South Australia. This equates to approximately 66 per cent of the population aged between 15 and 84 years, who collectively contribute an estimated 1.7 million hours of unpaid work each year. The value of that unpaid labour is estimated at almost $5 billion.

Volunteers are in every part of our community, in health and welfare, emergency services, arts and heritage, environment and conversation, sport and recreation, youth development and engagement and education. It is also said that in giving we receive, and volunteers are the absolute embodiment of this. They do not do it for money; they do it because they get the deep sense of satisfaction from helping somebody else. They also do it because they know it makes our community stronger. They do it because it is the right thing to do.

National Volunteer Week is the annual celebration, initiated by Volunteering Australia, to acknowledge the generous contributions of Australia's almost six million volunteers. In supporting volunteers, I propose to amend this motion so that it all about volunteers are not about politicians. I move to amend the motion as follows:

Delete paragraphs 3 and 4 be deleted and replace it with a new paragraph 3, which reads:

3. Thanks the nearly one million volunteers across South Australia who give their time, skills and commitment for no reward but to make a better community.

The amended motion would thus then read:

That this council—

1. Notes that National Volunteer Week 2022 is being held from 16 to 22 May;

2. Recognises the valuable contribution that volunteers make to the economic and social wellbeing of local communities;

3. Thanks the nearly one million volunteers across South Australia who give their time, skills and commitment for no reward but to make a better community.

The Hon. C. BONAROS (20:37): I rise to speak on the motion in support of National Volunteers Week and the outstanding service volunteers provide for communities across the state and across the country. Volunteering, we know, is the unsung hero in the production and operating of essential services and a cornerstone of social goodwill. Without our dedicated volunteers, I am not sure how the broader community would survive. Just pause for a moment and think about the diverse roles volunteers play throughout our community.

Society as we know it is built on the foundations of volunteering, and our communities are shaped by it and, by far, better off for it. It is the bedrock to a number of local community ties, from local sporting clubs of all codes, life saving clubs, our schools and hospitals, aged and disability care services, local libraries—the list is endless. They play a pivotal role in crucial emergency services areas such as the CFS and the SES throughout the state. Just imagine the catastrophic damage a raging bushfire would cause without that level of commitment and dedication by our hardworking band of CFS volunteers.

As well as local voluntary organisations, it is important to acknowledge the service provided by community-based organisations such as the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul's and the critical role they play in emergency accommodation services for those of us in personal crisis. It is a selfless gesture. We in this place rely on the generosity of volunteers, week in, week out, year in, year out. It is a way of generously giving one's time, offering your skills or lending resources to someone or something that needs help or simply offering company to someone in need of a chat.

It is a reflection of the best of our society and members of our community. In South Australia alone, there are almost one million volunteers whose contributions are estimated to be valued at around $5 billion annually. That is a staggering amount, which puts into crystal clear focus the essential role volunteers and volunteer-based organisations have in our society.

South Australians have distinguished themselves among the nation, with 21.4 per cent of the population reported as having done some form of voluntary work according to data in the 2016 census. This represented the largest portion of the population compared with other capital cities, so we can hold our heads high. At a national level, volunteers contributed 596.2 million hours to the community in 2019 alone.

It is no surprise that the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have had far-reaching impacts on volunteer output, as thousands of facilities were closed down and millions of Australians were isolated in their homes. However, the pandemic created an opportunity for more diverse engagement with a considerable shift from in-person volunteering to online or over-the-phone support, making access to volunteer services more available to a broader range of people seeking those services.

That said, national trends for volunteering through an organisation have declined over time. For people aged 18 and over, the rate has declined from 36.2 per cent in 2010 to 28.8 per cent in 2019. The younger generation are volunteering less than those who came before them. A Department of Social Services review of volunteer management activity highlighted several ways in which the volunteering landscape in Australia is changing and offers an explanation for the drop.

That includes an ageing population, contracting of workforce, the gig economy, people being more discerning about how to volunteer their time and, of course, the impacts of COVID-19. Notwithstanding that, I still acknowledge the absolute importance of that in our community and the value that it provides to our community overall.

I take this opportunity to reflect and thank all those who have volunteered with SA-Best, albeit on an election campaign—much less important in the grand scheme of things than all the other things that I have listed, but as I said yesterday, all of us in here rely on volunteers, whether it is an election campaign or outside of an election campaign, it is people helping us in our roles. They do so with a friendly smile, a can-do attitude and bucketloads of experience that we simply do not have.

No matter what forum people find themselves volunteering in, from local sporting events, food kitchens, goodwill organisations, election campaigns, legal centres, whatever the case may be: one thing is absolutely crystal clear and that is that we all benefit from volunteering and our collective lives are all better and richer for it.

The Hon. J.S. LEE (20:42): I thank the Hon. Emily Bourke and the Hon. Connie Bonaros for their contributions. I am sure all the volunteers listening will be very appreciative of the generous acknowledgement. It will come as no surprise that I do not support the amendment by the Hon. Emily Bourke. I am very disappointed the Labor Party is not prepared to give credit where credit is due, particularly when the Marshall Liberal government abolished the screening fees for so many volunteers who deliver so many benefits.

Furthermore, they do not have the decency to acknowledge those organisations, groups and individuals who have contributed to develop the 2021-27 volunteering strategy under the former Marshall Liberal government. In the interest of the welfare and wellbeing of everyone working tonight, I am not going to waste any more time debating this motion. I urge all members to support the original terms of the motion and oppose the amendment moved by the Hon. Emily Bourke.

Amendment carried; motion as amended carried.