The Minister for Citizenship, Communities and Aboriginal Affairs and Member for Ryde, the Hon. Victor Dominello, MP, under who the volunteering portfolio sits, speaks to The Voice of Volunteering about his plans to support volunteerism as an integral part of the fabric of NSW...
"Firstly I'd like to thank The Centre for providing me with this opportunity to introduce myself to the volunteering community. I am very honoured to be a Minister in the NSW Government and am excited about the possibilities my portfolio responsibilities provide to enhance all areas of community life.
Strong communities are those which foster inclusiveness, protect the vulnerable and ensure opportunity for all. Whether it is helping out in emergencies, pitching in when people need support, or running local community, cultural, environmental or sporting activities, it's fair to say that the stronger the volunteering sector, the stronger our communities.
Strong local communities provide a sense of place and purpose, where individuals feel empowered to shape and improve their own neighbourhoods. Establishing mechanisms for the community to take part in the decisions that affect their lives is a core principle of the O'Farrell Government. This is a principle that this government shares with all community organisations and groups in NSW that rely on volunteers.
In this the tenth anniversary year of the United Nations' International Year of the Volunteer – IYV+10 – I am keen to have a dialogue with volunteers, volunteering organisations and the broader non-government sector about how government and community organisations can work collaboratively in encouraging and growing volunteering to further strengthen local communities.
As many of us know, ABS statistics suggest lower volunteering rates for certain groups: Aboriginal Australians, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and young people.
Of course, I am aware of a number of examples across these communities that may not necessary make their way into official volunteering statistics. For example, there is the important work that Aboriginal people and people from culturally and linguistically diverse groups do within their local communities and there are examples of the engagement of young people in specific issues of concern, whether online, for one-off events, or in a more ongoing way.
As I begin to look for new opportunities for the community sector and government to work together to support the growth of volunteering amongst these groups, it is important that such existing examples of participation are acknowledged and supported. So much excellent work goes on at a local level and it is important that the vigour that this brings to local community participation is supported.
I believe we are all keen to work together to do everything we can to encourage the growth of volunteering amongst these and other important groups, such as people with a disability.
As the Minister responsible not only for the volunteering portfolio but also Aboriginal Affairs, youth, community relations and veterans' affairs, I see considerable opportunities for working together across these areas to support communities and to promote volunteering. For example, I would like to encourage more young people to volunteer so that they develop skills, a sense of civic pride and a lifelong commitment to community participation at a local level, as well as more widely.
Government not only has a role to play in promoting volunteering, but also in supporting volunteer effort, working with all sectors involved in engaging volunteers to support the growth of volunteering and to recognise the contribution of volunteers.
I am eager to ensure that where there are sound examples of organisations and groups who have demonstrated success in addressing challenges faced by the volunteering sector, that those examples and the lessons drawn from them are shared widely.
Where organisations have modernised their practices, reinvigorated their commitment to core values and business, or worked collaboratively across organisations with common goals to achieve beneficial outcomes, it is important that the wider not-for-profit sector is able to share in the lessons learned. Successful initiatives and partnerships that use our limited resources to their greatest effect for our local communities should be promoted and shared across all volunteer-engaging sectors.
We know that we cannot deliver on our goals of strong local communities and high quality and responsive public services without a strong partnership with the non-government sector. We also know that volunteers are the life blood of many non-government agencies.
For example, we have already committed to increasing funding for community transport, a vital service which assists older people, people in isolated communities and people with a disability to get to medical appointments and to participate in social and community activities. The service could not operate without the commitment of thousands of volunteer drivers.
We have also committed to providing annual recurrent funding to Lifeline which will assist in attracting and retaining volunteer counsellors who provide suicide prevention and counselling services for people with financial, gambling and substance abuse problems. Lifeline draws on thousands of volunteers, including 1,100 telephone counsellors to answer the phones 24 hours a day seven days a week.
I want to assure the sector that I have a strong personal commitment to volunteering and consider volunteering to be a significant part of my portfolio responsibilities. I look forward to working with volunteers and community organisations across the State. Together we will ensure that volunteers are supported and volunteering encouraged. The result will be empowered communities, sustainable services and a vibrant NSW."