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Goal three: Supporting volunteers to be resilient, supported and empowered

The chance to make a high impact drives many volunteers. But they often have limited time available to contribute.1

These volunteers need to feel encouraged by their organisation, with the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge they bring. This will help make their experience and contributions feel purposeful and rewarding.

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised how volunteers build hope and resilience as agents of change. It has shown how volunteering improves lives and strengthens communities. We see resilience of individuals and communities as an ongoing process of adapting to change. This leads to constant change in directions that are important to the people and communities involved. We aim to strengthen resilience and enable people and communities to respond to emergencies and achieve their development goals.

Supporting and strengthening volunteering is key to achieving the strategy’s vision, including through peak bodies, Volunteer support organisations (VSOs) and other organisations that are important sources of training and support for VIOs. Organisations with particular expertise in specialist areas such as inclusion and governance are also critical.

Partnerships between organisations within the volunteering community will provide greater support for VIOs and the wider volunteering community. This will improve governance processes and help make the management of volunteers more professional across the state and will ensure volunteers are aware of and equipped to adhere to and follow relevant and/or mandated standards and practice guidelines in the delivery of services, such as the new Child Safe Standards.

An opportunity also exists to build the skills of VIOs in digital literacy, diversity and inclusion. This will provide a more engaging and empowering experience for volunteers.

Priority outcomes

  • Volunteers have safe, effective and rewarding experiences. Their rights and responsibilities are understood and protected.
  • Volunteers have the right resources, tools and supports.

Throughout our consultations, we heard that Volunteer-involving organisations (VIOs) often struggle to afford to train managers of volunteers and to implement strong governance practices. In working towards achieving resilient, supported and empowered volunteers, it is vital that our volunteers can access a range of support services including:

  • effective induction, professional development and training
  • measures to support their health and wellbeing while volunteering
  • professional grievances and complaints processes.

Priority actions

  • VIOs to make volunteering a strategic priority for their organisations.
    This action will be delivered in years 1 and 2.
  • VIOs to apply organisational policies and practices to their volunteer workforce equal to that of their other staff including:
    • recruitment and onboarding processes
    • health and wellbeing measures
    • professional development, training and other supports
    • grievances and complaints processes
    • adherence to practice standards and guidelines such as the new Child Safe Standards.
      This includes ensuring resources and supports are offered in a range of accessible and culturally safe and responsive formats.

This action will be delivered in years 3 to 5.

  • Managers of volunteers to be aware of and encourage volunteers to use online platforms to access free support and training. These includes psychological first aid training and other relevant supports.

This action will be delivered in years 1 to 4.

  • Volunteering Victoria to promote uptake of the national standards and practice guidelines among VIOs through workshops and other engagement with the volunteering community.

This action will be delivered in years 1 and 2.

  • VIOs to use organisations with expertise in governance including Justice Connect and Victorian Public Sector Commission that provide resources and training to strengthen volunteering leadership.

This action will be delivered in years 1 to 4.

  • The Victorian Government to work with Aboriginal organisations and/or communities to identify and support self-determined actions aimed at recognising and strengthening volunteering within Aboriginal communities.

This action will be delivered in years 1 to 4.

Case study 

Jaswinder helps feed the community

Sikh Volunteers Australia (SVA) is a non-profit volunteer organisation. It offers free food to disadvantaged or needy individuals and families. It was founded in 2017 and runs in the cities of Casey and Frankston.

Due to the 2020 bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, the service expanded to help other vulnerable communities. SVA delivered more than 100,000 free meals over seven months during 2020.

Jaswinder is one of SVA’s volunteers. He says, ‘For our organisation, the idea is that we have migrated to a beautiful country, this is our home, so we have to ask ourselves, What are we giving back? Where is our share of the charity? Many of us didn’t have a lot financially, so we decided to donate our time to this organisation.

COVID restrictions meant SVA had to change its approach to distribution. The group drew on its volunteers in the taxi and transport industries, assigning volunteer drivers a route with about 15 stops each.

Cooking large amounts of food wasn’t a problem for the organisation. But the logistics and working within the restrictions was a challenge, especially around grocery restrictions. ‘It meant we had to do things like have 15 or 20 volunteers go to the grocery store and buy individually and reach their limits. Like everyone going to their supermarket and buying 10 potatoes each, Jaswinder said.

With a team of more than 500 volunteers Jaswinder said the mental health of volunteer admin staff was his biggest concern. They managed this by giving volunteers breaks.

For many this was their first volunteering experience. But now the volunteers are more confident about applying to different organisations. They know they will be welcomed, even if the organisation is of a different faith. Also, the established Sikh volunteers have learned how to get others involved too.

It’s been very positive. It’s a good example that if we work together, we can overcome whatever challenge.


[1] State of Volunteering 2020, State of volunteering in Victoria 2020. Retrieved from: