Volunteers are the often-invisible workforce that supports the nation every day and through challenging times. Volunteering does not just represent one sector or organisation. Volunteering extends across society, including the arts, education, emergency services, sports, environment, health, aged care and disability, community welfare and other vital community programs. Volunteering is highly diverse, and Australian society is reliant on volunteering activities and programs.

Volunteering has undergone a dramatic shift over the past two decades, with declining participation rates in formal volunteering exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst there are many challenges facing volunteering, opportunities also exist to do things differently. Volunteers and organisations have already shown great resilience and adaptability during recent crises.

From bushfires to lockdowns, volunteers have comprised a critical part of the nation’s essential workforce. As loneliness rates have skyrocketed, volunteers have been there to provide social support and an empathetic ear. As our healthcare system has strained under mounting pressure, volunteers have been on hand to provide vital surge capacity. And as we enter a world forever altered by the events of the past two years, volunteers continue to be a staunchly reliable constant in an everchanging world.

The crises we have faced in recent years have put an important spotlight on volunteers and the volunteering ecosystem. In recognition of the challenges facing volunteering, coupled with the opportunity to reimagine how we involve, support, and recognise volunteers in our communities, Volunteering Australia is leading a project to collaboratively co-design the first National Strategy for Volunteering in ten years. The National Strategy for Volunteering will be designed and owned by the volunteering ecosystem and will provide a blueprint for a reimagined future for volunteering in Australia.

We often celebrate volunteers as unsung heroes. One of the best ways we can recognise their outstanding contribution is by designing a National Strategy that values their contribution, supports them to continue their important work, and recognises that their collective impact creates change in Australian communities every day.

The stakeholder engagement process for the National Strategy for Volunteering will begin in January 2022. Volunteering Australia wants to hear from as many voices as possible to ensure the project reflects the true diversity of volunteering across Australia. To find out more about how you can be involved head to the Volunteering Australia website and register for updates.

The National Strategy for Volunteering project provides an historic opportunity to collaboratively co-design evidence-based, purpose-built mechanisms to enable volunteering to thrive. Don’t miss your chance to be involved in this critically important project that has the potential to change the volunteering landscape in Australia for generations to come.

For more information and to get involved please visit the Volunteering Australia website, volunteeringaustralia.org