Wyndham, 15 June 2021
Today the Gordon’s Skills and Jobs Centre was joined by three wonderful guest speakers who spoke about Volunteering – the benefits, the types of opportunities that are available in these COVID times, and some of the things for you to consider.
A huge thankyou to:
- Sally Cooke (Senior Volunteer Development Officer at Wyndham City Council),
- Ash Lee (Team Leader – Volunteer Support Services at Volunteer West) and also
- Laura Lopriore ( a volunteer at Volunteer West – who also coordinates other volunteers – big win to have Laura join our panel today!)
Benefits of Volunteering:
We all know that volunteering benefits the community – unpaid volunteers are often the glue that hold a community together.
However, did you know that there are many benefits to YOU from volunteering? Lucinda and the panel spoke about these today, and they include:
- helping you to make new friends,
- expanding your network,
- giving you valuable job skills
- giving you a referee.
In addition, Ash discussed how volunteering can be enormously beneficial for your own wellbeing and mental health, as it provides social connection, a sense of routine, and many opportunities to keep on learning – and a reason to get out of the house! Ash highlighted how helping others is a very well known contributor to good mental health.
Ash talked about Volunteer West – which is an organization that helps other organizations to find volunteers by helping them with advertising vacancies, finding the right candidates, interviewing them, and completing the paperwork etc. If you contact Volunteer West, they will have a chat with you about what you are looking for in your volunteering opportunity – a regular day and time? A one-off project? Something that you can do from home, or that will get you out of the house? It’s also important to find an opportunity with an organization that matches your own values as that will help you to feel that you are making an important contribution. Ash highlighted that it is important to find the right volunteer for each vacancy, and they will play an important role in helping find the right ‘match’ for you.
Ash showed us the Volunteer West Website, which is a great site to explore for more information:
Volunteering and Wyndham City Council:
Sally Cooke worked initially as a volunteer manager in the Visitor Information Centre, then moved on to coordinate Volunteer Recruitment for all Council programs and more recently, Volunteer Development – this latest job includes volunteering that is both internal and external to Council.
Sally highlighted that Wyndham Council have 200 of their own volunteer roles at Council and they support those, but they also support other businesses in the Wyndham area who are looking for volunteers – they provide information about volunteering (for volunteers, and also for businesses); and they offer free training for volunteers (and you don’t need to be volunteering yet to do the training!).
Sally mentioned that volunteering at Council doesn’t guarantee that you will get a job at Council – but it WILL build your network and these can be the key to finding paid employment. She also stressed that the experience you get while volunteering may help to give you the edge over others who haven’t volunteered, and she mentioned that she has been a referee for people who have volunteered in the past. For people who are on Centrelink benefits, volunteering can also be counted as “Activity” (just as applying for a certain number of jobs is counted) – so this might be another good reason to consider giving volunteering a go. Sally discussed how many people have volunteered to deliver meals to residents, and then continue to do so even after they have got a paid job, as they have enjoyed it so much – in fact, Sally says that 96% of volunteers say it ‘makes them happier’.
Wyndham currently have a 5-year strategy that will grow the number of volunteers in Wyndham, so make sure you check out their website:
A volunteer’s story:
Laura Lopriore retired in 2019 and after a long career in administration, suddenly had spare time on her hands! Laura reached out to Volunteer West to discuss where her admin skills could be best used. Luckily, Volunteer West were currently looking for someone with administration experience, and so Laura became a volunteer there. Today, Laura shared how she loves her role, which involves talking to people on the phone, in order to find appropriate volunteer positions for them. She guides them as to things they should consider – for example, their availability, how much time they want to commit, the tasks they like doing (whether it’s working with the elderly, or with children etc). Laura said she particularly enjoys getting to know people as she works with them to find appropriate volunteering opportunities – she has met people from all sorts of diverse backgrounds and cultures. Laura said she particularly loves placing people who want to work with the elderly – as many older residents don’t have any visitors, finding the right volunteer for them is really important. Laura said if you are thinking about volunteering – “just go for it! It’s really rewarding”.
What sort of opportunities are there and how can I find them?
Ash showed us what volunteering opportunities are available right now by searching their website using location and keywords, but Ash suggested that you just hit ‘Search’ to see the whole range of opportunities available:
Some other good sites to check are:
A quick check of SEEK Volunteer revealed there are currently 1935 opportunities in the Wyndham area, so there are plenty to choose from!
https://www.wevolunteer.org.au/ is another great website to have a look at – you can go in and create your own profile and see what sort of vacancies there are in the area of community recovery following a disaster, you will get matched with local organizations in your area.
Volunteering in COVID times
Sally discussed how some Not-for-Profit organizations are not currently accepting volunteers at the moment, and Wyndham Council’s programs were also all put on hold as many roles were community facing. They are now starting to think about bringing back volunteers – but they are making sure that when they do, their volunteers will be protected with COVID safe practices and procedures. It is a frequently changing situation.
What should you expect, as a volunteer? What are your rights, and responsibilities?
Ash mentioned that if you sign up to be a volunteer, it’s important that you commit to what you said you would do, to be punctual, respect privacy and your other volunteers, and to let the organization know if you are not able to come in that day.
On the flip side, as a volunteer, you have the right to be treated as a co-worker, to have access to induction and necessary training, to be informed of changes, to access information needed to do the work, and to have some freedom of choice. If the volunteering doesn’t suit you anymore, then you have the right to talk with your volunteer Manager about what isn’t working. It’s also your right to be able to adjust your volunteering time if, for example, you are going on a holiday. Ash and Sally also mentioned that it’s important to talk to your volunteer manager about:
- insurance (particularly if the organization is larger)
- spending your own money (but if you do, you are entitled to get this reimbursed)
For example, if you have to use your own car, check about reimbursement of costs like petrol etc.
Applying for volunteer roles:
Sally mentioned that there is a process around applying for volunteer roles, as they have a duty of care to their clients and so have to find the right person. You will be asked to fill out an application form and to explain why you’re a good match for the role – similar to applying for a paid role, so it’s good practice! Sally suggested you use this process to find out if the role is also going to suit you – whether the organization matches your own values etc, as that’s the passion behind why you might apply.
Wyndham will also ask for a Police Check and many organizations will cover the cost of that. Many roles will also require a Working With Children Check too, if you’re going to be near children. You can also expect a role/position description so that you know what you’re doing, and that what any insurance will cover you for.
You can also be asked to sign a volunteer agreement –Sally explained that you’re not signing a contract as such – it’s more to show that you’re clear about what you’re signing up to do. And remember, if you don’t want to volunteer any more, you can stop at any time.
There are a great number of wonderful volunteering opportunities available – so get involved! And if you have any questions at all, Ash mentioned that you can contact VolunteerWest and have a chat. There is a lot of support to help you with your decision and they are happy to help!