Page 4778 - Week 15 - Tuesday, 13 December 2005

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On a more serious note, we all know about the huge contribution of the ACT emergency services volunteers who came out in force after the recent fierce storms that hit our suburbs; and the Rural Fire Service; and the 450 volunteers active in the 28 community fire units. Currently, 35 participants volunteer their services to assist the community through volunteers in policing. These volunteers work for a maximum of 16 hours a week and have collectively contributed in excess of 30,000 hours of ACT policing. They bring a diverse range of skills, training and life experiences to their volunteering and, at the same time, provide an important link between the police service and the community.

The ACT government is committed to further developing the volunteer sector. In 2002 Volunteering ACT, in partnership with the ACT government and the business sector, developed a four-year strategy for volunteering in the ACT called “An agenda for volunteering in the Australian Capital Territory community 2003-2007”. As part of the agenda, the ACT government developed a volunteering policy within the ACT public service that supports and encourages workers to volunteer in their communities.

In 2004 the ACT government produced guidelines for the use of volunteers in public service agencies. Those guidelines recognise that the use of volunteers allows the community to become involved in initiating, enhancing and extending the services of ACT public sector agencies. The guidelines have been issued to assist those agencies to manage the engagement of volunteers, while accommodating agency needs. The guidelines provide advice to ACT government agencies on developing policies and codes of practice in relation to volunteers.

They also describe the rights and responsibilities of volunteers and of the agencies the volunteers work within—insurance and liability considerations and recruitment best practices—and introduce for the first time dispute resolution and grievance procedures. The 2004 enterprise bargaining agreement with ACT government agencies includes as one of its core provisions unequivocal government support that all ACT public service agencies are to accommodate staff who wish to perform volunteering work during their public service careers.

Recognising the vitally important role played by volunteers in community sector organisations, we have provided funding to Volunteering ACT to provide extensive training to the community sector on what they need to know in relation to the recruitment of volunteers. This includes insurance cover, occupational health and safety, privacy considerations and police checks. It reflects our recognition that community organisations operate in a more complex regulatory work environment in respect of the recruitment of volunteers than ever before. The ACT government’s vision for volunteering in the future is of one in which all people in the community will be supported in their efforts to participate in the life of Canberra as volunteers. This includes overcoming the particular barriers facing participation by people with disabilities, people from diverse cultural backgrounds, people on low incomes, and young people.

Finally, I wish to acknowledge the partnership the government has had with Volunteering ACT over time, a partnership which delivers. I would also like to acknowledge for the public record the role played by my colleague Mary Porter, for

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