Senator Ursula Stephens, Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector
In a move that significantly expands the Volunteer Grants Program, the Australian Government has committed an additional $15 million over three years to help community organisations and their volunteers with their work, including help to pay their fuel bills.
The Government will expand items eligible for funding under the program to include petrol vouchers for volunteers who use their vehicle for volunteering purposes.
This will bring the total funding for the Volunteer Grants Program to $64 million over the next three years.
In addition, volunteer resource centres will receive $16.7 million to train and manage volunteers over the next four years under the Volunteer Management Program.
This new measure, effective from July 2008, is in response to a 40 per cent increase in petrol costs over the last five years which has become a burden for non-profit organisations and their volunteers.
By subsidising fuel costs, the Government is delivering on its election commitment and acknowledges the pressure of rising fuel costs as well as the enormous contribution made by an estimated 5.2 million volunteers across the country.
Volunteers are the backbone of many community and not-for-profit organisations. Every day volunteers are out in their local communities quietly and selflessly donating their time and energy to help the elderly, the sick and the disadvantaged. We want to make sure they get some relief from higher petrol prices as they undertake their volunteering responsibilities.
That's why, for the very first time, the Australian Government will fund community organisations to reimburse their volunteers' fuel costs. This will help around 6,000 community organisations and their volunteers, particularly those volunteers who use their cars to deliver food or visit older people in their homes, transport others to activities, or give other assistance requiring private transport.
As well, the Volunteer Grants Program will assist community organisations with funding equipment and facilities such as tools, computers, microwaves, kettles, sporting equipment and uniforms.
The second measure will see volunteer resource centres receive $16.7 million to train and manage volunteers over the next four years. This funding will support volunteers and the not-for-profit sector under the Volunteer Management Program.
Volunteers contribute more than 700 million hours of work to the community each year. Around 5.2 million people, 34 per cent of the Australian population aged 18 years and over, participate in voluntary work. The types of organisations that volunteers give most time to are: sport and physical recreation (26 per cent of all voluntary work hours), community and welfare (19 per cent), religious (17 per cent) and education and training (10 per cent).
While disadvantage divides communities, volunteering unites us, providing all Australians with the opportunity to give something back.
The Australian Government recognises the important role of the millions of volunteers, who make Australia a fairer, safer and more sustainable place and is committed to building a new partnership with the non-profit sector.
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