By Peter Wingate

The value of volunteering to community, and community to our success as a society, is impossible to underestimate, especially in the West. Funding to Volunteering Victoria, Western Melbourne’s peak volunteer organisation, will be cut as of 1 July and the loss to perhaps our greatest asset; our community, will be significant and ongoing.

While you may not have heard of Volunteer West, if you live in the West you have most likely benefited from their services and impact.

Perhaps you’ve received free volunteer services that provide essential support to, or, more likely, you’ve benefited indirectly (and invaluably) by the fact that volunteering in the West creates and supports our greatest asset; our sense of community.

Living in the Western suburbs of Melbourne through last years ‘annus horribilius’ of unprecedented bushfire and pandemic crises, you’ll understand how important resilience, social cohesion and community is; even if you don’t know of the organisations that put in the hard-yards to create and champion it.

Since its beginnings in 2006, Volunteer West has become an integral driver of our communities; engaging, encouraging and empowering individuals and groups to give back to the West.

Since Volunteer West’s inception, they have:

  • Matched 12,242 volunteers to local not-for-profit and community organisations in the West
  • Supported over 400 volunteer managers through the Volunteer West’s Volunteer Management Network, gaining access to programs and training to support meaningful volunteering placements
  • Delivered innovative projects and action-research seeking to build volunteering support infrastructure with some of the West’s most diverse and vulnerable people, including those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and unemployed youth

As a registered charity and the only volunteer resource centre in the region, Volunteer West works across all six local government areas; Maribyrnong, Moonee Ponds, Melton, Wyndham, Brimbank and Hobson’s Bay, with a combined total population of over 880,000 people. As locals working locally, they are uniquely placed to understand and respond to the region’s needs and challenges.

Funding to be redirected just as we recover from Covid

The bad news in what has always been a good-news story for the people the West is that, as of 1 July 2021, Volunteer West will no longer receive funding from the Federal Government. This has huge ramifications not only for the continuing viability of the organisation but community organisations in the West as a whole.

Thu-Trang Tran, CEO of Volunteer West asks “Who supports the supporters? The supporters in our community have long been volunteers but the Commonwealth’s cut of funding to Volunteer West means our communities’ supporters are no longer supported, dramatically reducing volunteering and its huge community-building impact’.

‘The importance of Volunteer West’s work, particularly during times of great uncertainty, change and growth, cannot be underestimated, particularly with the pandemic and bushfires revealing that volunteers are often the invisible and unrecognised workforce on which Australia’s economic and social wellbeing rests.”

But you can be sure that Volunteer West and its legions of supporters who have directly and indirectly benefited from their work will not go down without a fight.

Look out for next month’s Westsider, and part 2 of our series on Volunteer West – the fight for funding and future plans to increase the impact of its vital work in the West.

To find out more about Volunteer West head to www.volunteerwest.org.au

Peter is a local volunteer writer and Project Manager – Advocacy at Volunteer West. You can contact him at: pete@volunteerwest.org.au

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