Volunteers Recognised On Their Day

  • Jack Elder
Internal Affairs

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Jack Elder, has paid tribute to the thousands of New Zealanders who involve themselves in voluntary work.

Today (Saturday Dec 5) has been designated as International Volunteer Day by the United Nations. The year 2001 will be the International Year of Volunteers and the Department of Internal Affairs is preparing a report for the Prime Minister on possible government involvement

Mr Elder said Statistics New Zealand "Time Use Survey 1991" indicated that 44 per cent or about 1.6 million of the population participated in some form of unpaid work for organisations or groups in the previous year.

"We couldn't get by without the selfless sacrifice of so many New Zealanders, be they fire fighters, surf lifesavers, meals-on-wheels helpers and many, many others," Mr Elder said. "The Department of Internal Affairs, with a database of 10,000 community groups and through the range of services it provides, probably has more contact with voluntary organisations than any other government agency.

"For example the Community Development Group has helped more than $147.5 million find its way into New Zealand communities in the last year through its administration of Lottery Grant Committees and other funding schemes and trusts. Lottery Grants Committees and the Community Organisation Grants scheme use community volunteers to make funding decisions and these grants in turn support a huge volunteer effort nationwide.

"The work of volunteers was crucial in the production of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Identity Services assists voluntary groups over citizenship advice and ceremonies and genealogy through Births, Deaths and Marriages. Voluntary groups such as the RSA contribute extensively to the Visits and Ceremonial Office.

"Effective emergency management depends heavily on involvement from the voluntary sector, such as the Salvation Army and Red Cross, and the large number of Civil Defence volunteers working in their communities."

Mr Elder said the voluntary sector in New Zealand is made up of thousands of organisations of varying degrees of formality, providing social services and mobilising voluntary labour and finances.

"The contribution of volunteers is vast but much of their work often goes unrecognised because it's unpaid and often spontaneous, informal and unstructured," Mr Elder said. "International Volunteer Day therefore is a means of encouraging everyone to reflect on the contribution these people provide to enrich our society."