International Volunteer Day for Social and Economic Development

  • Tariana Turia
Community and Voluntary Sector

Ki a koe Mahara, koutou hoki ko Te Ati Awa, tena koutou katoa.
Ki taku hoa mahi, Tim, tena koe.
Ki a tatou katoa e huihui mai i tenei po, tena tatou katoa.

Firstly, I want to add my welcome to that of Mahara tonight, to Tim Barnett and my other Parliamentary colleagues, and to all you honoured guests.

While tonight is a celebration for the community and voluntary sector who have made a success of the International Year for Volunteers, it is also an opportunity for us, as the Government, to say ‘Thank you’ to all you unsung heroes, who work tirelessly in our communities.

Regardless of the reasons behind your contribution or where it is made, be it out of choice or out of cultural obligation, the result is that people’s lives are enhanced immeasurably.

My own background is in the community and voluntary sector. My children were raised on the netball courts of Whanganui, where I spent many years playing, umpiring and coaching.

My whanau, among whom I was privileged to grow up, spent much of their lives and mine fundraising for the church. Teaching culture to Girl Guides, schools and culture clubs filled my life for more than ten years. When I have free time these days, I still commit myself to the developments within our whanau, hapu and iwi.

Life is full and life is rarely dull. My greatest achievement is that my children continue this important work.

Most of you here are tireless workers, giving service to others. The whole community benefits from a sense of security, knowing that somehow, somewhere, someone can provide support and guidance to those in need. Volunteers benefit as much as anyone from that knowledge.

Tonight I have the greatest pleasure in announcing that the government has adopted a formal policy on volunteering. The intention is to provide a basis for relationships between the government and volunteers.

The policy will be implemented by a work programme, which is being drawn up by the Ministry of Social Development. I hope to make some announcements in the new year on the work programme.

Copies of the policy are available here tonight. As you will see, it sets out the government’s view of what volunteering is, the contribution it makes to our society, and the government’s commitment to recognise and support volunteers and their organisations.

The policy recognises the tremendous diversity of volunteering, in terms of where it occurs, the nature of the work and the motives for doing it.

It notes that volunteers offer their time and expertise of their own free will, out of commitment to their community or to fulfil cultural obligations. It says volunteers should be rewarded, by learning new skills and feeling a sense of belonging and achievement – and they should not replace paid workers.

The government’s commitments are to recognise and value voluntary work, and to help increase knowledge and understanding of volunteering.

We will also ensure that the volunteer programmes we manage will follow good practice, and we will encourage community and voluntary organisations to do the same for their volunteers.

We also pledge to reduce barriers associated with volunteering in legislation, policy and practice. We will take the needs of volunteers and their organisations into account, and consult them on policy proposals or changes that will affect them. And we will assist public servants to continue to do voluntary work.

A topical commitment is to ensure that volunteers have appropriate legal protection. You will know that the Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Bill was debated in Parliament today.

Many voluntary organisations have been worried about including volunteers in legislation that they believe has been designed for the workplace. We have taken those concerns seriously.

The clear intention of the law is to protect volunteers. It will require employers, and the volunteers themselves, to take all practicable steps to ensure they work safely, in a safe environment.

A number of volunteer activities will specifically be excluded from the enforceable provisions of the act, including taking part in fundraising activities, helping with sports and recreation for a club or school, helping with school activities outside school grounds, and looking after someone in your own home.

There will be a general duty of care covering all these people, which will be promoted by OSH, even though it will not be enforced.

Over the coming year, the Government will address issues of protection and good practice for volunteers, and supporting and enabling volunteering.

Our work programme is expected to include guidelines and standards for volunteer management, liability and insurance; also training, information provision, taxation, expenses, and issues for rural, youth and older volunteers, and employees and beneficiaries who volunteer.

Pacific and ethnic peoples’ concerns need to be taken into account in this work.

I believe this policy will fulfil the government’s vision of a society with a high level of volunteering, where the many contributions people make to the common good through volunteering and fulfilment of cultural obligations are actively supported and valued.

I want to take this opportunity to talk to you about another matter, because you are the movers and shakers in your communities.

In your work in the community and voluntary sector, a very important role is to provide leadership. You are influential people in your organisations and communities, and, as such, you have the confidence and trust of the people.

There is an important message for you to promote – to create an inclusive society, where the different viewpoints among us are fully respected. I hope we can work together on this.

It is a great pleasure now to present commemorative medallions to those members of the Ministerial Reference Group who can be here tonight, in recognition of their work on behalf of all volunteers.

Ekara Lewis, Denise Henigan, and John Thornley have sent their apologies as they are unable to attend this evening. The late Te Warana Tautari Ratima (Ngati Awa; Te Whakatohea) who was also a member of the Ministerial Reference Group, passed away in March this year. I intend to present his medallion posthumously to Te Warana’s whanau during a future Auckland visit.

Would Bella Tari, Pam McLeod, Jane Poa, Cheryll Martin, Carol Quirk, Karen Roberts, and Nick Toonen please come forward.

Kaati, ka nui te mihi ki a koutou katoa. Kia ora.