Recognising the huge contribution volunteers make to our lives

  • Steve Maharey
Community and Voluntary Sector

Comments at the closing function for the International Year of the Volunteer. Grand Hall, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.


Tena koutou katoa

Welcome everyone.

Thank you Georgina for your words of introduction.

Thank you to the Whitireia Cultural group for your superb performance. It was wonderful to see three different pieces - Maori, Tongan and Samoan – woven into one.

I want to acknowledge my Parliamentary colleagues who are here tonight. In particular, Mark Burton, George Hawkins and Tim Barnett. Each has played a significant role in the Year of Volunteers.

It’s good to see so many people here this evening from the community and voluntary sector. It is especially good to welcome so many ‘volunteers’.
I want to emphasise that tonight is about celebrating the work of volunteers and volunteering.

Ministerial Reference Group

I want to say a special welcome to the members of the IYV Reference Group, here tonight from around the country. Chair Nick Toonen, Ekara Lewis, Karen Roberts, Denise Henigan, Cheryll Martin, Bella Tari, Jane Poa, John Thornley and Carol Quirk.

On behalf of the government, thank you for the wonderful contribution you have made as members of the official coordinating and advisory group for International Year of Volunteers.

The Ministerial Reference Group (MRG) was appointed in September 2000 by then Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon Mark Burton. The group coordinated the national programme for the Year and advised Ministers on volunteer issues.

The eleven members were selected for their skills and networks in the volunteer community. They come from areas as diverse as Te Anau, Nelson, Wellington, Auckland, Hawkes Bay and the Far North.

International Year of Volunteers

The International Year of Volunteers has been a chance for our communities to recognise the huge contribution volunteers make to our lives.

Volunteers are often the ‘unsung’ heroes of our communities. From volunteer fire fighters, to Mountain Safety instructors through to people who work tirelessly to help others through welfare, cultural, sporting and community organisations.

Volunteering touches on almost every aspect of social and cultural life in New Zealand.
* civil defence
* human rights,
* schools,
* social services such as women’s refuge and groups that care for older people; and
* sporting groups, including the thousands of sports coaches around the country.

There are about 60,000 voluntary organisations in New Zealand and around 1 million New Zealanders do some form of voluntary work.

Let me give you just a couple of examples

* There are around 11,000 volunteer fire-fighters, in comparison to 1641 full-time fire fighters
* About 30% of all incidents the Fire Service is called to are attended by volunteers

There are just so many outstanding individuals who contribute to communities across the country.

Such as my fellow speaker tonight, Kathy Roa, who was named by Netball New Zealand as volunteer of the year.

Or at a more local level, people such as Pam Whittington, who has been the heart and soul of community activity in Wellington for many years.

There are simply too many to mention. This is because volunteering isn’t just the activity of a special few.

The recent Time Use Survey found that 58 per cent of New Zealanders had done unpaid work for people outside their household during the survey period.

It is interesting to note that Maori and Pacific Peoples do more unpaid work than anyone. The Time use survey and the 1996 Census showed that Maori were more likely to do unpaid work than non-Maori.

The Chair of the Year of Volunteers reference group, Nick Toonen, makes the point that for many people, voluntary activity is centred in the heart, while at the same time being very real, practical, specific and immediate. I think anyone who has worked as a volunteer would agree with this statement.

Government contribution to IYV

To support volunteers to celebrate IYV, the Government last year approved $475,000, which included:
* The establishment of a Reference Group to develop and implement an action plan for the Year; and

* $300,000 of small grants distributed through the Community Organisation Grants Scheme (COGS)
There were also two big lottery injections totalling $750,000.

Support for Volunteering

As well our initial contribution we will invest $2.19 million over the next four years to support Volunteering New Zealand and the Volunteer Centre networks.

This funding will help volunteer centres expand their networks to include more rural volunteers, and to develop connections with Maori, Pacific Island and ethnic community volunteers.

We also provided funding for the Ministry of Social Development to look at barriers to volunteering in government legislation and policy. And to produce a literature review on the changing face of social service volunteering.

And we are helping to fund web-based volunteering resources, so that people can find out more about where and how to volunteer.

We want to support volunteer centres because of the important role they play in recruiting volunteers. I know that the centres will be working hard over the next 12 months to extend their networks beyond the social services sector, to include a broader mix of volunteers. This is no easy task and I hope that the sector will be supportive of them as they move forward.

Lottery Grants

As Chair of the Lottery Grants Board, one of the major funders of voluntary groups, I was pleased by the Board’s substantial contribution to IYV.

The Board has contributed about $750,000 since November last year, so community groups could celebrate the International Year of Volunteers.

The grants were provided for training, and promoting volunteer opportunities.

Projects included first-aid training for Riding Therapy instructors, a training manual for telephone counsellors and a recruitment drive for the ‘Supergrans’ charitable trust of Lower Hutt.

The grants reflect the sheer diversity of voluntary activity throughout New Zealand.

This funding helps a wide range of groups to recruit more volunteers and create an environment supportive of voluntary work.

Ministerial Reference Group Report

Last week I received a copy of the reference group’s report for the year, from Chair Nick Toonen. The report will be officially published in January but if you are interested, preliminary copies are available through my office, or from the Department of Internal Affairs.

The report highlights the key achievements from the Year. And I have to say that I was impressed by just how much has been achieved.

The group worked closely with volunteer centres to deliver some great initiatives including:
* an information kit
* a national programme of events
* a volunteering conference
* a special New Zealand International Year of Volunteers logo
* the official International Year of Volunteers website; and
* a national ‘conversation’ on volunteering which included a survey of volunteers and meetings around the country to discuss volunteer issues

Members of the group also attended a range of international events and gave presentations on volunteering in New Zealand.

The government’s support for the year was geared to lasting outcomes for volunteering in New Zealand. That’s why we are funding a major volunteering conference in March next year. We want to see the momentum of International Year of Volunteers continue in future years. And we want to grow our partnership with the voluntary sector.

It is important to remind ourselves of just how much we rely on the many thousands of people who work as volunteers. The rescue workers, the caregivers, the sports coaches and referees, the ambulance workers, the home-helpers and the volunteer fire- fighters - Volunteers are the backbone of New Zealand communities.

Thank you for coming along tonight to celebrate the close of International Year of Volunteers.

He aha te mea nui o te ao?

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.