Feature Article - Issues affecting voluntary work in Tasmania in 2002
AGEING POPULATION IN RURAL AND REMOTE COMMUNITIES
In 2002, existing volunteer organisations in rural and remote communities have expressed concern that volunteers who have been a part of their respective groups for many years are now ageing. Young people have limited employment opportunities in rural and remote communities and are being forced to move to larger cities or interstate, leaving a void of potential volunteers.
Access to affordable and reliable transport for volunteers has become the main prohibitive factor for volunteer effort in small rural communities. Public transport companies tend to cater for the paid workforce, which leaves volunteers to find their own way or choose not to volunteer at all.
The rising cost of petrol is also a strain for many people.
Good volunteer management practices advocate that volunteers be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses incurred while on the job, however this is only possible if the employing organisation has the funds available.
PUBLIC LIABILITY INSURANCE
The cost of and/or non-availability of public liability insurance for voluntary community groups has become a recent issue. Some groups have been forced to forego insurance, cancel events or even cease to exist because of greatly increased premiums.
The peak body for volunteering in Tasmania, Volunteering Tasmania, recently requested information from voluntary groups about their experience with public liability insurance costs.
Information obtained will be used to compile a series of case histories on the effects of these increased costs. The case histories will be used to lobby the State Government and the Commonwealth Government for action to reduce the effects upon voluntary groups.
Preliminary results show that of all voluntary groups surveyed:
- Half reported that their public liability insurance premiums had increased. Increases varied from 'only minor' to more than double.
- Some stated that they were having to pay increased fees for use of premises, due in part to increased insurance costs for the owners.
- Some indicated that they had to pay an increased premium to cover volunteers aged over 65 years or had been refused cover on volunteers of this age.
Given current obstacles, volunteering in Tasmania is still strong. Volunteering Tasmania's offices interview over 30 potential volunteers each week. Training Services of the organisation provide both accredited and non-accredited training to about 200 volunteers and volunteer coordinators each year across the State.
- Likely consequences included increased membership and activity fees, cancelled events and the possibility of organisations ceasing to exist.