Symposium shines a spotlight on volunteer safety

MENTAL anguish, physical harm or negative social implications are not usually the first things that spring to mind when you think about the altruistic act of volunteering.

For many that donate their time to worthy causes, volunteering is a hugely rewarding endeavour.

However, in helping make someone or something’s life better, it’s essential that the quality of a volunteer’s health not be adversely impacted.

Volunteering Tasmania, the state’s peak body for volunteering, recently delved into this topic during the 2017 Volunteering Symposium, held in late July.

Volunteering Tasmania chief executive officer Alison Lai said the symposium gave volunteers and the people that work alongside them the opportunity to discuss these issues.

“Tasmanians are incredibly generous with the amount of time they give to our community and their willingness to go above and beyond is unquestionable,” she said.

“Communities all across our island depend on volunteers and it’s hard to imagine a world without them, so it’s imperative that we keep volunteers safe.”

Ms Lai said volunteer safety came in many different forms.

She said this ranged from keeping them safe from physical dangers such as rough seas or bushfires, to helping them maintain safe and healthy relationships with those they might befriend or provide companionship to.

“It’s also imperative that volunteers are provided with robust and reliable support systems to help them recover from experiences that may be traumatic, whether that be seeing people at their most vulnerable or any other type of crisis event,” she said.

“We hope that attendees left the symposium feeling informed and armed with new insights into how other organisations are addressing volunteer safety.”

The symposium featured presentations from Lois Berry of North West Hospice Care, Ian Fullagar of Surf Life Saving Australia and Michael Bruhn of Sea Shepherd Tasmania.

It also saw a light-hearted, but thought provoking debate around the statement: “Young people don’t like volunteering.”

Ms Lai said it was great to see some of Tasmania’s well-known community members debating this current hot topic in volunteering.

“We had ABC radio presenter Chris Wisbey, Peter West from the RSPCA and Anneliese Smith who is known for her work with the Migrant Resource Centre participating in the debate,” she said.

“They had their work cut out for them up against Emily Briffa of the successful Hamlet Social Enterprise, Kate Cashman from The Breath Between and Alex McKenzie from Mobart Mo Bros (Movember Foundation).

“It was a wonderful community event, delivered by our community.”

For more information, visit the Volunteering Tasmania website at www.volunteeringtas.org.au.

Caption: Emily Briffa from Hamlet Social Enterprise and Peter West from the RSPCA battled it out at Tasmania’s 2017 Volunteering Symposium.

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