Posted by: jkirkby8712 | July 27, 2011

Tuesday, 26th July 2011 – a little view on volunteers.

The Australian Bureau of  Statistics {ABS] has some interesting, well, ‘statistics’!!  For example, I was reading an article in  Accounting magazine this week about volunteers, the emphasise being on the importance of engaging, supporting and keeping volunteers. I always take notice of that ‘topic’, having being a volunteer of sorts for most of my life in a variety of areas. As the story, written by Helen Hawkes says – ‘The number of hours volunteers contribute is soaring, making them both a highly valuable asset and a management headache for the organisations they benefit’  Volunteering is of course the sector in which no one is paid and people choose to donate time and effort – a kind of ‘free workforce’.

Of course, the value of the kind of ‘volunteering’ work being performed varies considerably. I often feel for example, that the time I spend in community radio, bares little relevance or importance, when compared for example with out volunteer fire brigades or state emergency service personnel, where the outcomes of what they do,  are essential to the very lives and property of people. How can that compare with a role on a school council, or in my case at the moment, a community radio presenter and committee member? If the radio station didn’t exist in this area, would it really matter, after all, there are countless commercial and non-commercial radio outlets around Melbourne alone as well as throughout the Victorian regional area, for those people who are really desperate to listen to the radio! I think the answer to that is that the value lies in the ‘/localised’ nature of each community station, which should be aiming to project local views and activities, and the kind of  community perspective on things that a commercial  radio could never do, or would want to. That’s just skimming the surface of course, of it’s value to it’s community, because in the world of the arts, especially music, there are thousands of musicians and singers, who without community radio, would have little if any medium by which they can demonstrate their talents apart from local festivals, gigs, concerts, etc. Yes, I do play mainstream singers, etc at different times – tonight on air for example, Leonard Cohen got a bit of a feature spot on my show. He doesn’t need local radio to be known. But 65% of the other singers & musicians that I play, do need that exposure, and appreciate the opportunities, and national exposure, that community radio organisations and their member stations, are able to provide throughout Australia. Most of these people, you will never hear on commercial radio. There is just so much talent out there in the wider Australian world, and I for one am glad to be able to let others enjoy what they have to offer…………………………………………………………………………..

Of course, the major problem faced by organisations that use volunteers, is the ability to attract and retain them, as  volunteers. As unpaid workers, they will generally be bound by different rules and priorities, and commitments will usually be restricted by family and/or paid work responsibilities, and countless other factors. As the article I was referring to notes:-  ‘Challenges include the changing needs and expectations of volunteers and  community members who benefit from their activities; the organisation’s own ability to engage, support and value volunteers; and attracting and keeping the resources required to support volunteers’ [an important aspect of which will include such essential as adequate insurance – just because a ‘worker’ does what he/she she without pay, does not negate the necessity for the organisation concerned to ensure that adequate insurance provisions are in place to cover a range of protections from public liability to worker’s compensation.  The argument is often made that volunteer organisations, such as aid agencies, etc, should not be necessary, but that governments should be taking responsibility for much of the areas of activity that volunteers undertake.  That may well be true, but the fact ids, government’s seldom go far enough in terms of needs, and the modern volunteer work force,   is an essential part of much that needs to be done in a community.

As for the ‘statistics’ that drew my attention to this article, as compiled by the ABS, they revealed that in Australia, 34% of the adult population volunteer in some form of activity – 5.4 million people with annual total hours of 713 million. That creates a medium annual number of hours volunteered of 56 hours, individually, that doesn’t sound much, but of course, amongst that 5.4 million, we would find that the majority of hours are worked by a small percentage of that total. Some interesting figures – of the typical volunteer, they are made up as follows:-

  • 36% of all women volunteer;
  • 32% of all men volunteer;
  • 44% of volunteers are aged 35 to 44;
  • 48% of volunteers raise funds;
  • 31% prepare and serve food;
  • 28% teach or provide information;
  • 26% work in administration;
  • 57% volunteer to ‘help others’;
  • 44% do it for ‘personal satisfaction’; and
  • 36% seek ‘to do something worthwhile’.

Not sure where us ‘radio presenters’ fit in there, no doubt a combination of a number of categories!! Speaking of which, I’ve just completed another 5 hours on air, over the past two nights, and as usual, enjoyed every minute of that time. Is that an example of pure self satisfaction?  I think not, but more specifically, a broad aim to share something I en joy with others, in this case, the radio listening community. I often comment upon, and wonder how many people are out there listening, but certainly, if the presenter doesn’t sound as though he/she is enjoying what they are doing, there should be no reason to expect the listener to want to remain tuned in!

Meantime, in my ‘role’ of keeping attune with how our various sporting champions are performing, I notice that motor cyclist Casey Stoner, last Sunday won the USA Grand Prix, in his season bid to a win a second world title. He has now won five out of this year’s 10 MotoGP races And he is apparently doing all that with a nagging neck problem, created from a crash a few weeks ago.  Meanwhile, Tour de France winner, Cadel Evans, is apparently aiming for a trio of titles to add to last weekend’s Tour win, and his World Road title championship.  He wants an Olympic Gold Medal, to join an Italian, and  a German  cycl.ist, as previous winners of those three events.  Cadel competed in the Beijing Olympics Men’s Road Race [finishing 15th behind  this year’s Tour de France King of the Moun tains, Samuel Sanchez, while he finished 5th in the Time Trial event, 4 days later. It seems the main obstacle to this plan, is that timing of the Olympic Games, and next year’s Tour de France are quite close together!! Anyway, interesting to see if he follows up on that ambition.

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