The evolution of the volunteering infrastructure and Volunteering Australia: its impact on the history and development of volunteering in Australia 1970-2012

Author: Annette Maher

Maher, Annette, 2015 The evolution of the volunteering infrastructure and Volunteering Australia: its impact on the history and development of volunteering in Australia 1970-2012, Flinders University, School of History and International Relations

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Volunteering is very popular in Australia. Since the first national survey on volunteering in 1995 the number of people volunteering has continued to increase with over 6 million adults volunteering in 2011. Australia’s volunteering infrastructure encourages this volunteering effort through advocacy, promotion and support of volunteering but very little research has been undertaken to examine its development, role, or function. This dissertation analyses the evolution of the volunteering infrastructure and its contribution to volunteering in Australia. In this study the volunteering infrastructure is defined as a group of peak bodies, organisations, programs and services that operate within a federated hierarchy. Volunteering Australia is the national peak body, States and Territory volunteering peak bodies are at the second tier, with Volunteer Resource Centres and programs existing at the local and regional third tier. The peak bodies within the volunteering infrastructure differ from other peak bodies in the not-for-profit sector as they add service delivery to their functions.

It will be argued that the volunteering infrastructure was instrumental in providing a framework for formal volunteering, developing definitions, principles, codes of practice and national standards, a substantial and unique contribution to volunteering. The dissertation examines the evolution of the volunteering infrastructure over forty years beginning with the establishment of the first volunteer centre in Sydney in 1974 until the loss of funding forced the national peak body Volunteering Australia to relocate to Canberra, ACT in 2012. The methodology employed a mixed methods approach including an analysis of existing literature, volunteer centre archival material, a survey and oral history interviews of members of the volunteering infrastructure, public servants, and politicians.

As an exercise in contemporary history this study captures the challenges the volunteering infrastructure faced to have the value of volunteering accepted and respected beyond stereotypical depictions as an activity of economic, social and political significance.

Keywords: volunteering infrastructure, volunteering, Australia, Volunteering Australia, development of volunteering, volunteer centre, volunteers, formal volunteering, volunteering and unemployment, volunteer training, management of volunteering, volunteer managers, not-for-profit organisations,

Subject: History thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2015
School: School of History and International Relations
Supervisor: Professor Melanie Oppenheimer