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In National Volunteer Week, Australians are urged to reflect on how they can get involved in volunteering. Volunteering Australia CEO Mark Pearce told the ACNC Charity Chat podcast a lot of charities could not deliver on their mission without the contribution of volunteers.

“Volunteers are always there. Irrespective of the need or the requirement within community, volunteers turn up, they put up their hands, they roll up their sleeves and get involved in community life,” Mr Pearce said.

This year’s theme, Better Together, recognises that volunteering brings people together. “It makes society stronger and makes our community far more liveable.” Mr Pearce said two out of three volunteers stopped volunteering in the early days of lockdowns across Australia due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he is pleased that volunteering is slowly recovering and the pandemic led to innovation in service delivery and engagement with volunteers.

“At its heart volunteering is about innovation. It’s about identifying problems and coming up with solutions. So when you think about the decline in volunteer numbers as a consequence of COVID-19 we say, well, what are the things people are looking for now?

“People are looking for more flexibility. They’re looking for more choice. They want agency, the thing that we call agency - the ability to make choices around what we do, and how we do it, and when we do it.

“The challenge ahead is to look at the programs, look at the way that you involve volunteers and hopefully try and amend programs to ensure that there is greater flexibility, there is greater opportunity and choice and to give volunteers agency in their life, so that they can participate within community and through an organisation in the way that makes sense for them.”

ACNC Commissioner Dr Gary Johns told Charity Chat volunteering is marvellous in terms of the contribution to the Australian community, as well as and for those who take part. “You get to meet people and connect. You get a sense of ownership too,” he said.

Dr Johns discussed the new opportunity available for members of the community to find volunteering opportunities by searching the Charity Register.

“For the first time if you are someone that’s interested in helping a charity, you don’t need to know the name of the charity, you can just search by your charitable interest. I think it’s a very powerful tool.”

There are 80,000 programs on the Register, delivered by 60,000, charities, and there are hundreds of different types of programs that can be discovered on the Register.

“A lot of people are going to use this to great effect. We see in the back end there are millions of people searching the Register. I hope they can follow through and go on and volunteer for charities,” Dr Johns said.

Listen here, on the ACNC website or on your favourite podcast app.