Community invited to have their say about volunteering for emergency services and disaster response
Strengthening support for spontaneous volunteers who turn up to help in a crisis is a key focus of a new consultation being led by the NSW Government aimed at strengthening volunteering.
Communities across NSW regularly band together to support each other through volunteering with emergency services organisations like the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) and Rural Fire Service (RFS), and spontaneous volunteering when natural disasters hit.
While almost five million volunteers in NSW contribute around 1.5 billion hours each year, the face of volunteering is changing, with existing participants growing older or having less time to help, and the growing frequency of disasters is also increasing the demand for volunteers.
The consultation aims to improve understanding of when and how NSW residents sign up to volunteer programs, and why they choose to spontaneously volunteer in the face of a crisis or recovery. It will explore volunteer experiences, motivations and any barriers to joining, to help the Government enhance recruitment, retention and recognition programs.
The consultation will also inform approaches to supporting volunteer efforts during disasters to leverage support available on the ground.
Emergency services agencies including the SES, RFS and Fire and Rescue NSW are being consulted along with volunteers across the state, with all community members also able to have their say online.
The consultation follows the Independent and Parliamentary Flood Inquiries which identified a need to strengthen emergency services volunteering and will inform a report which will address:
- Emergency management volunteering in NSW and trends, including a particular focus in regional and remote NSW.
- Opportunities to better integrate spontaneous volunteers into the emergency management framework.
- How well-placed NSW is to meet projected future demand for emergency services volunteers, and additional actions that would assist.
NSW Premier Chris Minns said:
“Volunteering is essential to NSW’s emergency response, whether it be frontline volunteers working to protect life and property, or volunteers providing support to communities before, during and after a disaster.
“It is one thing to recognise the heroic efforts of these volunteers, but it is also important to ensure we are doing all we can to support them, boost their numbers and equip them to stand on the frontlines safely.”
Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib said:
“Volunteers are the heart, soul and backbone of local communities, particularly in times of natural disasters.”
“Volunteers are often the very first responders. Their commitment is often the very reason people are kept safe.”
“It is of utmost importance to me that we understand our volunteer ecosystem and ensure the right support is available, including education and training along with the right equipment for those who turn up to help.”
Minister with responsibility for Volunteering Jodie Harrison said:
“This work is being launched to answer a number of questions: what our state can do better to support existing volunteers, boost numbers, and embrace spontaneous volunteers who have assisted in the recent floods and bushfires."
“I look forward to hearing about the experiences from those on the frontline and their ideas for the future of volunteering during emergency situations.”