Volunteering will be essential to Australia’s COVID recovery as an avenue to improve the mental health and life satisfaction of the volunteers and to supplement and expand the services volunteers and community organisations can offer.
Volunteering, as with almost all other aspects of society, was heavily impacted by COVID-19.
“We know that volunteers who were able to continue volunteering during COVID coped better than those who ceased volunteering,” Council’s Acting Volunteer Program Coordinator Amanda Kenneally said.
“However, many volunteer programs in the South West were suspended.
“Now, with the road map on track and volunteer programs in the South West up and running there is a real need for people to reengage or to try something new.
“Volunteering is a wonderful way to connect to community, network with people and gently ease your way back in to a COVID-normal existence.
“Many volunteer programs are ready to welcome new faces and expand their services to help the COVID recovery.”
Research conducted in May 2020 by the Australian National University’s Centre for Social Research & Methods noted a substantial decline in volunteering, with 66 per cent of volunteers estimated to have stopped volunteering between February and April 2020. Of those, volunteers over the age of 65 were the most likely to have ceased volunteering.
Other insights captured in the report include:
• volunteers had a higher level of life satisfaction prior to COVID than non-volunteers;
• all Australians (volunteers and non-volunteers) experienced a decline in life satisfaction between January 2020 and April 2020; and
• there was a substantially smaller decline in life satisfaction as well as lower levels of psychological distress for those volunteers who were able to continue volunteering compared to those who ceased volunteering or those who were not volunteering to begin with.
While the link between volunteering and positive mental health outcomes is well established, the data provide immensely valuable reinforcement of just how important volunteering is.
“Council programs and organisations who rely on volunteers indicated that volunteers in Warrnambool had expressed the want to get back to volunteering as soon as possible,” Ms Kenneally said.
“Both indicated that it was a big loss to volunteers not to have the opportunity to volunteer, with some volunteers opting to find new volunteering roles with essential services in order to stay connected during COVID-19.”
For information on volunteer opportunities people can visit www.connectwarrnambool.com.au