VNQ to close its doors after 33 years

Media Release 13 September 2022

It is with heavy hearts that we announce that VNQ will close its doors after 33 years. VNQ was established on 13th February 1989.

Concerns were raised last year about the negative impacts within our and other communities due to a Commonwealth Department of Social Services (DSS) decision to end funding of Volunteer Resource Centres’ (VRC) core operational activity of face-to-face matching of volunteers with community groups, as advised by Sarah Guise of DSS on 29th January 2021.

The heartfelt decision was made at the August VNQ management committee meeting this year to now inform our members and stakeholders of the current financial status of VNQ and to put to a vote at our AGM this year 2 special resolutions, namely:

  1. Voluntarily wind up VNQ; and
  2. Upon the winding up of VNQ, how to distribute the surplus assets

President Emily Sehu said “The current management committee has exhausted all avenues to enable VNQ to continue to operate viably and sustainably.

On top of this we have also seen the resignation of 3 management committee members due to personal reasons such as job transfer, leaving town, retiring or work commitments.“

As such, we are also looking for new management committee members to either help us wind up the association or if by miracle last minute operational funding is secured, to reinvigorate the current operational structure or model.

VNQ is the leading VRC, ( Volunteer Referral Centre )  connecting individual, corporate and groups of volunteers with great volunteer opportunities. 

More recently VNQ played host to its inaugural volunteer conference where we saw attendance of 200 people at the welcome, 140 people at the conference and 220 people at the volunteer awards event. The feedback received by Julie Payten, our sponsorship manager was second to none. The evidence of the success of the event was in the attendance and the corporate investment by many local businesses. The attendees came all the way from Mount Isa.

We also provide training for volunteer managers and community organisations to strengthen the not-for-profit (NFP) sector and networking events for the NFP.

Regional Qld Volunteering Alliance members have professionally managed the needs of individual volunteers and member groups in Queensland regional communities for many decades.  The combined population of the regional communities served is over two million people.

Immediate losses will include:

• A coordinated volunteer recruitment and placement process, where structured interviews identify skills and experience of the volunteer and match them to specific community needs (plus conduct appropriate probity checks, and organise the necessary insurance).

• A central point for persons to engage in mutual obligation volunteering, and a ‘home base’ where other people can exit and re-join the volunteering movement as they want, according to their changing availability and desire to help the vulnerable and isolated in the community.

• The vast networks established over many years with Volunteer Involving Organisations (VIOs). Impacted most heavily will be smaller cause related organisations, member / community groups like sporting clubs, environmental groups, and aged care – where the coordination of volunteers is a ‘slash role’.

Someone who is a teacher for example, is nominated as ‘teacher/volunteer’. They have no idea where to start finding volunteers, train them and manage them, let alone have the time in their main role to optimise the impact of volunteers for their organization, or for the volunteers themselves.

• The intrinsic value of volunteering for the individual themselves, particularly for people from vulnerable groups e.g., in building confidence, gaining new skills and experience, socialising with others, developing communication skills, and improved mental health outcomes.

In April 2022 a paper was put up to the Queensland Government by a collective of Qld VRCs but fell on deaf ears.

Volunteering is the lifeblood of our communities. Building and maintaining a strong volunteering infrastructure will provide key support for the Queensland Government’s goals for communities over the next decade.

Across Queensland, VRCs are at the heart of community life: mobilising locals to respond to natural disaster; mitigating the impacts of social isolation and loneliness; supporting a host of community and disability services; welcoming newcomers and visitors; supporting local sports, arts, events, environmental causes; and so many other aspects of community wellbeing.

Recent changes mean all this is under threat, with acute impacts felt in communities across the state.

Margie Ryder, who is a passional local Councillor from Townsville City Council who also sits as a volunteer on the management committee of VNQ for around 10 years is directly asking Volunteering Queensland (VQ) –

  • How is our “peak body” VQ going to service all the VIOs in Qld?
  • Will VQ take over the volunteer referral service role?
  • Why haven’t we received the guidelines for the VMA grant funding?

We understand online is the new world but- the face-to-face human contact is core to local volunteering.

We strongly support inclusion initiatives for the identified priority groups under the VMA funding. However, withdrawing funding from the core volunteering infrastructure that underpins communities’ risks having nothing upon which to build these inclusion strategies and no local volunteering support for the wider community.

Volunteering has changed and we need to continue to support those wanting to change or need training in how to change.

We will not continue to chase small buckets of money for our core business, or be forced into “making up” projects that tick the box for only 3 identified priority groups including people with disability, newly arrived migrants and First Nations people.

Regional volunteering is different from volunteering in the city and whilst we agree that volunteering needs renewal and there is always change, the forced redundancies, loss of services and potential closure of VRCs in your communities is not a strategy for sustainable volunteering.

We respectfully requested that the Commonwealth government reconsider this decision, BUT this request has fallen on deaf ears.

Hand on heart the current management committee and team will stand proud knowing we did what we could for this organisation to survive.

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