Volunteering put under pressure

VOLUNTEERS over the age of 55 are at risk of being forced out of their community roles and into paid work by a Federal Government review.

“In this week's Budget the government announced its intention to review the exemption for the 28,698 people aged over 55 who, under current rules, are exempt from the Work Test because they perform voluntary work,” said Dona Graham, CEO of DAISI, the Disability & Aged Information Service based in Lismore.

Ms Graham is also the Managing Director of the Northern Rivers Community Foundation (NRCF), the largest philanthropic foundation operating in the Northern Rivers, and sponsor of yesterday's Volunteering Expo held at Lismore.

“I think the Government's review is very misguided,” she said.

“Can you imagine where the sporting, social welfare, or community sectors would be without the volunteers who currently give their time, skills and talent?

“They are the fuel that keeps these groups organisations operating.”

Ms Graham said she believed volunteering was a brilliant way for mature people to remain engaged in the workforce, in activities that capitalised on their skills, experience and knowledge and that allowed them to maintain and increase their skills so that they were workforce-ready – if and when the opportunity came.

“I would argue that the Government's focus would be better placed on educating employers to the benefits of recruiting and retaining mature workers than on this review,” she said.

“Second only to people with disabilities, this is the group most discriminated against by employers.

“Often the first to be made redundant, they face enormous barriers in attempting to re-enter the workforce,” she said.

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