Hunter Volunteer Centre
To promote, encourage, and empower volunteers in their contributions to the community, and to support and resource organisations in their utilisation of volunteers.
The objectives of the HVC are:
- To support, involve, and represent volunteers (and their interests) throughout the Hunter Region.
- To provide, maintain, and develop the Hunter Volunteer Centre as a community facility for volunteers and those who work with them, with particular reference to:
- Education and information
- Advocacy, support, and networking
- Volunteer recruitment and placement
- Public relations and research.
- To provide support and practical help to disadvantaged families and individuals through the provision of volunteer positions; thus enabling them to enhance their life skills, chances of employment, and to develop and maintain control of their lives.
- To network with other agencies and to provide appropriate volunteers, thereby enabling the agencies to deliver a comprehensive range of services, activities, and self-help initiatives. To empower individuals and families to maintain control of their lives.
- To address areas of community need through consultation with other service providers, welfare groups, government bodies, and other organisations to aid in the establishment of community services and facilities by providing, and educating volunteers with appropriate skills to maintain such services.
- To encourage and co-ordinate civic participation at all levels, enabling more efficient use of social assets.
- To do all things to achieve the above aims and ideals.
It All Started with One Person…
Although the Inaugural General Meeting of HVC was not held until 8 July 1981, the history of HVC really began when the Centre’s founder Margo Thomson, was invited to work in the Hunter Region in 1977.
Margo had prior and varied experience of working with volunteers in England, the United States and Australia. She was given the task of initiating, developing and supporting a system of Day Care Centres for elderly people. The Centres were to be largely self-sufficient, run and staffed and operating within the communities they served. The need for a resource centre for staff quickly became apparent.
The Humble Beginnings
In March 1980, Margo was granted the use of 22 Stewart Avenue – a dilapidated cottage, slightly vandalised, with not a stick of furniture – and only a single telephone. Margo organised bands of volunteers and after three major working bees, the (still unfurnished) cottage became the venue for the first meeting to discuss the possibilities of a Centre for Volunteers on 18 July 1980. During the ensuing 12 months, a steering committee guided the furnishing of the Centre, the formulation of its philosophy and purposes and the writing of its first consultation, in time for the Foundation meeting of the Hunter Volunteer Development Centre.
Over the next couple of years, the reputation of the Centre had spread and its potential was realised when in 1983 the Regional Director of Health, Dr Geoff Olsen, granted the Centre full use of the cottage next door (24 Stewart Avenue), five full-time staff positions and total operational support.
The annually elected committee of the Hunter Volunteer Development Centre retained its independence and continued as the governing body of the Centre, becoming an incorporated Association in 1987. The team of full-time employees was given the status of a specialist community health team within the Hunter Region of the Health Commission in NSW.
The Centre operated with four official objectives. These were:
- Education and Training
- Co-ordination and Linkage
- Mutual Aid and Support
- Human and Physical Resources.
During the early years, another activity began to emerge. A small but steady flow of people contacted the Centre looking for voluntary work. The centre would arrange to interview them and ring around appropriate volunteer groups to find them a suitable referral. At the same time, the Centre was receiving a growing number of requests from community groups who were seeking more staff.
In 1985, the small service was expanded and formalised, when a small group of people studying business administration at the University of Newcastle expressed an interest in setting up a service to link potential staff with not-for-profit groups who needed them. “People Link” was born. For a couple of years, it operated semi-autonomously under the auspices of the Hunter Volunteer Development Centre Incorporated as an entirely voluntary unfunded service.
Expanding the Scope
For the period between 1989 and 1992 “People Link” was funded and a part-time coordinator was employed. During this period “People Link” became incorporated as a way of increasing its chances of acquiring more secure funding. A great deal of work went into this effort but to no avail.
After a series of emergency meetings towards the end of 1992, a proposal to amalgamate the Hunter Volunteer Development Centre Inc. and “People Link” Inc. into one organisation, to be called the Hunter Volunteer Centre, was unanimously accepted and Volunteer Recruitment and Referral became the fifth official object of the Centre. The Hunter Volunteer Centre incorporated body became an Incorporated Association that was approved by the Office of Fair Trading in 2000.
The HVC Today
HVC currently receives its funding from Federal and State government departments and corporate partnerships. HVC has approximately 85 staff consisting of 80 volunteers who are engaged in a range of services and activities in the local community. These volunteers support the engagement and recognition of volunteers and volunteering, training, and professional development of Volunteers, Managers, and Not-For-Profit Boards to build a more sustainable and welcoming community.
HVC has changed considerably since its origins, becoming business-like in its approach and by responding to the new demands and challenges for volunteering.