An Overseas Volunteering Futures Forum is being held today (13 February) at the University of Wollongong.
The forum is reporting on the experience of overseas volunteers in the Asia Pacific. The research is a partnership involving the University of Wollongong (UOW) and Palms Australia. UOW and Palms Australia have been working in partnership since 2004.
Palms Australia, is one of Australia’s longest-serving volunteer sending agencies (VSA) and places about 30 volunteers a year in communities in developing countries such as East Timor, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, China and Cambodia.
This research is one of the research projects under the umbrella of the Centre for Asia Pacific Social Transformation Studies (CAPSTRANS) at the University of Wollongong.
The Australian Research Council funded a three-year study involving a team of researchers from CAPSTRANS — Associate Professor Peter Kell, Associate Professor Tim Scrase and Dr Ruchira Ganguly-Scrase. Mr Roger O’Halloran, the Executive Director of Palms Australia, is the industry investigator in the project.
The research involved the funding of a doctoral student, Ms Nichole Georgeou, who has conducted extensive fieldwork and research of volunteer placements in New Guinea and East Timor. Ms Georgeou is joining others in presenting a paper at the forum with her paper focused on what volunteers think and what they do.
The forum also includes presentations from Mr Brendan Joyce, Assistant Director of Palms, Dr Susan Engel from the Faculty of Arts and Dr Georgia Lysaght, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Education.
Another participant in the forum is the Indigo Foundation which is a volunteer organisation working in developing communities. Indigo Foundation is one of the agencies supported by UOW Cares. Indigo Foundation works in the areas of health, education, environment and advocacy. Mr Salman Jan is describing his experiences in Afghanistan at the forum.
Professor Kell said that the aim of the workshop was to identify the nature and character of change in volunteering and explore future directions in overseas volunteering.
“One of the themes of the forum is to explore how volunteers can promote better connections between donor countries and host communities. The forum is also looking at the role of government in promoting and sustaining volunteering,” Professor Kell said.