Rise of the volunteer

Picture of Rachel Bertram

Pictured: Rachel Bertram, previous recipient of the Mark Lyons Not-for-Profit and Social Enterprise Management Scholarship

The Centre for Volunteering was established more than 40 years ago, and is the peak body for volunteering in New South Wales. Through much of that period, it has enjoyed a close relationship with UTS, which has played a major role in promoting and fostering the growth and recognition of volunteer work.

“Volunteering is one of the latest contributors to the Australian economy,” explains CEO Gemma Rygate. “It’s important to value volunteering and the effort that’s put into it because no organisation, particularly in the not-for-profit and charity world, would actually exist without volunteers. In many regional centres, they are the lifeblood of the community.

"There is always, every day, a need for more not-for-profits to form to do the work that communities require.” – Gemma Rygate

“Our grand vision is to see volunteering valued more than paid work. And by that, we mean that the effort of volunteers is really valued and acknowledged right across Australia.”

The challenge of realising this vision is promoting the value of volunteer work, which is an area UTS has long championed. The Mark Lyons Not-For-Profit And Social Enterprise Management Scholarship, established with UTS in memory of the late Mark Lyons, is an investment in leadership and management capabilities in the not-for-profit sector, with a broader view to promoting community wellbeing and overcoming social disadvantage.

“There is a sense that UTS is looking outward in terms of encouraging volunteering and getting students to work in the local community,” says Rygate. “In the Business School, there is significant input into the importance of volunteering and the need for a professionalisation of those skills.”

One of the recipients of this scholarship is Rachel Bertram, who completed her Masters of Management in Community and Not-For-Profit Studies in 2016. Already passionate about helping people from a young age, Bertram discovered her talent for management when she became a board member at Tear Australia.

“I got to work with some very highly skilled professionals in multiple domains,” she recalls. “There as a lot of encouragement, which helped build my self worth, self esteem, and confidence.”

She continues, “This scholarship has allowed me to reflect on my strengths and focus on what I’m passionate about, what my skills are, and where they can align. It let me focus on what’s important, and I was able to intern, volunteer, enrol in consulting courses; it was one of the best experiences I’ve had.”

It is a journey that Rygate and the Centre for Volunteering will watch with great interest.

“Our measure of success is for all of the learning to be put into practice in the not-for-profit sector,” says Rygate. “There is always, every day, a need for more not-for-profits to form to do the work that communities require. I would congratulate any graduate who focusses on the not-for-profit area: we need people like them.”