Problems where you volunteer?

Volunteering conflict resolution

Unfortunately, disputes may occur between you and other people at the organisation where you volunteer.

This can be greatly upsetting for all concerned.  You may feel that your commitment to the organisation and its cause has been rendered worthless.  You may also be concerned about your reputation within the organisation, or the broader community.


Resolving disputes

There is no equivalent to ‘fair work’ regulations for volunteers and in most cases no external body can intervene in disputes amongst volunteers or between volunteers and organisations.”

Your first step should be to consider how you would like to resolve the issue.  Do you wish to continue in your volunteer role, or in a different role within the organisation?  Is this conflict affecting your relationships with other people, either inside or outside the organisation? For some people, walking away will be a heartbreaking option, but may be the least taxing emotionally and practically.


Internal policies

If you decide to pursue the matter, refer to your organisation’s policies and procedures for grievances or conflict.  If a policy doesn’t exist, or isn’t made available, think of someone within the organisation you can approach to help work through the issue.  For example:

  • your supervisor
  • the volunteer manager
  • the head of the program, area or department
  • a member of the committee of management

Don’t be afraid to raise the matter with someone senior if need be. Satisfied, happy volunteers help not-for-profit organisations achieve their mission in the community and should concern all senior officers of an organisation.


Mediation

The Dispute Settlement Centre Victoria provides free mediation services.

Note:  Participation in mediation is voluntary; the mediator cannot rule on the matter.


Legal advice

If you wish to pursue the issue through civil law, you will need formal legal advice.

Contact your local Community Legal CentreVictoria Legal Aid or your solicitor. Volunteering Victoria also works with Justice Connect NFP Law for Volunteers.


Members and committees

Certain volunteers in legally incorporated organisations may have rights under the law, e.g. if they serve on the committee, or are a signed-up member of the organisation.  If this is the case, you should refer to your organisation’s rules or constitution.  You are entitled to contact the relevant regulating body for advice and assistance.

Find out more about legal incorporation and relevant regulating bodies.


Is it discrimination?

Federal and state equal opportunity laws are unclear on whether volunteers are legally protected from discrimination.

Seek advice from the Victoria Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

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