Geelong Community Forum


Victoria ALIVE community forums engage volunteering involving organisations in an active process of understanding and addressing the issues impacting on disability inclusive volunteer co-ordination and management at a local level.

The key aims are to promote collaboration between services, develop awareness of the issues that impact inclusive volunteer practice and active leadership in identifying effective and sustainable solutions that are of relevance to the local issues and context.


  • To hear from people with lived experience of disability about the challenges and opportunities they experienced through volunteering. 
  • Provide an opportunity for organisations to collaboratively discuss and identify the challenges that the sector experiences in including people with disability in their volunteer programs. 
  • Identify and explore resources and solutions to become more accessible and inclusive to volunteers with disability. 
  • Network and share resources and successes with other organisations in the local region.

Program & Attendance 

The forum program included an overview of the Victoria ALIVE research findings, a panel session of speakers with lived experience of disability and volunteering, and a world café small group sessions focused on the topics of ‘Issues & Challenges’ and ‘Opportunities & Action’. 

A panel session of speakers with lived experience of disability and volunteering, featuring:Brooke Boyle (GenU & Others), Melanie Edge (Victoria ALIVE & DHHS)

The forum also included a panel conversation of organisations and how they overcame challenges which included: Zoe Waters from Barwon Health, Madelaine Kirwan from GenU, Liz Bonner from Cloverdale Community Centre

Finally there was a showcase of how a volunteer and the volunteer manager made their relationship work and the benefits that flowed to the organisation. This featured Sharon Carrato and Kirra Potter from Mercy Place Rice Village

The forum ended with a wonderful morning tea performance by the GenU Big Band + Carers Choir

Almost 65 attended the forum from a broad range of organisational backgrounds including a broad range of community organisations, Neighbourhood Houses, local councils and DHHS regional office, and disability services. The audience also included many community members with lived experience of disability and carers including a representative from the Barwon Disability Resource Council.  City of Greater Geelong Councillor Anthony Aitken gave an opening speech.


Issues & Challenges

Key issues the attendees identified were:

  • Organisational culture: this encompassed several dimensions including valuing volunteers with disability; organisational commitment; transparency; abilities-focused approach; equity; and cultural safety
  • Leadership: particularly the importance of promoting participation of, and learning from, people with disabilities
  • Organisational capacity: including staff workload issues; staff skills; resourcing issues faced by small organisations; and limited volunteering opportunities for people with disability
  • Organisational capability: particularly training and professional development; skills and competency; behaviours; respectful communication; reflective practice; and having specialist volunteer roles
  • Organisational systems for volunteering: including systems planning and review; accessible application processes; recruitment and matching; mentoring and support; performance management; feedback; and measuring outcomes
  • Organisational environment and facilities: including funding to make adjustments; adaptive technologies; and accessible physical environments
  • Volunteer Capability: this focused on building competencies; peer and organisational support; and self esteem
  • Consumer Participation: the importance of consumer representatives
  • Partnerships: relating to both organisational partnerships; and connections made between volunteers and services or peers

Opportunities & Call to Action

  1. Volunteering Geelong will continue their work in promoting disability inclusion in volunteering including:
  • The ‘Step by Step’ program which provides matching and placement for volunteers with disability and volunteer organisations
  • Identifying new opportunities and connections stemming from the forum to promote disability inclusion
  • Encourage leadership on disability inclusion in volunteering through the Geelong Volunteers Leaders Network
  1. Attending organisations completed a ‘Call to Action’. Some of these commitments included:
  • Increasing the amount of volunteer opportunities available for people with disability in their organisation.
  • Connecting and working with Volunteering Geelong
  • Consulting with their existing volunteers and community members with disability to gain feedback and advice
  • Reviewing internal policies, systems and procedures to ensure they are inclusive
  • Talking to their CEO’s, managers and HR departments about being more disability inclusive
  1. The themes identified in the table discussions on challenges to inclusive volunteer practice, will be incorporated into other key activities of the Victoria ALIVE project, particularly the development of guides and resources, micro-credential development and the social media/video campaign