Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP140212: Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) Forum

Opening Address by Ambassador Bill Tweddell at the
Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) Forum
12 February 2015

Thanks for the kind and thorough introduction – a reminder, in front of this young audience, about just how old I am!

• Joselito de Vera, Director of the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA)
• Oman Jiao, Executive Director of the Association of Foundations
• Jonas Tetangco, In-Country Manager of the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID)
• Our Australian volunteers – great to be around so many of my fellow Aussies
• Representatives of AVID Host organisations
• Ladies and Gentlemen

It’s good to be back in Intramuros – I love this place!

I would like to thank everyone for joining us here today. Welcome to all of you, our valued guests, to the 2015 Australia Volunteers for International Development (AVID) Forum.

The Australian Embassy is very pleased to host this conference, which provides an opportunity to hear the inspiring stories from the men and women volunteering through the Australian Volunteers for International Development program or AVID program. It is also a chance for us to reflect on the positive contribution of volunteerism to development more broadly.

Australia is one of the Philippines’ largest development partners, with A$143 million in development funding for this year. This contribution goes to many projects that support Philippine Government priorities. The AVID program is an important part of Australia’s development program in the Philippines. The objective of our volunteers program is anchored on mutually agreed development priorities.

Volunteerism brings about significant development outcomes. Australian volunteers contribute to achieving tangible results in our partner countries by sharing their skills and knowledge, not only within their host organisations but also in the very communities to which they have been assigned.

Australia’s volunteer program strengthens people-to-people links, reinforcing the diplomatic relations between our two countries that has spanned almost 70 years.

And lastly, AVID promotes cross cultural understanding where our volunteers represent the best of Australia and they learn to appreciate the best of their host country.

The success of Australia’s aid program in the Philippines hinges on partnerships – not just between governments and between agencies and civil society, but including the people-to-people links that contribute to ensuring help is there when and where it is most needed. Australian volunteers contribute to this goal by sharing their skills, their time and their compassion. Their own lives are enriched in the process as well, strengthening the understanding of local and cross-cultural issues and building effective professional and personal relationships toward national development.

In the Philippines, we place close to 70 volunteers each year. We currently have 46 Australian volunteers in-country assigned to different parts of the country, helping on a wide range of sectors from education, disaster risk reduction, human rights and economic growth.

As a concrete example, I have had the privilege of commemorating the typhoon Yolanda anniversary in Tacloban. As part of our swift humanitarian response package, Australia assigned eight volunteers to support the reconstruction efforts in Leyte in collaboration with the Department of Interior and Local Government. We have also fielded capable men and women under the Australian Red Cross to help with disaster risk reduction activities across many areas in the country so that communities are better prepared.

To expand the breadth and reach of Australia’s program, we have started supporting the local volunteering movement. Among others, we are one of the convenors of the National Conference on the Engagement of the Academe in Volunteering. In fact, we have supported the Association of Foundations in forming a coalition of local volunteer groups. This was launched during International Volunteer Day in 5 December 2014. We hope that our support goes a long way in further encouraging civil society organisations and the private sector to form a collective, positive consciousness around volunteerism and enables productive policy dialogue. We certainly view this as an important platform for continuing the good governance reforms of the Philippine government.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the leadership of Jonas Tetangco, the In-Country Manager of AVID, who has been instrumental in mobilising the volunteers in-county.

I would also like to acknowledge our continuing partnership with PNVSCA – the Philippines government partner agency – with whom we have worked closely in the success of our volunteer program in the Philippines.

Finally, I would like to recognise the exceptional efforts of all our volunteers and their host organisations. Without your demonstrated commitment to volunteerism, today's event would not be possible.

I hope that this forum will help create awareness and better appreciation of the benefits of volunteer programs. We encourage you to listen to and learn from the successes and failures of other Australian volunteers and to share your own stories during this forum.

In closing, thank you again for making Australia’s AVID program a success and we hope it continues to make a difference in the lives of Filipino men, women and children.

Please enjoy the rest of your day. Good morning.