Paid vollie co-ordinator defended

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The Shire had advertised a paid gig to co-ordinate Heart volunteers.
Camera IconThe Shire had advertised a paid gig to co-ordinate Heart volunteers.

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River has defended a decision to recruit personnel to co-ordinate volunteers working at the Heart venue, saying it will not add to the project’s immediate costs.

The advertisement comes after a decision in August for the Shire to take over running the revitalised cultural centre, ending a long-standing funding agreement with Arts Margaret River.

The part-time volunteer supervisor role was advertised at 32 hours per fortnight on a pro-rata salary between $70,898 and $76,743, with flexible availability required.

Shire chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown said the salary would be funded from allocated wages for the venue.

“This role will predominantly oversee sign-ups and inductions of volunteers to be able to operate in the new venue, with its new layouts, functions, systems, policies and operating procedures,” she said.

“This function may be able to be incorporated into one of the substantive positions once all the Heart roles are filled.

“Arts Margaret River’s volunteer co-ordinator was similarly a salaried position which was supported by the Shire’s subsidy for the organisation.”

“As the Shire has essentially taken on direct payment of (the) position, this will be compensated for with a reduced subsidy for Arts Margaret River.”

Ms Addison-Brown said the role was needed to ensure cinema screenings continued, because Arts Margaret River would cease that role next month.

The Shire did not disclose how many residents had offered to volunteer at the Heart.

Arts Margaret River declined to respond to inquiries, but former president Heather Locke — honoured with an Order of Australia medal for her service to the arts — told the Times the cost to co-ordinate volunteers had to be monitored. Mrs Locke said the “community cohesion”, which came from residents volunteering to support Arts Margaret River, was at risk.

“As a proud volunteer for Arts Margaret River for over 30 years, the comradeship and sense of giving back to my community would be lost under Shire control,” she said.

“Why should us volunteers give our time for free when everyone one else in the Shire is paid?

“They expect us to work for free as the cost to them of 400 paid volunteers would be prohibitive.

“We now happily give our time as we are a team that Arts Margaret River appreciate and support — and this is not something that can be duplicated by the Shire with just an advertisement.”

The arts group’s loyal volunteer base was a key factor in the group’s long-term management of the cultural centre before its redevelopment and residents have questioned whether Shire control would mean a greater future cost burden on ratepayers.

In September, the Times reported first-year operating costs would be more than $1 million, partly because of one-off expenses.

But the Shire said full annual running costs would not be known until officers reported back to councillors next year and 2021.

Ms Addison-Brown said the centre’s new manager would review volunteer requirements “once the bulk workload of volunteer inductions has been completed and Heart operations are more formally established”.

Former councillor Mike Smart believed there were residents who would offer to help.

The new role was “part of expectations to get the new centre up to speed and functioning as efficiently as possible”.

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