The skilled volunteering win-win
As a young lad David Freeman used to volunteer at the local Country Fire Authority in Hamilton, Victoria. He never expected that his work at NAB would lead him back to fighting bushfires in a different way through skilled volunteering.
“Pretty much everyone in a farming community is a member of the CFA because there usually aren’t any professional fire services so the community has to protect itself from fires,” said David, who grew up in country Victoria and NSW.
David manages the internal platform for governance, risk and compliance at NAB, but this year he discovered an opportunity to be part of a group of skilled volunteers taking part in a “Community Strategy Challenge” run by Australian Business Volunteers and NAB.
David and 12 other volunteers from across NAB advised non-profit organisations Greening Australia and World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia on how to enable landholders to plant green firebreaks. Green Firebreaks are carefully designed, planted areas of lower flammability vegetation that can measurably reduce bushfire risk under certain conditions.
The team spent nine intense days identifying ways that financial institutions and banking products might assist landholders to plant green fire breaks. They recently presented their findings to Greening Australia, WWF-Australia and NAB.
Greening Australia Partnerships Manager, Callum Ross, said “the Community Strategy Challenge experience has set a new benchmark for Greening Australia in harnessing the power of skilled volunteering and business expertise in ways that build capacity and unlock innovation,” he said.
WWF-Australia’s Head of Healthy Landscapes, Tim Cronin, said “The perspective and input we received from the team is spot on and hugely useful. It helps us to take a concept and a research project and turn this into something that is practical and scalable.”
Skilled volunteering can deliver strong benefits for all the parties involved – including the volunteers themselves and their employers.
For David, a highlight of the project was getting to work with colleagues from different teams across NAB, and Greening Australia and WWF-Australia.
Another participant, Leanne Follet relished the opportunity to take action to help protect the environment and stretch herself.
“I was in constant learning mode,” said Leanne, who works in Credit Risk at NAB. “I gained many new skills by being involved in the project – technical, communication, negotiation, strategic, to name but a few.”
David added that the experience was also reassuring.
“This project helped give me hope that that there are solutions to issues like climate change and increasing natural disasters that we are facing. Yes, there are challenges, but if we are proactive and smart, we can solve these things and we must,” he said.
Australian Business Volunteers CEO Liz Mackinlay said the Community Strategy Challenges were a unique experience.
“NAB-ABV supported community strategy challenges enhance the skills and experience of participating NAB staff, build capacity and capability within the community organisation, not-for-profit or social enterprise that it partners with, and contributes to NAB’s strategic drive to deliver measurable and sustainable social impact.”