VAFA Clubs pioneer Department of Justice volunteer program

Posted on - Latest News, Featured, Chadstone AFC, St John's OC

By Nick Armistead

Retention of match day volunteers can prove a difficult task for all community football clubs, with many opting to pull players from earlier matches to help fulfil match day requirements.

Chadstone Amateur Football Club and St John’s Old Collegians may have found the answer.

Teaming up with the Department of Justice in 2015, both Clubs were able to obtain much-needed match day volunteers while, at the same time, helping those who had been ordered to undergo community service.

Chadstone Secretary, Peter Kostakos, said committee members were constantly in discussions about how best to attract volunteers to their Club, and ex-VAFA President Michael Hazell contacted them and suggested they approach the Department of Justice.

“We always struggle to find enough volunteers,” he said.

“Somebody suggested the idea to our President, Steve Allsop, and he then approached Michael (Sholly) and that’s where the ball started rolling.”

The Department of Justice agreed to the left field idea and accommodated the Club’s every potential concern by providing low-level offenders.

“They understood our concerns and quickly allayed all our fears,” Kostakos said.

Volunteers can assist with any myriad of jobs, including boundary umpiring, goal umpiring, canteen sales and time keeping.

Chadstone received volunteers on two separate occasions in 2015; one home game and a post-season clubrooms clean-up.

Kostakos said the Club Executives were thrilled with the commitment and enthusiasm of their first volunteer.

“He was very eager and we were very impressed with what he was prepared to do,” he said.

“He did everything as requested and was eager to do more and more. He exceeded our expectations so we were very happy.”

 At the conclusion of their season, Chadstone employed a team of volunteers from the Department of Justice to help clean the Clubrooms before handing it over to the local cricket club for the summer.

“We actually had eight or nine this time to come through, vacuum the carpets, clean the cupboards, clean the toilets, remove all the cobwebs, the mud and grit that accumulates from week to week,” Kostakos said.

“Let’s just say it’s the cleanest we’ve ever handed over the Clubrooms.”

Similarly, St John’s agreed to pilot the program after consultation with Hazell and current CEO, Michael Sholly, and have found it to be of assistance with recruitment.

“To be honest, it hasn’t been a ton of work,” St John’s President Adam Paterson said.

“A few meetings and we were able to trial two guys last year, with one in particular being fantastic. We expect him to hang around the Club a bit this year.”

Such was the success attained by the program last year, St John’s are in the midst of increasing their volunteer intake through the Department of Justice in 2016.

“It’s a godsend really and we are looking to get three to four people this year,” Paterson said.

“Most of the people we’re getting have only made a mistake and rather than putting them into meaningless work, they get to be around a footy club and build some relationships at the same time.”

St John’s Secretary and 2015 Victorian AFL Volunteer of the Year recipient, Chris Swinburne, said she could not recommend the program more to other Clubs who may struggle to attract and retain volunteers.

“It’s a fantastic idea. They just helped out wherever I need someone to help for three home games,’ she said.