Volunteers in the aid program: a history
Peter Britton’s Working for the world: the evolution of Australian Volunteers International tracks the history of the Australian international volunteer program from its humble origins in the Volunteer Graduate Scheme (VGS) to Indonesia in 1951, to what is now AVI. The VGS aimed for a better understanding and closer relationship between Australia and Indonesia. This was the basis of the Overseas Service Bureau (OSB) formed in 1961, which expanded from Indonesia to the rest of the developing world. OSB changed its name to Australian Volunteers International and then AVI in 1999.
The book opens with an expansive forward by retired High Court Justice Michael Kirby, and goes on to map the story of AVI through three eras. The first era reflects the enthusiasm of the 1950s and 1960s, a period of rapid change in the Australian community and its relations with the wider world, part of which was an enthusiasm for volunteering abroad among young graduates. Jim Webb, who had been working with VGS since the early 1950s, had a vision of expanding the work beyond Indonesia and was instrumental in setting up OSB. The first meeting of OSB was in 1962, and the first set of ten volunteers under Australian Volunteers Abroad (AVA) departed in January 1964. Most went to Papua and New Guinea (as it was known pre-independence), three to the Solomon Islands, and one to Tanganyika and Nigeria in Africa. The high point of that decade was in 1968, when 97 volunteers went abroad. This was a period when OSB had the respect of government, which funded the volunteers and some of OSB’s other costs. Webb and OSB also had a leadership role in the establishment of ACFID as a peak body of international NGOs and worked closely with it over the following five …read more