Volunteer committees are an essential part of many early education and care services. Serving on them is a valuable task and it can be an extremely fulfilling one too.
With committee members coming and going as their children transition to new learning environments, it's crucial that new members quickly understand their roles and responsibilities, and the expectations that come with their positions. The key to this is clear, concise information and a strong on boarding process.
This article outlines some of the important things that members of volunteer committees should know, however the list is not exhaustive. Training new and existing committee members around their responsibilities is imperative, hence we have launched our new online, self-paced Approved Provider and Governance Program (currently for NSW providers only). We also provide customised approved provider training.
What is a volunteer management committee in the early education and care sector?
A management committee is a group of people who act as the governing body for a community based early education and care organisation. Within community managed services, the management committee/board is the Approved Provider and is responsible for the compliance and operational matters within the organisation. Volunteer committees are made up of parents, carers and members of the organisation. They all come together to act as the management body for the service and are responsible for making decisions for the delivery of the education and care service.
There are many roles required on the committee, which vary depending on the organisation’s constitution and the education and care service that the committee manages.
While all members of a committee are vital, certain members are known as a person with management or control (PMC). For incorporated associations, it generally means the executive members of the committee, such as the president, vice president, treasurer and secretary, depending on how the association is structured. For unincorporated associations, it generally means the members of the association. They act as the approved provider for the service and must ensure it adheres to the Education and Care Services National Law and Regulations.
The person/s with management or control (PMC) must meet all the requirements of “a fit and proper person” according to the Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010, as they’ll be legally responsible for the operation of the service (as part of this they will need to fill out a declaration of fitness and propriety).
The key roles in the committee
The key roles belonging to the executive members of the management committee are typically:
- President or chairperson—responsible for the agenda and chairing meetings and is the main point of communication between the committee and the director/ nominated supervisor of the service.
- Secretary—responsible for tasks such as taking minutes at meetings and managing the calendar of events and correspondence.
- Treasurer—responsible for budgeting, managing funding sources and monitoring fee collection with the service staff.
- Vice President—supports the President and chairs meetings in the absence of the President.
Collectively the committee will ensure compliance with the Education and Care Services National Regulations, the National Quality Framework, and the development and implementation of the Quality Improvement Plan (QIP). The committee is responsible for staffing and employment, as well as development plans, strategic plans, policies, and financial.
Other committee members may have roles to support the needs of the centre including maintenance, IT and fundraising.
10 things committee members should know
1. You'll be a role model for your children, families and the broader community
Children develop a greater sense of belonging when they know their parents or carers are involved and interested in their service. It shows children that they belong to a wider community and that you're invested in the future of the community. Other families may be inspired by what you are doing to become involved in future years.
2. You are legally responsible for ensuring the service runs according to law and regulations
While committee meetings can be a great place to make new connections, it’s about more than just catching up with fellow parents. Approved providers must ensure the service is adhering to the National Law and Regulations at all times. If the service is found to be in breach of the law or regulations, the approved provider and nominated supervisor can be held responsible and face liability. Because of this, you need to make sure the service is covered by Directors and Officers Liability Insurance (this covers the assets of company directors and other individuals of a corporation against personal liability claims). You will also need to be aware of your obligations under federal or state/territory funding arrangements as well as child protection legislation applicable to your state or territory.
Your role is to provide governance, management and leadership. Good governance supports the purpose of the service which is to provide high-quality outcomes for children and families in the community. For more information, refer to Quality Area 7 of the National Quality Framework–Governance and leadership.
Here is a summary of legislation that approved providers must be aware of:
- Children’ Service National Law and Regulations
- Fair Work Act and The National Employment Standards
- Modern Award and enterprise Agreements
- Long Service Leave Act
- Work Health and Safety Act
- Workers Compensation Act
- Family Assistance Law
- Anti-discrimination Act
- Privacy Act
- Children and Young Persons Care and protection Act
- Reportable Conduct Legislation
- Child Safe Standards
- Public Health Act
- Superannuation Guarantee Administration Act
3. You need to be familiar with the National Quality Framework
Aside from knowing and understanding the National Law and Regulations, committee members must also understand the National Quality Framework, including the National Quality Standard. You’ll need to know the overall quality rating for your service and be familiar with the Quality Improvement Plan, often referred to as a QIP.
4. You will need to provide some documentation (suitable person)
You will need to have a National Criminal History Check and Working with Children Check (WCC). After you are elected into a position at the Annual General Meeting, you may be required to fill out required documentation for the Regulatory Authority. This may include pre-employment screening such as the WWCC and a certification of a change of name if applicable.
5. You will need to navigate your role as parent and committee member carefully
You may have two distinct roles at the service—as committee member and parent. You need to be mindful to fulfil your role on behalf of the whole service. If a certain item on the agenda poses a conflict of interest, you will need to declare a conflict of interest.
6. You will need to maintain privacy and confidentiality
Sensitive issues relating to families and staff are discussed at committee meetings where required. You’ll also be privy to the financial status of the service and to certain HR information about staff who work there. This information can’t be shared outside meetings other than the ways outlined as appropriate in the Education and Care Services National Regulations. You’ll sign documentation to ensure you adhere to all privacy and confidentiality policies.
7. You will be working in a team
Volunteer committees need to work as a team to make important decisions and to keep the service running smoothly. Good communication between committee members and between the committee and the service staff is key in order for this to happen.
Working in partnership with your service’s nominated supervisor/ director is critical for good governance and the successful operation of any service. It’s good practice to implement an induction process with committee members each year that clearly outlines their role at a macro level, and how that relates to the roles of the director, nominated supervisor and other staff who manage the preschool from day to day. This collaborative partnership is the key to successful governance and operation of any service.
8. You will need to understand operational rules for how the committee is run
Every board/ committee should have a constitution that includes guidelines, rules and requirements for how it will function. For example, how often and when the committee will meet and how many people make up a quorum.
9. You will need to build an understanding of the associated documents that guide the service’s practice
The documents that guide the decisions that the committee makes can include; the National Regulations and Law, the service’s constitution, the service’s philosophy, quality improvement plan (QIP), business or strategic plan, staffing awards/ agreements and policies and the Reconciliation Action Plan.
10. You can get ready to make new friends and create new connections
While your role as committee member is a serious one, it can also be a great way to develop friendships and create connections with other people in the community.
Read this ABC article about how joining a preschool committee helped Yao Cheng feel part of her community as a first-generation migrant: How joining a preschool committee helped me feel part of my community as a first-gen migrant.
Volunteer committees are an essential part of many services. Serving on them is a valuable task and it can be an extremely fulfilling one too.
New member resources relating to committees:
CELA's member resource library includes over 100 policies, tools, checklists, articles, infographics and guides. New resources are released monthly.
Poster: 5 reasons to join our volunteer management committee
CELA training relating to this topic
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