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Funding setback for lay missionary organisation

The Catholic lay agency PALMS, which prepares and trains volunteers for service overseas, has had its entire funding of some $250,000 cut by AusAID, the Federal Government's overseas development arm.

PALMS is a lay run agency which was established in the 1980s specifically to train volunteers to collaborate with local communities in need.

CEO Roger O'Halloran, told Online Catholics that after a number of years of training and sending some 30 volunteers overseas, the organisation believed it had the capacity to increase its output.

"We found that other more business based volunteer agencies, such as Australian Volunteers International and Australian Business Volunteers received funding per volunteer," said Mr O'Halloran.

Online Catholics reports that PALMS had been receiving $10,000 AusAID funding per volunteer. AusAID conducted a review after PALMS sought to have its funding brought into line with that of other organisations including Australian Volunteers International, which was receiving $25,000 per volunteer. However the review led to the elimination of AusAID funding to PALMS.

The PALMS representation was part of a larger consortium of Catholic organisations, including the Jesuit Refugee Service; the Christian Brothers, the Marist Brothers, the Sisters of St Joseph, the Sisters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and the Australian Catholic University.

Following the review, AusAID indicated it would replace its funding process with one more appropriate to a provider of trained volunteers. The volunteer program was to be put out to tender to the tune of $21m of funding. Of the six agencies which tendered, three were successful: two commercial groups, Australian Volunteers International and Australian Business Volunteers, and Youth Ambassadors for Development, which is connected with the SA government. No faith based agency was successful.

The ACU's Director of Institute for advancement of teaching and learning, Paul Chesterton, said that the PALMS consortium had offered a range of expertise in its tender.

"The richness of the volunteer program has been diminished because of refusal by AusAID to fund the Consortium," he said. "As we worked through the issues, each of the partners found we had similar values undepinning our philosophies of aid. The model was a good one."

Trade versus Aid (Online Catholics 9/3/05)

PALMS Australia

9 Mar 2005