A Daley Labor Government will significantly increase government support for passionate volunteer wildlife carers who care for thousands of sick, injured or orphaned native animals every year.
Deputy Labor Leader and Shadow Environment Minister, Penny Sharpe, announced that Labor will provide dedicated annual funding to wildlife carers, replacing an ad-hoc and uncertain system that provides little assistance for the important work carried out by wildlife carers every day.
Labor will provide $10,000 to each licensed organisation, including each branch of WIRES, and $1,000 to each individual currently directly licensed to rehabilitate native animals (not registered with an organisation). This will boost annual government contributions from $32,500 to $600,000.
“Volunteer wildlife carers are truly unsung, selfless heroes in communities all around the state, who do the challenging and sometimes heartbreaking work of caring for sick or injured native animals, often in very difficult circumstances,” Ms Sharpe said.
“This crucial funding will assist organisations and volunteers who care for sick, injured or orphaned native animals to pay for critical items needed in the care of these animals, such as food, medication and treatment, transport costs, enclosures and bedding, rescue and safety equipment, and clothing.”
A recent government survey found that wildlife carers provide around $27 million in value of volunteer contributions each year (based on 17 per cent of the sector). The full value is likely to be well over $100 million.
More than one million native animals have been rescued by volunteers since the year 2000, with around 104,000 animals rescued each year over the last four years, across 800 species. Overall, the sector receives about 180,000 calls a year, with most providers offering a 24-hour, seven days a week service.
The survey found that wildlife carer volunteers gave an average of nearly seven times as much time in volunteering as an average volunteer in Australia, while personal expenditure by surveyed volunteers averaged at $3,123 per person with a median of $500 each year.
However, wildlife care organisations and licensed individuals currently have no guaranteed funding from the NSW Government, and in 2017-18 there were just 13 ad-hoc grants handed out for a total of $32,500. Providers rely almost entirely on donations and the goodwill of volunteer wildlife carers.
“I think most people would be shocked that wildlife carers receive almost no support from government when we rely so heavily on being able to reach out to their services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“Labor is deeply committed to the care and protection of native species in NSW, and our wildlife carers deserve our support. The next time you meet a volunteer wildlife carer, please give them your thanks.”
While the Government recently produced a vague draft strategy for the sector using already-announced funding from the NSW Koala Strategy and funding for the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife – no additional funds were provided directly to the work of wildlife carers on the ground.