1. About the Australasian Birth Trauma Association (ABTA)
The ABTA was established in 2016 to support women and their families who are suffering postnatally from physical and/or psychological trauma resulting from the birth process as well as the education and support for the range of health professionals who work with pre and postnatal women.
The ABTA is the only organisation in Australia that deals solely and specifically with this issue. We aim to tackle the problem with work which is focused on three main areas:
The families we support have suffered physically and/or emotionally as a result of events around childbirth including traumatic birth, perinatal loss, and physical injuries. The ABTA campaigns for safer maternity services, provides training for maternity staff and volunteers and works collaboratively with a wide spectrum of health care professionals to improve maternity services.
2. Why we involve volunteers
Volunteers are the lifeblood of the ABTA and we place a very high value on volunteers’ contributions, no matter how large or small. The strength of ABTA lies in the fact that everyone who chooses to become involved does so because they have a personal understanding of the effects of a difficult birth experience.
Our mission is to work for the prevention of birth trauma and to support women suffering from it, and we believe that the way to achieve this is through local connections with individuals, communities and services. Volunteers enable us to make those vital local connections and provide local support to individuals who need it.
Involving volunteers enables the ABTA to broaden the reach of our awareness-raising and trauma prevention work (e.g. through media representation, training for professionals and a unified lobbying voice) and to offer a variety of ways in which people can access support (e.g. our social media support group and live chat service).
3. Equality and diversity
Equality and dignity are the cornerstones of the ABTA activities. Volunteers are ambassadors for the Australasian Birth Trauma Association and as such are expected to abide by our policies and procedures. We require all volunteers to have an empathetic, non-judgemental attitude, to accept and be supportive of birth/parenting ideals which may be very different from their own and to sensitively challenge attitudes which are not in keeping with our commitment to equality and diversity.
The ABTA aims to ensure that no volunteer or person accessing our services receives less favourable treatment on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origin, age, gender, gender reassignment, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, or other protected characteristic.
We aim to ensure as far as possible that our volunteer network and activities are inclusive and reflect the diversity of the wider community.
4. Volunteer application and selection
Safeguarding the well-being of our volunteers and those accessing our services is our priority. The following elements of the application and selection process are part of our safeguarding strategy:
- Volunteers are able to view detailed role descriptions for each volunteer role, which will enable you to decide whether or not you feel a role suits your skills, interests, experiences and stage of recovery;
- All volunteers will be required to sign a volunteer appointment letter and complete a K10+ mental health assessment;
- It is the responsibility of ABTA to provide appropriate training for volunteer roles, so skills and attitude are more important to us than relevant experience;
- We are extremely appreciative of any offer of volunteer support and are reluctant to turn down any offers of volunteer support; however there may be some circumstances in which we feel that this is necessary in order to safeguard the well-being of the volunteer (eg. if we feel that the role may prove too stressful for a volunteer in the very early stages of recovery) or of the people accessing our services.
In either of these cases, the applicant will be given a reason for the non-progression of their application and offered the opportunity to have a discussion with a member of the ABTA Executive Committee. Appeals against a decision not to progress a volunteer application may be made through the Grievance Procedure.
5. Volunteer induction and training
The ABTA is responsible for ensuring that volunteers have adequate information and training resources to be able to carry out their role.
- Induction: Every volunteer will receive an Induction Pack which will include, volunteer roles and responsibilities, ABTA policies and the ABTA Code of Conduct.
- Training: All volunteers must participate in training related to their volunteer role, regardless of any previous work/voluntary experience. The ABTA defines ‘training’ as the provision of learning and information resources to enable someone to undertake a volunteer role. The mode of delivery for this training will vary depending on the volunteer position being undertaken but may consist of face-to-face, online training such as webinars or the completion of workbooks. Volunteers will be asked to complete a brief quiz to show that they have read and understood the relevant materials. Upon completion training volunteers will receive a certificate.
- Ongoing development: The ABTA is committed to seeking out opportunities to enable volunteers to develop their skills, knowledge and understanding. We will make volunteers aware of any further development opportunities as they become available.
6. Volunteer supervision and support
Volunteers should feel supported in their role and are entitled to have access to a supervisor with whom they can discuss any concerns. The ABTA aims to provide ongoing support to volunteers through:
- The ABTA Volunteer Group on Facebook (closed group)
- Session debrief questionnaire
- Monthly web meetings for P2P Mentors to provide an opportunity to debrief and discuss service improvements and support needs of volunteers
- Email newsletters and updates
- Tips on selfcare and wellbeing to avoid burn out or vicarious trauma
- All volunteers will have access to the Volunteer Coordinator who they can get in touch with at any time with any queries or concerns. This is not a crisis service however and messages may not receive an immediate response due to the other commitments. Please see the Crisis Intervention Policy for details of what do in case of emergency or if another person’s well-being causes concern.
8. Health, Safety and Well-being
The ABTA has a duty of care to consider and minimise any risks to the health, safety and well-being of volunteers. All volunteers will be made aware of the ABTA Health and Safety policy and how it applies to them.
Each volunteer role will be risk-assessed so that the ABTA can identify and respond to any health, safety and well-being issues.
Equally, ABTA volunteers have a responsibility to be mindful of the health, safety and well-being of themselves, service users and the general public when undertaking their voluntary activities.
9. Grievance & Disciplinary Procedures
The ABTA strives for excellence in everything that we do and we welcome any opportunity to critically reflect upon our policies, procedures, information and activities. Volunteers have the right to raise a grievance arising out of their voluntary activity and to have their grievances managed in a systematic, fair manner which aims to address and resolve the issue as quickly as possible, taking into account the needs of all parties involved.
The Grievance Procedure indicates clearly:
- how volunteers should go about raising the issue;
- who will respond to them;
- when they can expect to receive a response;
- what to do if a volunteer feels that their grievance has not been adequately resolved.
In very rare circumstances, the ABTA may need to address issues where a volunteer’s conduct is not in line with the ABTA Code of Conduct, policies and procedures. The Disciplinary Procedure is a fair, transparent framework within which this can happen.
10. Confidentiality and Data Protection
The ABTA is committed to creating safe environments – both face-to-face and ‘virtual’ – where women feel able to freely express their feelings about their traumatic birth experience and how it affects them. We believe that giving people a safe place to express their distress can form part of an effective harm-minimisation strategy. All communications, whether by email or face to face, should be kept confidential insofar as no identifying details should be shared without prior consent. The clear exception to this is when an individual has shared information that gives the listener cause for concern that the individual or somebody else may be at risk of serious harm. In this case all ABTA volunteers have a responsibility to take action as per the Crisis Intervention Policy or the Mandatory Reporting Policy (depending on the situation). For this reason and to create the safest possible environment, unconditional confidentiality should never be promised.
For volunteer management purposes please note:
- If a volunteer needs advice about supporting another individual, it is acceptable to share an outline of a person’s circumstances with a member of the Executive Committee so long as any identifying information is left out (name etc).
- Volunteers may also be required to share brief, anonymous details of support issues to assist the ABTA with monitoring and development.