The latest picture of volunteering in Australia
National data about volunteering from the 2011 Census will be included when it becomes available.
How many volunteers are there?
- 36% of the adult population volunteered 6.1 people
- The estimated number of volunteers in Australia doubled from 1995 to 2010
|Estimated no. of
|Volunteers in Australia
Source for 1995-2000: ABS Australian Social Trends 2002
Source for 2006: ABS Voluntary Work, Australia
Source for 2010: ABS General Social Surve, 2010
In the General Social Survey a volunteer is defined as someone who in the previous 12 months willingly gave unpaid help in the form of time, service or skills through an organisation or group. (ABS, 2010, p3)
- Slightly more women (40%) than men (37%) volunteered.
- Volunteer rates varied across different age groups in the population and particularly varied with life stage.
- People aged 45-54 years reported the highest rate of volunteering.
- Young people represented 9.4% of all people who had volunteered in the previous 12 months
593,700 people aged 18-24 had undertaken voluntary work in the previous 12 months
- Young people most commonly volunteered for groups related to sport and recreation. People aged 45-54 years reported the highest rate of volunteering.
Labour force status
- Employed people (whether full time 38% or part time or 44%) had a higher volunteering rate than those who were unemployed or not in the labour force.
Relationship in household
- Couples with dependent children aged 5-17 years had the highest rate of participation in voluntary work (55%).
- People who spoke only English at home (39%) volunteered at a higher rate than the national population.
- The rate of volunteering for people who spoke a language other than English at home was 25%.
Volunteering rates also varied with the following characteristics
- Highest year of school completed being Year 9 or below
- Reporting fair or poor self-assessed health
- Being in a household whether the main source of case income was a government pension, benefit or allowance
- Not having completed a non-school qualification
- Having a disability or long-term health condition.
Where do people volunteer?
- Volunteering rates across the states and territories were relatively similar to the national average.
- Volunteering participation rates were higher outside capital cities - inner regional and other areas 41-42% compared to 34% for capital cities. 58% of volunteers worked for only one organisation in the previous 12 months.
- There was some variation by age, with people 18-24 years of age more likely to work for only one type of organisation.
- Sport and physical recreation organisations were the most common type that people volunteered for (44% for males and 32% for females).
- Almost half of all volunteers in South Australia (47%) volunteered for sport and physical recreation organisations.
Volunteers in Sport and Sport Social Capital
- 93% of sport and physical recreation organisation volunteers participated in organised sport as a child. While the proportion of sport and physical recreation volunteers whose parents who had done voluntary work was higher than those whose parents had not , there was no conclusive evidence to support this difference being statistically significant.
- Sport and recreation volunteers were involved in a range of volunteering organisations - about half volunteered for another type of organisation in addition to sport and recreation.
- Rates of volunteering rates in sport and recreation were higher for: males, people born in Australia, those who were employed, and people in couple families with children aged under 15 years.
- Working a higher number of hours per week did not necessarily deter people from participating in sport and recreation volunteering the highest participation rate (88%) was among those working 41-48 hours per week.
- Increased travel time did not appear to reduce participation in sport and recreation.
- There appears to be an association between rates of volunteering and the level of socio economic disadvantage the rate of volunteering declines as the rate of socio-economic disadvantage increases.
- Rates of volunteering are lower among people with lower levels of self reported health and higher rates of disability.
More information is available at:
What do volunteers do?
The four most common types of organisation for which people volunteered were:
- Sport and physical recreation
- Education and training
- Religious groups.
Volunteers perform a range of different tasks. The most frequently reported in 2006 were:
- Fundraising 48%
- Preparing and serving food 31%
- Teaching/providing information 28%
- Administration 26%0
Why do they do it?
The difference I make to the community and The sense of purpose it gives me were the two most frequently mentioned things volunteers valued most about their volunteering experience in the National Survey of Volunteering Issues (Volunteering Australia, 2011, p9).
Other factors associated with volunteering behavior
The ABS General Social Survey 2010 found that:
- Whether a person does any voluntary work might be influenced by their parents volunteering behavior.
- 66% of volunteers reported that their parents had done some voluntary work compared to 44% of non-volunteers.
- 43% of adult volunteers had undertaken some voluntary work as a child compared to 27% of adult non-volunteers.
- Volunteers were more likely to be involved in other aspects of community life than those who had not volunteered in the last 12 months.
Other interesting stats
- The volunteer workforce in Australia was estimated to provide over $14.6 billion of unpaid labour in 2006-2007 (ABS Satellite Accounts)
- The total annual hours volunteered in 2006 were 713 million.
- The median weekly number of hours volunteered in 2006 was 1.1hrs.
- The median annual number of hours volunteered in 2006 was 56hrs.
For more detailed stats about volunteering, visit: