Today, the 2021 Census revealed that 2,933,646 people in Australia said they did unpaid voluntary work for an organisation or group. This is a 19 per cent decrease from 2016. While a decline in formal volunteering was not unexpected, the data in the 2021 Census does not tell the full story of volunteering in Australia.
Volunteering in Australia is changing but facing major challenges, including the devastating impact of COVID-19 and a decade long decline in formal volunteering. While less people are volunteering for organisations, new forms of volunteering are developing as volunteering evolves to meet the needs of the community.
Volunteering Australia is leading the development of Australia’s first National Strategy for Volunteering in ten years. The National Strategy will be designed and owned by the volunteering ecosystem and will provide a blueprint for a reimagined future for volunteering in Australia. Action is needed now if volunteering is to continue to support communities and to ensure volunteering across Australia is effective, inclusive and sustainable for future generations.
Official data is crucial to building an evidence base of volunteering’s contributions. As volunteering continues to evolve over time, we need to get better at understanding how volunteers contribute to community, and ensure volunteers don’t go unseen. Volunteering Australia looks forward to working with the Australian Bureau of Statistics on the review of the General Social Survey and to ensure that official volunteering data meets the future needs of government and the volunteering ecosystem.