A collection of useful resources for COVID-19 response.
For Volunteer Involving Organisations
We encourage all volunteer involving organisations to review their risk assessments in light of the new medical advice. This should include considering the feasibility of remote working, wearing masks in indoor settings, and encouraging volunteers to stay home if they are sick. This resource provides useful information to safeguard your volunteers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Adapting your volunteering programs
Volunteering Australia recommends adapting volunteering roles to minimise or remove face-to-face contact to reduce the risk of infection of COVID-19.
Adjustments to volunteering roles may include:
- Postponing volunteer work that cannot be done safely within COVID-19 requirements
- Moving volunteering online so volunteers can work from home
- Replacing face-to-face contact with telephone contact
- Ensuring volunteers wear masks and keep a distance of 1.5 metres during instances of face-to-face contact
- Reducing face-to-face contact to less than 15 minutes
Work Health and Safety Requirements
Volunteers are considered as ‘workers’ under Work Health and Safety (WHS) Laws and as such should be afforded the same considerations as a paid employee. Safe Work Australia has information on preparing workplaces for COVID-19.
Volunteering Australia recommends that due to the unpredictability of COVID-19, including limited measures available to control the spread of the virus, Volunteer Involving Organisations cease volunteering roles that cannot be done safely within COVID-19 requirements. This aligns with the Australian Government’s advice to practice social distancing.
If your organisation has one or more paid employees it is legally required to adhere to your jurisdiction’s relevant work, health and safety (WHS) laws. Under WHS legislation your organisation has an obligation to protect the physical and mental health wellbeing of your volunteers.
If your organisation decides to continue involving volunteers at this time, you are encouraged to seek independent legal advice about the measures you need to take to comply with WHS legislation.
If your organisation is entirely run by volunteers with no employees you are not legally obligated to adhere to work, health and safety legislation, but it is recommended you do so as a matter of best practice.
Volunteering Australia strongly recommends that Volunteer Involving Organisations seek advice from their insurer about the implications of the pandemic regarding their volunteer workforce if they choose to continue involving volunteers at this time. Please be aware this is a complex area and, as States and Territories lockdown and enact emergency legislation, advice may change.
Keeping Volunteers Safe
If your organisation decides to continue running programs and services that involve volunteers, it is imperative you take every measure possible to keep your volunteers safe in the workplace. This includes following all advice provided by the Australian and State and Territory Governments with regards to mask wearing, hygiene and social distancing. Where possible, consider how face-to-face contact can be lessened or removed altogether. Where face-to-face contact is an essential requirement, ensure your volunteers strictly comply with wearing of masks, handwashing and sanitising guidelines. Further, consider how you can assist service users to comply with guidelines to minimise the risk to your volunteers.
COVID-19 vaccinations are mandatory for workers (including volunteers) in some workplace settings. Please read our vaccination factsheet or refer to the Australian or State and Territory health departments for more information. Aside from these official mandates, if you are considering making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for your employees and/or volunteers, then please seek legal advice. Justice Connect’s factsheet on Volunteers and the COVID-19 vaccine provides further advice.
Business Continuity and Risk Management Considerations
Volunteering Australia is urging all Volunteer Involving Organisations to prepare further for how COVID-19 will disrupt operations including updating or creating a business continuity plan. Several resources are available to help organisations undertake this planning. Visit your State or Territory volunteering peak body for further information.
Volunteering Australia also recommends your organisation revisit the risk management plan that governs your volunteering program/s to consider any new or heightened risks posed by COVID-19. When considering the risks posed by COVID-19 to your volunteers remember that volunteer insurance does not cover volunteers for illness and you may wish to obtain independent legal and insurance advice.
Relaxing contractual obligations
Volunteering Australia is recommending that Volunteer Involving Organisations contact their funding bodies to explain how their operations are being affected and to discuss their contractual obligations during this crisis.
Volunteering Australia is urging all funding bodies to relax their contractual requirements so that if a Volunteer Involving Organisation has to close or change their business operations due to COVID-19, they are not penalised for failing to meet their contractual obligations. Many Volunteer Involving Organisations are already having to operate with reduced volunteering capacity, and this is affecting their ability to meet contractual requirements.
The Department of Social Services has released information about COVID-19 to DSS Grant recipients including some useful frequently asked questions that you may have if you are a DSS grant recipient.
- Responding to a Pandemic: A Practical Guide for Volunteer Involving Organisations
- Recruiting New Volunteers
- Insurance and COVID-19: Guidance for Volunteering Involving Organisations
- Volunteers in national COVID-19 vaccine mandates
I would like to volunteer to help
There are a number of ways you can help to support others at this time, including:
- Contact the volunteering peak body in your State or Territory for information about volunteering opportunities including up to date information about registering for emergency volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Visit Go Volunteer for volunteer opportunities that are currently available, both related to COVID-19 and for organisations who may have a shortage of volunteers due to COVID-19. Please note that many organisations have reduced capacity due to COVID-19. If you apply for a volunteer role we encourage you to be patient about response times.
- Check in on your neighbours and people in your local community, taking into account the guidelines around mask wearing, social distancing, isolating if you are unwell and practicing good hygiene.
- Look after yourself during this time and reach out for help if you need it. Visit the Department of Health’s Head to Health website for advice and information on services available at this time.
Volunteering Australia recommends that individuals consider issues of privacy and self-care and avoid putting themselves and others in the community at risk. This means adhering to rules concerning lockdowns, isolating, mask wearing, social distancing and other official guidance
I am a volunteer, am I obliged to continue volunteering?
Volunteering Australia defines volunteering as time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain. Volunteers are under no obligation to continue to volunteer if they do not feel comfortable doing so. If you do attend your volunteering role then your Volunteer Involving Organisation has an obligation under Work Health and Safety Laws to provide protections around health and safety. See above for more information. You may wish to have a conversation with your Volunteer Involving Organisation about different ways of volunteering, for example continuing to volunteer remotely. For further advice please contact the Volunteering Peak Body in your State or Territory.
Mutual obligation and volunteering
Our current advice to individuals unable to meet their mutual obligation requirements because of the COVID-19 situation and their volunteering role being suspended is to contact Centrelink to discuss.
Current mutual obligation requirements vary by State or Territory, more information is available from Workforce Australia.
Informal self-organising volunteers
Volunteering Australia is urging people to exert caution in embarking on informal volunteering (for example, individuals or self-organising groups who are providing support to people affected by COVID-19). Individuals need to consider issues of privacy and self-care and avoid putting themselves and others in the community at risk. This means adhering to rules concerning lockdowns, isolating, mask wearing, social distancing and other official guidance.
We are asking people to consider volunteering for existing Volunteer Involving Organisations in their local community.
Spontaneous volunteers supporting the emergency response
The State and Territory volunteering peak bodies register offers of assistance from spontaneous volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we encourage you to contact your State and Territory peak volunteering bodies and register your interest.
For State or Territory specific resources
- ACT: Volunteering ACT COVID-19 information
- NSW: The Centre for Volunteering – COVID-19 information sheets
- QLD: Volunteering Queensland – COVID-19 resources
- SA/NT: Volunteering South Australia and Northern Territory – COVID-19 resources and information sheets
- TAS: Volunteering Tasmania – COVID-19 information and resources
- WA: Volunteering Western Australia – COVID-19 fact sheets
- VIC: Volunteering Victoria – COVID-19 resources and the Victorian Government – volunteering during coronavirus factsheets in multiple community languages
Other useful resources
- Justice Connect – Managing People through COVID-19 – Volunteers and COVID-19
Answers to frequently asked questions about volunteer safety and volunteering during COVID-19 including the new factsheet Volunteers and the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Justice Connect – Managing People through COVID-19 – Work Safety
Information on creating a safe physical and mental work environment for your employees and volunteers.
- The Department of Health’s guidelines on good hygiene
- Safework Australia’s advice for employers