Got a question about volunteering? This Q & A aims to answer all of your volunteering questions.

What are the benefits of using the Volunteer Referral Service?

Volunteers have access to many different volunteering roles, all over Sydney and some in regional areas of NSW. Our skilled and experienced interviewers can guide and advise you regarding volunteer work and help you find a role that is well suited to your skills and experience to help you make the right choice.

All our member organisations have current Public Liability and Volunteer Accident insurance for your protection.

Where can I volunteer?

The Centre for Volunteering can put you in touch with a wide range of opportunities in not-for-profit organisations across the Greater Sydney area. To find volunteer positions in regional NSW, we can refer you to your nearest volunteer resource centre.

What kind of work can I do?

Almost any, for example:

  • aged care
  • office administration
  • gardening
  • special events
  • driving
  • community work
  • childcare
  • community visiting

Do I have a choice about where I volunteer?

Absolutely. The Centre for Volunteering aims to match your interests and skills with the specific requirements of different not-for-profit organisations. You’ll be consulted about where you’d prefer to work as a volunteer. We’ll also talk to you about the skills, interests, values or ambitions that you’d like to match with your volunteering opportunities.

How long do I have to commit for?

It’s your choice. Your commitment to a particular volunteer position depends entirely upon your circumstances, interests, and the length of time your volunteer position is available for.

How much time do I need to give?

You can volunteer at any time of the week, day or night. While most volunteering takes place during office hours, you can volunteer at evenings and weekends too, depending on what you want to do. Typical volunteer opportunities outside office hours include: mentoring and tutoring, campaigning, environmental work, and sports. Virtual volunteering provides flexible opportunities to volunteer online. Most roles range from 2 -16 hours per week.

Are there age restrictions?

Anyone can volunteer but there may be age requirements depending on the type of volunteer role. Some not-for profit organisations have a policy of not involving volunteers under (or over) a certain age. There are many ways of getting involved such as running your own project, organising a fundraising event or advocating for an issue you believe is important. Insurance is often cited as a reason for not involving younger volunteers, however, many insurance companies offering voluntary workers accident insurance do not specify a bottom age limit when it comes to volunteers.

Can people on tourist visas volunteer in Australia?

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has updated its website where it concerns volunteers. Generally speaking, if a person’s visa allows them to do paid work then they would automatically be able to volunteer. The only visas that need checking are those visas where paid work is not allowed.

In general terms, you may be able to work as a volunteer while on a Tourist visa if:

  • Your main purpose in visiting Australia is tourism, and any voluntary work remains incidental to this.
  • The work involved would not otherwise be undertaken, in return for wages, by an Australian resident.
  • The work is genuinely voluntary and no remuneration is received in return for the activities.

Note: It is acceptable, under the conditions of the Tourist visa, to receive meals, accommodation and/or reimbursement of out-of-pocket living expenses in return for voluntary work. For further information, visit The Department of Immigration and Border Protection

Can I volunteer with my family or friends?

Some volunteering opportunities are available for groups – though there’s more choice available for individuals. Examples of volunteering where two or more people can easily join together include bush-care and special events. Check with The Centre for Volunteering about the group volunteering opportunities that are currently available – especially Event Volunteering.

Do I need experience or qualifications?

This depends entirely on the role. Attitude and experience are very important. Some volunteer roles require specific job skills or qualifications, while others ask only for a willingness to learn. Opportunities in education, social work, and health care exist even for those without formal training in these areas. Training is often made available to volunteers

I work full time – can I volunteer?

Yes, there are many volunteer opportunities that do not require you to be available during “normal” office hours. One of the best things about volunteering is that it can be done at a time that best fits with your lifestyle. As well as having ongoing opportunities, The Centre for Volunteering offers you the chance to volunteer seasonally, intermittently, or for one-off occasions.

Many organisations would love to find volunteers who are able to volunteer evenings, nights and/or weekends. Some examples of out of office hours volunteering include: campaigning, telephone counselling services and help lines, mentoring, environment and sports.

Will I be interviewed? What will they ask me? What can I ask them?

There is a set procedure for all volunteers interviewed by The Centre for Volunetering. The interview process gives you, and the organisation, a chance to assess each other and an opportunity to ask questions. It is important to ensure that you are well-matched to a volunteer opportunity.

A typical interview may include any of the following:

  • Why you are interested in volunteering?
  • What sort of voluntary work are you interested in?
  • What skills do you offer?
  • What new skills would you like to learn through your volunteer work?
  • How much time you have to offer?

You can ask them anything that you want to know, including:

  • Does the organisation cover agreed out-of-pocket expenses?
  • Are there any training opportunities?
  • What is the scope of the role?
  • What support and supervision are available from your volunteer coordinator or manager? (It’s important to have someone you can talk to regularly about how you are getting on.)
  • Am I covered by the organisation’s public liability and personal accident insurance policies?

Do I need references?

Some organisations require references or referee contact details – these vary depending on the volunteer role. Before referring you to a particular volunteering opportunity, we’ll talk to you about any references or referee contact details that the organisation requires.

Do I need a background check?

Only some volunteer roles, with vulnerable people, e.g. elderly, children and people with a disability, may require background checks such as police checks, volunteer declarations or working with children checks. The type of check depends upon the volunteer role; you’ll be advised if a check is required to undertake the role.

Working with children

All volunteers working with children need to sign a Volunteer Declaration and recent changes to Working with Children Checks mean some volunteers need to be checked. For more information read the section on Working with Children.

Police Checks for Aged Care Volunteers

Volunteer Role
Police Check Required?
Volunteers visiting care recipients under the Community Visitors Scheme
Volunteers organised by the approved provider who are reasonably likely to have unsupervised access to care recipients
Volunteers organised by the approved provider who only have supervised access to care recipients (for example, someone helping with activities when staff are present)
Volunteers who are under the age of 16 or full-time students under the age of 18
Anyone invited by a care recipient to visit them in an aged care home (for example, family and friends)

Source: Department of Health and Ageing

I’ve been referred to an organisation. What happens next?

Most organisations will want to conduct a further interview. This gives you and the organisation the chance to assess each other. In addition, it gives you the chance to get a feel for the organisation, and sometimes the opportunity to meet the people you’ll be working with.

What happens if I start volunteering but I decide to leave?

You’re under no obligation to keep a volunteer position that you’re unhappy with. To see if your issues can be addressed, talk with your supervisor, manager, or volunteer coordinator – before you give an appropriate amount of notice that you’re leaving your voluntary role. Also, you can ask Volunteering NSW for support with the problem; or we can help you find another role.

Most organisations have a grievance procedure. If you feel strongly that something should be done to address the situation, access this process to seek a resolution.

What can I do afterwards?

The skills and experiences that you gain while volunteering are often very useful for careers and life generally. The skills and experiences may enhance your resume. Many organisations will also provide you with a reference. Many people use volunteering to road-test a new career or to secure paid employment; others find the experience valuable for personal reasons.

I’m interested in volunteering overseas. Can you help me?

We can provide information and refer you to organisations that deal with volunteering overseas. Find out more.

Will volunteering cost me anything?

It does not cost anything for individuals to volunteer. Organisations providing volunteer opportunities may be able to reimburse minor expenses, such as travel. Out of pocket expenses must be agreed by the organisation and might include travel, meals purchased while volunteering, special clothing, etc. It is a good idea to enquire about expenses you may incur before committing to a volunteer role. In some cases, organisations may charge a small fee for training.

Not-for-profit organisations often require information, infrastructure and training to properly manage their volunteers – this is provided to them as part of The Centre for Volunteering’s membership fee.

More questions

If we haven’t answered your question, email our team with your question and we will try to answer it and publish it online.