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?
By using the VRS you have access to a variety of different volunteering roles in different organisations 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; and community visiting. The list is endless! There are any number of opportunities in the community for you to make a difference. Our Volunteer Referral Service is here to help you find the volunteer role that is best suited to you.
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. Some organisations will specify the minimum length of time a volunteer position is required 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: campaigning, telephone counselling services and help lines, mentoring and tutoring, 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. Insurance is often cited as a reason for not involving younger volunteers. Organisations will specify if there are age restrictions for a certain volunteer role.
Can people on tourist visas volunteer in Australia?
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has updated its website information on people on visas volunteering. Generally speaking, if a person’s visa allows them to do paid work they are able to volunteer, however everyone’s circumstances and visa conditions are different. Please check the Department of Immigration and Citizenship website for the latest information.
Can I volunteer with my family or friends?
Some volunteering opportunities are available for groups – although there is more choice available for individuals. Examples of volunteering for two or more people 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. Training is often made available to volunteers if it is required.
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.
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?
- 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 will talk to you about any references or referee contact details that the organisation requires.
Do I need a background check?
Some volunteer roles, particularly those where volunteers are interacting 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 .
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
To make sure older people are safely and properly cared for, the Australian Government has put a number of measures in place, including national criminal history record checks (also known as police checks). All staff (including volunteers) working in aged care homes who have supervised or unsupervised access to care recipients must obtain a police check. All volunteers that are likely to have unsupervised access to care recipients must obtain a police check.
You can read more about the police certificate guidelines for aged care providers and how the police check works on the Department of Health website.
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. Further interviews may be conducted on the phone or in person.
What happens if I start volunteering but I decide to leave?
You are under no obligation to keep a volunteer position that you are 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. Most organisations have a grievance procedure. If you feel strongly that something should be done, 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 try out 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 before they are incurred and might include travel, meals purchased while volunteering, special clothing, etc. It is a good idea to enquire about expenses before committing to a volunteer role.