Volunteer

BECOME A VOLUNTEER

How do I decide whether being an emergency sector volunteer is for me?

Australia has a large land mass and a small population, and is subject to the whole range of natural and technological disasters. This situation contributes most significantly to the fact that we rely heavily on volunteers in our emergency management sector. Volunteers are involved in virtually every aspect of Prevention, Preparedness, Response and Recovery, across the nation, and without them, the level of protection available to our community would be much reduced. Australians are therefore fortunate that there are so many people willing to give up their time to help others.

There around 6 million volunteers in Australia, with over 500,000 in the emergency management sector. You will see them patrolling our beaches, providing first aid at major sporting and entertainment venues, fighting bush fires, rescuing people trapped in car crashes, helping people in floods and storms and providing a wide range of welfare services to those affected by emergencies.

It is not as difficult as you may think to become an emergency sector, because there are so many opportunities available to the young and old, and the physically fit and the not so fit. You will, however, generally need to be able to give up a few hours each week for training, which is usually during the evening, and og, aurse be able to respond when an emergency actually occurs. This may entail leaving work at short notice, so you will need to discuss your possible commitment with your employer.

WHERE TO START?

Australian Emergency Management Volunteer Forum (AEMVF) is a national forum representing the volunteer emergency management sector to facilitate better communications between the organisations within it and to provide advocacy for the sector.

The Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) is the Australian Government body providing national leadership in the development of measures to reduce risk to communities and manage the consequences of disasters. More information on AGD’s role in emergency management can be found on the Australian Emergency Management website at: www.em.gov.au.

Volunteering Australia is the national peak body working to advance volunteering in the Australian community. To browse thousands of roles all over the country by area of interest and geography, visit the free search engine – GoVolunteer – accessible from their website: www.volunteeringaustralia.org.

You can also contact organisations directly by phone, email or mail. Organisations are listed at the above websites.

VOLUNTEERING FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Finding the right volunteer role
There are many reasons people choose to volunteer which, unlike paid work, provides incentives other than payment in exchange for your time. So it’s worthwhile putting some thought into planning your volunteering.

To help you decide how you'd like to get involved as a volunteer, ask yourself:

  • What do I like doing or would like to do more of?
  • How much time can I spare? (eg: full-time workers may have only evenings or weekends)?
  • Do I want to volunteer on an ongoing, short-term or one-off basis?
  • What kinds of people would I like to be with? (eg: age, gender)
  • Who do I want to help? (eg: migrants, community, elderly, youth)
  • Do I want to volunteer alone or with family and friends?
  • What skills do I have?
  • Do I want to use my current skills in my volunteering role or do something completely different?
  • What would I like to learn to do?
  • What are my values, principles, religious or cultural affiliations?
  • What kinds of things would I defiantly not want to do?

Choosing an organisation
Once you have worked out what you would like to do, you should consider the type of organisation you would like to be part of. You will find branches of most of the emergency management sector organisations either in you local area or close by, and they are usually only too pleased to take enquiries. Their telephone numbers are listed in the White Pages.

Questions to ask prospective organisations
Once you have narrowed your search to the organisation and/or role you’re interested in you will need to contact them and a formal or informal interview where you can both ask some questions and make sure the not-for-profit and the roles available are suitable.

Good questions to ask during your interview or phone call include:

  • Can I volunteer in different locations?
  • What kind of roles can I choose from?
  • How long do I have to commit for?
  • How much time to I need to give?
  • Are there age restrictions? (This depends on their insurance cover)
  • Can I volunteer with my family or friends?
  • Do I need any special experience or qualifications?
  • Will this interfere with my paid work?
  • Can I volunteer outside business hours only?
  • Does the organisation cover agreed out-of-pocket expenses such as travel?
  • Are there any training opportunities?
  • What is the scope of the role? (There may even be a detailed position description)
  • What support and supervision is available from the volunteer co-coordinator or manager?
  • Am I covered by the organisation's public liability and personal accident insurance policies?
  • What happens if I start volunteering but I decide to leave?

VOLUNTEERING FACTS & STATISTICS

What is volunteering?
Volunteering is an activity undertaken in not-for-profit organisations:

  • to be of benefit to the community and the volunteer;
  • of the volunteer's own free will and without coercion;
  • for no financial payment; and
  • is in designated volunteer positions only.
  • Volunteering counts
  • Volunteering contributes an estimated $42 billion a year to the Australian economy (Duncan Ironmonger, 2000).
  • Each year in Australia, volunteers in all sectors of the community donate approximately 836 million hours of their time (Giving Australia, 2005).
  • In the 12 months to January 2005, 6.3 million adult Australians volunteered (GA, 2005) – more than half a million in the emergency services sector.
  • In 2005, 41% of Australians volunteered (GA), compared to 34% in 2002, and 24% in 1995 (ABS).
  • 47% of volunteers are aged 35–44 years, the most active age group of volunteers (GA).
  • On average young people, 18-24-year-olds volunteer 132 hours a year (GA).

Reasons for volunteering (Kerr et al. 2001)

  • Reasons for volunteering in the general community include being of service to the community (47%) and personal satisfaction (43%).
  • People tend to choose volunteer activity that reflects their paid employment. Professionals teach (65%) and tradespeople choose maintenance, repairs and gardening work (47%).
  • Young people aged 18-24 volunteered for personal satisfaction (40%) and to help others in the community (40%), to gain new skills (13%) and gain work experience (17%).
  • The most common reason people from indigenous and non-English-speaking backgrounds volunteer include: to gain work experience and develop skills; to do something worthwhile and help others and to be active.