Definition of volunteering
‘Volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain.’ – Volunteering Australia, 2015.
This is an inclusive definition, and covers volunteering with organisations as well as in the community.
Learn more about this definition on the Volunteering Australia website.
Volunteering is similar, but not the same as student placements and internships. If are not sure, ask who is the activity mean to benefit most – if it’s the community, it’s probably volunteering. If it’s you, or it’s connected to your studies, it’s probably not volunteering. The difference is important – read more on the Justice Connect website.
Where and how you can volunteer
In Victoria, many organisations rely on volunteers, such as:
- Hospitals, libraries and schools
- Community support services
- Environment and conversation groups
- Arts and cultural groups
- Community festivals and events
Only organisations which do not trade for a profit are allowed to engage volunteers.
There are lots of types of volunteering available: every week or fortnight or just for an afternoon or a few days, team or individual, in-person or virtual – and some may require skills.
Volunteer rights and responsibilities
In Australia, volunteers are not covered by legislation in the same way as employees. However, we believe that volunteers have rights, and we advocate for these every day.
Volunteer rights include:
- Healthy and safe volunteering environment
- Fair and transparent recruitment process
- Reasonable workload and tasks
- An orientation or induction session
- Supervision and the resources you need
- Reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses
- Not to be harassed, discriminated against or exploited
At the same time, many organisations rely on volunteers – so it’s important to recognise that volunteers have responsibilities.
As a volunteer, you should:
- Meet your commitments
- Be reliable and punctual
- Ask for support if needed
- Follow instructions, as well as legal and safety requirements
- Adhere to organisational policies
- Provide information for workplace checks if asked
Read more about your rights and responsibilities.
Read about other things to know, including workplace checks, confidentiality and volunteer codes of conduct.
Need more info?
Read more in our Guide for Volunteers.
If there are problems where you volunteer, learn about your options to address them.