Planning and Management

Despite a high number of people from CALD backgrounds seeking to engage with their communities through formal volunteering, many organisations are unsure about how to engage these individuals in valuable and mutually beneficial volunteering roles. Questions around how to best support these volunteers, who may have different needs and abilities, are not always easily answered and often organisations have to turn down a potentially willing volunteer due to a lack of experience or resources.

However, there are many key benefits for organisations in engaging volunteers from CALD backgrounds in their organisations. CALD volunteers bring a new depth of knowledge to an organisation, a specialised skill set and truly reflect the community you are servicing.

The resources below have been gathered and developed by Volunteering Victoria and represent best practise in the realm of engaging CALD individuals as volunteers in your organisations.

Aligning with the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement (2015) the below resources will help you to plan, implement and evaluate a culturally inclusive volunteer program as well as providing technical and legal information regarding CALD engagement.

For information on Volunteering Victoria’s position on CALD engagement in volunteering please review our submission to the 2012 Multicultural and Citizenship Policy review.

National Standards for Volunteer Involvement

Any program involving volunteers, regardless of their background or abilities should strive to meet the National Standards for Involving Volunteers. Before you embark on the journey to diversify your volunteer program, it is worthwhile reviewing Volunteering Victoria’s resources on the National Standards, including the comprehensive Volunteer Management Toolkit. The toolkit includes best practise tools and templates that you can download and adapt for your needs.

Why engage CALD volunteers?

Engaging a diverse pool of volunteers benefits your organisation, the individual volunteer and your community as a whole.

When thinking about engaging CALD volunteers, and when advocating to your organisation to make diverse volunteering a priority, it is important to consider the benefits for your organisation. These include:

  • CALD volunteers bring knowledge of local cultures to your organisation and can enable you to support your staff and volunteers to provide a better service to clients from diverse backgrounds
  • CALD volunteers can promote your services to potential clients in their own communities
  • A bilingual volunteer may be able to help your organisation to communicate with CALD clients
  • Engagement of CALD volunteers helps to promote cross-cultural understanding to staff and other volunteers
  • CALD volunteer engagement can help you to achieve your organisation’s objective of being more diverse and better reflecting the local population
  • Many CALD volunteers are highly skilled in managerial, technical or other professions and can provide a valuable contribution to not-for-profit organisations

There has been a number of reports published exploring some of the barriers and benefits to CALD engagement in volunteering that may be useful to you in understanding how to engage CALD communities as well as making a case for increased diversity within your organisation. These reports can assist you in planning your own CALD volunteer program by helping you to learn from the work of other organisations.

As with the development of expansion of any volunteer program, it’s important that you take into consideration the National Standards. While there will be differences in how you recruit and manage volunteers from different backgrounds – the principles of engagement and management remain the same. To get back to basics, you can review Volunteering Victoria’s Volunteer Management Toolkit which provides a best practise guide to setting up and running a volunteer program that meets the National Standards.

Identifying your community

One of the key benefits of engaging CALD volunteers is so that your program and organisation can truly reflect the community you serve. Therefore, it is important to understand the cultural make-up of your community so that you can tailor your volunteer program accordingly.

There are a number of online resources that can help you identify who are the CALD communities in your local area. are a great resource for understanding the demographics of your local area. It brings together statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in an easy to search database.

To access your local government area statistics:

  1. Visit this link
  2. Type in your local government area
  3. On the left hand side of the page click on “Who are we?”
  4. You can then view the birthplace, languages spoken at home, English proficiency and religion all of which will help you to get a better understanding of the local population

 Barriers for CALD volunteer engagement

In planning to engage CALD volunteers in your program, understanding the barriers individuals or organisations might face is an important part of the process. By understanding the barriers commonly faced by individuals wanting to volunteer, and by organisations who have worked with CALD volunteers in the past, your can prepare for potential roadblocks and come up with alternate solutions.

According to research by Volunteering Australia and the Australian Multicultural Foundation, common barriers for organisations to engaging CALD volunteers include:

  • Language barriers and accents (the ability for clients, particularly the elderly, to understand accents)
  • ‘Cultural issues’ – that is “cross-cultural differences and understanding the Australian context in which they volunteer.”

Barriers for individuals from CALD backgrounds to volunteering include:

  • Time restrictions
  • Travel time and distance
  • Reimbursement of expenses
  • Language and understanding English – mostly for individuals aged over 60

Cultural awareness in your organisation

Before recruiting volunteers from CALD backgrounds into your organisation it’s important that your organisation is ready to welcome them in a way that is respectful.  This means ensuring your organisation is “culturally aware”.

Training and self-assessment

Visa Information

There are a variety of Visas available for visitors and migrants to Australia, all with their own unique rules around whether individuals can work or volunteer. The most common query is whether asylum seekers or refugees have the right to volunteer in Australia.

Justice Connect provides up to date information legal information regarding volunteers and visas for community organisations. Alternatively you can contact AMES on 13 2637.

Best practice CALD volunteer management

Below we provide a brief overview of best practice volunteer management in regards to CALD engagement.  This is not intended to be an exhaustive guide.

There are a number of more extensive resources available the give you more detailed information on how to involve CALD volunteers in your organisation. We have identified some best practice documents below.

As with the development of expansion of any volunteer program, it’s important that you take into consideration the National Standards. While there will be differences in how you recruit and manage volunteers from different backgrounds, the principles of engagement and management remain the same. To get back to basics, you can review Volunteering Victoria’s Volunteer Management Toolkit which provides a best practice guide to setting up and running a volunteer program that meets the National Standards.

Recruitment to evaluation

Now that you have sufficiently planned for the engagement of CALD volunteers you are ready to recruit. There’s a good chance that you have done this work to get your organisation ready because there was already a pre-existing demand from people in your community to become engaged.

If not, and instead you are proactively reaching out to engage new communities – well done. Be sure to read the first section of this resource on identifying CALD groups within your community.

The following information is intended to provide a very basic overview of how to successfully recruit and manage CALD volunteers as well as evaluate your program. More detailed information on best practise CALD volunteer management can be found in the documents below.


The key to successfully recruiting CALD volunteers is through a targeted campaign. In the planning process you would have identified which cultural communities exist within your area. Now it’s important to understand how to find them to promote your volunteer program.

According to Volunteering Australia:

“The various recruitment methods explored included (but were not restricted to) media advertising, word of mouth, reaching CALD volunteers through other community organisations, websites, translated brochures and promotion through ethno-specific media or groups.”

Of these, the most successful is word of mouth.


When inducting a volunteer from a CALD background language is key. Most CALD volunteers will speak English as a second language and the level of English proficiency will vary greatly depending on the volunteer. Language barriers are a key challenge for both organisations and individuals.

According to Volunteering Australia and the Australian Multicultural Foundations Guide some key ways that you can adjust your induction to be more appropriate for CALD volunteers includes:

  • Ensure that written information is in plain English and does not include any industry jargon or unnecessary complex words
  • Consider using images instead of text where appropriate i.e. a staff photo instead of an organisational chart
  • Ensure signage includes pictures as well as words – especially for OH&S
  • Use walk-throughs, role plays and hands on equipment trial as part of your induction and training
  • Include cross-cultural training as part of your induction for ALL staff and new volunteers.


Effective acknowledgement is an important way to build volunteer self esteem and encourage a long term commitment to your organisation. Effective acknowledgement takes into consideration the individual volunteers motivation.

Some examples of appropriate acknowledgement for CALD volunteers might include

  • Providing a volunteer participation letter that volunteers can use to help them find employment
  • Providing support for the volunteer in completing job or education and training related forms (perhaps via a volunteer “buddy”)


Consider making regular evaluation of your volunteer program standard practise if it isn’t already. The best way to understand if your CALD volunteer practises are effective is to ensure that you involve CALD volunteers as part of your evaluation.

Involve those volunteers in any regular surveys. If they are not comfortable completing written forms, you may want to consider a verbal feedback session. Also consider more informal ways for CALD volunteers to provide feedback and make suggestions.

The Volunteering Australia and the Australian Multicultural Foundations Guide provides some great ideas on how to evaluate your program from the perspective of its CALD inclusivity.

Engaging Young CALD Volunteers

 One way of connecting with the CALD community is through its young people.

 Volunteers from Diverse Backgrounds (Youth), Youth Affairs Council of Victoria

 Other Support Services

The following paid and free services are available to organisations to help them to better engage with CALD individuals.

If you know of any other services that are available to organisations and supervisors or would like to request further resources, please contact

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