According to Dr Lisel O'Dwyer, a Senior Research Associate at the University of Adelaide's School of Social Sciences, volunteers are healthier, fitter, more mentally alert and more socially connected than people who don’t. So, with all these pluses in favour of volunteering, students should consider volunteering to stay connected, healthy, motivated and in touch with paid employment opportunities.
Here are the main volunteering opportunities:
Event Volunteering - there’s no better way to get some practical experience for your career in tourism, event management or personal training, than to volunteer for the local triathlon, City to Surf Fun Run or Hockey State Championships.
“Many festivals and events depend upon volunteers to make them possible. Volunteers put the community into community events," said Steven Wood Schmader, CEO of the International Festivals & Events Association.
Some of the possible roles you could sign up for include: masseur, submission writer, drink station attendant, pre-event register clerk, crowd control person, transport coordinator or ticket collector.
Charity Volunteering – with charity organisations stretched to provide more and more of what governments used to provide, organisations like The Salvos, Wesley Uniting, The Smith Family and Vinnies are always on the lookout for volunteers. Perhaps you could contribute your bookkeeping skills, your retail display talents, or your customer services finesse? A full Australian list of charities is available here.
Help Lines - there are lots of telephone support services – like Lifeline and Kids Helpline - where skilled volunteers can be trained to help adults, families and children in crisis. These are ideal if you are training in social work, community services or mental health support services. See Relationships Australia website for a full list of support services where you could volunteer.
Animal Welfare Volunteering – a host of organisations look after the care and rights of animals. If you’re an animal lover check out these sites: Animal Aid, RSPCA, Seek Volunteering. If saving native animals are more your passion, WIRES can get you trained as a carer. Animals Australia’s site Unleashed shows young people speaking up for the rights of farmyard and domestic animals. Their volunteer work is inspiring!
Emergency Services Organisations – State Emergency Services (SES), Rural Fire Services (RFS) volunteer fire fighters, volunteer rescue squads and coast patrols are largely made up of trained volunteers. They give up their time to rescue us from floods, storms, fires, serious motor vehicle accidents and problems at sea. If you are looking to enter the defence forces, become a paramedic or firemen, these volunteer roles will provide invaluable experience. See also the Army Reserve for a job that pays while you keep working or studying.
Environmental Improvement Programs and Clean-ups –The annual Clean up Australia Day, in March, is a day for cleaning up bush, parks, waterways and making a difference to our environment. Other national environmental efforts where volunteers are welcome all year round include Landcare Australia and the NSW Environmental Trust.
Men’s Shed – Retired or unemployed men who have practical hands-on skills to share, get together right across Australia at The Men’s Shed to make things for local charities and pass on craftsmanship. The national website will help you find a Men’s Shed near you.
Cultural Volunteering – art galleries, museums, libraries and local eisteddfods all rely on a large army of volunteers to keep things going behind the scenes. If music, art or history are your passion, this is the place where you will find like-minded people.
Aged Care Volunteering – There are plenty of organisations that will give you experience working with the elderly. Becoming a volunteer for Meals on Wheels, or making a daily phone call to a person living alone will make a big difference to the people you help.
And finally, remember that some volunteer roles, including working with vulnerable people like the elderly, children and people with a disability, can require checks on your background. This may include a police check, a working with children check or simply signing a volunteer declaration. Full information on how to apply for these checks is available here.
So, don’t be put off by the paperwork, get ready for what could be one of the most satisfying experiences of your life. Doing something for nothing with no expectations and see where life takes you!