More than six million Australians each year contribute their time, energy and expertise to volunteering. Volunteers do everything from helping disadvantaged children learn to read and providing companionship to the elderly to fighting catastrophic bush fires and planting trees. Volunteers also use their professional skills to provide pro-bono support in areas such as marketing, legal services, web design and IT.
Volunteering connects and empowers communities, breaks down social barriers and encourages a sense of community belonging.
Volunteers gain valuable skills while broadening their experience and developing personal and professional connections, which can contribute to a strong sense of identity and self-confidence. Volunteering provides opportunities to meet new people, build new skills, use existing skills, and can help alleviate social isolation, boredom or mental illness.
Volunteers contribute more than 713 million hours of unpaid work each year for an estimated 700,000 not-for-profit, community and government organisations. The value of volunteering in the not-for-profit sector is more than $14.6 billion per year.
The proportion of people who volunteer in Australia has grown consistently over the past decade across all age groups, from 24 per cent in 1995 to 36 per cent in 2010. However, in recent years, the median number of hours per volunteer has been declining reflecting competing demands upon people’s time and changing preferences about how to be involved in their communities or broader issues that matter to them.