Individual achievement rarely occurs without a helping hand from others. After all, we call this the lucky country – we don’t take the credit for it all ourselves. The McCrindle National Barometer 2012 showed that volunteering was going very strongly, and, even in the economic downturn, that volunteering shines strongly in the Australian psyche and shows our value of the collaborative community spirit.

National Volunteer Week (13-19 May) gives us a chance to celebrate and thank those who willingly give time, service, or skills to fellow Australians without seeking anything in return. In fact, 6.1 million adults (36% of our entire population) undertake some form of voluntary work annually. Who are these volunteers?

Women more likely to volunteer

Women are more likely to volunteer than men, with 38% of adult women volunteering, compared with 34% of adult men.

More parents volunteer

Double-parent households with children aged between 5 to 17 have the highest volunteer rates, with 55% of these adults participating in a variety of volunteer activities.

Rural Australians lead the way

Regional Australians (41%) are more likely to volunteer than Australians who live in major cities (34%). While all capital cities have high volunteering rates compare to other parts of the world, Darwin shows the greatest percentage of volunteers (43%).

Generational draw-cards

While people from all generations volunteer, Gen Xers and the Baby Boomers are more likely to volunteer than any other generation. Different generations also volunteer for different activities. Younger generations are more likely to be involved in sports and recreation, older Gen Y and Gen Xers are most commonly volunteering in parenting groups. Welfare and community type activities were most common in the Boomers and Builders.

Workers more likely to volunteer

While those employed full-time or with part-time work may be more time-poor to volunteer, data shows that individuals actively involved in paid work are more likely to volunteer than those who are unemployed or not in the labour force. In fact, 38% of individuals who work full-time and 44% of those who work part-time volunteer, compared to only 20% of those who are unemployed or 31% of those who are not in the labour force.

The benefits of volunteering

With 58% of volunteers incurring their own expenses to participate in volunteer work, what are the benefits? Research is clear that people who volunteer are more likely to trust people (62% reporting that people could be trusted, as opposed to 49% of those who don’t volunteer) and have a greater sense of overall life satisfaction – 82% report being pleased and mostly satisfied with their lives, compared to 75% of those who don’t volunteer.

The bottom line

In these times of great change and incredible diversity we all know that when adversity strikes, whether in the form of bushfire, floods, or international conflict, there’ll be a fellow Aussie there to help out. It’s the tradition of the digger, the character of mateship, and the enduring power of good.

For more information

If you found this article interesting, download our free Australian Communities Report and Infographic for more information on the trends impacting the future of the not-for-profit sector.

For media commentary contact us on 02 8824 3422 or at info@mccrindle.com.au


Sources: ABS Cat. 4441.0 – Voluntary Work, Australia, 2010, McCrindle Research Data, 2013.