Volunteering & Community - Section contents

Volunteering provides a wonderful opportunity for you to take your skills out into the community and contribute to a cause you are passionate about – you get to help others and make a difference! In addition, it's a great way to meet new people, gain practical experiences and develop career-related professional skills.

Choosing a place to volunteer

Being in a role that feels 'right' will mean your volunteering is more likely to be successful and rewarding. To help you make a decision, it's good to find out:

  • What the organisation does – Learn more about the organisation by looking at their website, previous projects or annual reports.
  • What the organisation stands for - Read their vision and mission statements, is it somewhere you would like to volunteer?
  • The types of opportunities available - Do the volunteering opportunities match your skills and interests? Is there an opportunity to gain skills and experience related to your degree? Will it create pathways that lead to future career opportunities?
  • How the organisation supports volunteers - How much support, supervision and training is provided to volunteers? Are there opportunities for you to be mentored?
  • Time commitment – Think carefully about how much time you are able to or willing to commit to the position. Do you wish to take on a volunteering position that is long term or short term; a one-off event or a continuing obligation? As a student it is recommended that you commit to no more than 10 to 16 hours per week.
  • Insurance  – Does the organisation have appropriate volunteer policies in place and insurance to cover you for the volunteer work you will be undertaking with them?

The University of Melbourne's Guidelines for Student Volunteering provides more information to assist you in finding an appropriate organisation and volunteer position. 

Volunteering on campus

  • Student clubs and societies - these groups offer a range of opportunities including specific positions and support roles. Visit Join a Student Group to get some ideas.
  • Student Union - there are a range of collectives you can join and representative roles relating to particular interest areas eg the Arts, the environment, welfare, women's issues, education and media.
  • The Student Union also has some interesting volunteer programs including the Peer Support Program, Buddy Program and Exam Support Stall. Volunteer opportunities at the Student Union.
  • Your Faculty, School or Department may have opportunities - check with your Student Centre or staff.

Volunteering off campus

  • Search for volunteer opportunities on Careers Online
  • Check out Go Volunteer for a central listing of opportunities across the community sector. You can search by interest area or type of role. This site also has a list of organisations which have volunteer programs.

Volunteer rights and responsibilities

Unlike paid staff, volunteers are not covered by awards or work-place agreements. However volunteers do have rights, some which are set out in legislation and some which are considered the moral obligations of an organisation involving volunteers.

Your rights
As a volunteer you have the right to:

  • A healthy, safe and non-discriminatory work environment
  • A volunteer position description
  • An orientation or induction session
  • Be provided with sufficient training and supervision
  • Be reimbursed for necessary out of pocket expenses
  • Be protected by appropriate volunteer insurance
  • Have your personal information dealt with in a confidential manner

Volunteering Australia outlines the basic rights of a volunteer in their Volunteer rights and volunteer checklist. This checklist and other volunteer resources are available on their website.

Your responsibilities
As a volunteer you are expected to:

  • Be punctual and reliable
  • Be accountable and carry out the duties listed in your volunteer position description in a responsible and professional manner
  • Give notice if your availability changes or you are leaving the organisation
  • Respect confidentiality
  • Adhere to the organisation's policies and procedures
  • Undertake training as requested
  • Ask for support when needed

For more information about your volunteer rights and responsibilities visit Volunteering Victoria.