Volunteers play a vital role in many community events, including Australia Day.
In 2006, 5.2 million people, 34 per cent of the Australian population aged 18 years and over, participated in voluntary work. Overall, 32 per cent of men and 36 per cent of women were volunteers.
The pattern of volunteering varied with life stage. People aged 35 to 44 years were in the age group most likely to volunteer (43 per cent). This age group includes a large number of parents with dependent children. Their higher than average volunteer rate reflects their family commitments, most markedly for women.
There is a misconception in volunteering circles that young people are not interested or involved in volunteering. In fact, young people (aged 16 to 24 years) are a growing volunteer base. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2000) the biggest growth area in volunteering was young people. There was an increase in participating 18 to 24 year olds from 16.6 per cent to 26.8 per cent between 1995 and 2000.
Australian Bureau of Statistics Volunteers Australia 2006 (http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats).
Why do people volunteer?
There are three key things that volunteers value and cite as the rewards of volunteering:
- a feeling of self worth
- the appreciation they receive
- a strong sense of ‘family’, friendship and camaraderie.
Here are some of the reasons people might give when asked why they volunteer:
- ‘Because I want to give something back to the community’
- ‘I might need the service myself one day’
- ‘I would just like to do something good for other people’
- ‘Because it’s a really worthwhile service’
- ‘They helped my mother, so I wanted to help them’
- ‘To keep me busy—I can’t stand doing nothing’
- ‘I’ve got some skills, and I want to keep using them’
- ‘I like to meet people’
- ‘So I can learn a new skill’
- ‘Because I needed to do something worthwhile when I retired’
- ‘Now, I have the time to; before I didn’t’
- ‘I was just lonely’
Remember — people volunteer for their reasons, not yours.