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4172.0 - Arts and Culture in Australia: A Statistical Overview, 2008 (First Edition)  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/05/2008   
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FEATURE ARTICLE 3: CULTURAL ENCOUNTERS - AUSTRALIA'S ARTS AND HERITAGE VOLUNTEERS


ON THIS PAGE

Introduction

What is a volunteer?

What is a cultural volunteer?

How many Australians volunteer?

Why do Australians volunteer?

What issues impact on volunteers?

Characteristics of cultural volunteers
Sex
Age
Area of residence
Employment status
Educational attainment
Family composition
Attendance at cultural venues and events

Summary

Glossary

References


INTRODUCTION

The Universal Declaration on Volunteering, adopted by The International Association for Volunteer Effort in 2001, recognises volunteering to be 'a fundamental building block of civil society', enabling volunteers to acquire new skills, promote the rights, dignity and culture of others, whilst promoting family and community solidarity (www.volunteeringaustralia.org). The ABS recognises volunteering as an aspect of social capital (Information Paper: Measuring Social Capital: An Australian Framework and Indicators, cat. no. 1378.0) and as such is an increasingly diverse and evolving vehicle for community engagement.

Volunteers continue to make a significant contribution to cultural industries, for example there were over 20,000 volunteers contributing to the Museums industry in June 2004 (Museums, Australia, 2003-04, cat. no. 8560.0), 6,853 volunteers contributing to Public libraries within the same period (Public Libraries, Australia, 2003-04, cat. no. 8561.0), and 2,548 volunteers contributing to Music and Theatre production during the month of June 2003 (Performing Arts, Australia, 2002-03, cat. no. 8697.0).

This article examines the motivation and characteristics of Australia's volunteers with a specific focus upon those engaged within Arts and Heritage organisations, referred to here as 'cultural volunteers'. The data have been collected from the 2006 ABS General Social Survey (GSS), which collected information about volunteers aged 18 years and over, including their demographic characteristics and reasons for volunteering.

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WHAT IS A VOLUNTEER?

For the purposes of this article, the ABS definition of a volunteer is used. That is, a volunteer is a person who willingly gave unpaid help, in the form of time, service or skills, to or through a given organisation or group.

There are other definitions of volunteers available. For example, Volunteering Australia (www.volunteeringaustralia.org) defines the act of volunteering as an activity which takes place through not for profit organisations or projects and is undertaken:

  • to be of benefit to the community and the volunteer
  • of the volunteer's own free will and without coercion
  • for no financial payment and
  • in designated volunteer positions only.

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WHAT IS A CULTURAL VOLUNTEER?

For the purposes of this article, a cultural volunteer is someone who reported undertaking voluntary work for an Arts and Heritage organisation. Arts and Heritage organisations include performing arts groups, libraries, museums and galleries and festivals. Heritage organisations also include zoos and botanical gardens.

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HOW MANY AUSTRALIANS VOLUNTEER?

In the twelve months prior to interview in 2006, 34% of Australians aged 18 years and over, or 5.2 million people, gave their time to support an organisation in a volunteering capacity, providing community support across a wide range of organisations. Those organisations categorised under 'Sport and Physical Recreation', 'Education and Training', 'Community and Welfare' and 'Religious' had the largest number of volunteers, each exceeding 1 million volunteers.

In 2006, almost two-thirds of volunteers (62%) worked for one organisation only, 25% for two, 8% for three and 4% for more than three organisations. The work a volunteer does for each particular organisation is referred to as a volunteering involvement. During 2006 there were 7.8 million involvements contributed by 5.2 million volunteers.

There was no significant change between the previous GSS 2002 and the GSS 2006 in the numbers of people who gave their time in a volunteering capacity.

In 2006, 1.4% of the population aged 18 years and over, or 207,200 people, volunteered their time within an Arts and Heritage organisation, providing over 30.6 million hours of voluntary work. Around 48% of cultural volunteers undertook voluntary work at least once a week, compared to 40% of the total volunteer population.

Volunteer rate, By type of organisation - 2006
Graph: Volunteer rate, By type of organisation—2006


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WHY DO AUSTRALIANS VOLUNTEER?

According to the GSS, in the twelve months prior to interview in 2006, 84% of cultural volunteering involvements took place within not-for-profit organisations, consistent with total volunteering involvements (84%). Over one-half of these cultural volunteering involvements (56%) took place within organisations fully staffed by volunteers, compared to 44% of total volunteer involvements.

In 2006, around three-fifths of cultural volunteers reported personal satisfaction (60%) and the desire to help others and the community (61%) as the main reasons for undertaking voluntary work, compared to 44% and 57% of total volunteers respectively. The desire to undertake something worthwhile (43%) was also commonly reported by cultural volunteers.

Volunteers, By reasons for volunteering - 2006
Graph: Volunteers, By reasons for volunteering—2006


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WHAT ISSUES IMPACT ON VOLUNTEERS?

In the 2006 GSS, three-quarters (75%) of volunteers engaged within Arts and Heritage organisations incurred expenses associated with their voluntary work (if they also volunteered for a non-cultural organisation, this expense may have been for that organisation), compared to 58% of the total volunteer population. Of those cultural volunteers who incurred expenses, travel costs (83%) and phone calls (75%) were the expenses most commonly reported.

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CHARACTERISTICS OF CULTURAL VOLUNTEERS

Characteristics of cultural volunteers are discussed below. It is important to remember when making comparisons that cultural volunteers may also be volunteers for other non-cultural organisations. That is, the organisation types are not mutually exclusive.

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Sex

In 2006, almost two-thirds (63%) of volunteers working within Arts and Heritage organisations were female, compared to 54% of the total volunteer population. Only Sports and Physical Recreation organisations and Emergency Services organisations had more male than female volunteers.

Percentage distribution of volunteers, By sex - 2006
Graph: Percentage distribution of volunteers, By sex—2006


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Age

In 2006, Australians aged 55-64 years were significantly more likely to volunteer within an Arts and Heritage organisation than all other age groups apart from 35-44 years. Around 24% of cultural volunteers were aged between 55-64 years of age, with 23% aged between 35-44 years of age.

The median age of volunteers for Arts and Heritage organisations was 49 years, compared to the national average age of volunteers of 44 years.

Percentage distribution of volunteers, By age - 2006
Graph: Percentage distribution of volunteers, By age—2006


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Area of residence

Overall, people living within capital city statistical divisions were significantly less likely to undertake voluntary work (32%) than people living elsewhere (38%).

Similarly for cultural volunteers, the participation rate for those living in capital city statistical divisions (1.3%) was significantly lower than those living in other areas (1.5%).

The highest participation rates for cultural volunteers were recorded within the Australian Capital Territory (2.6%), Tasmania (2.5%) and South Australia (2.2%). Queensland recorded the lowest participation rate for cultural volunteers (0.9%).

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Employment status

Nationally, 70% of total volunteers were employed while 27% of volunteers were not in the labour force. Around 65% of volunteers within Arts and Heritage organisations were employed while 32% were not in the labour force. Some 60% of the employed cultural volunteers were working full-time, compared to 66% of the total employed volunteer population.

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Educational attainment

In 2006, 37% of cultural volunteers had attained a Bachelor degree, graduate diploma, graduate certificate or above as their highest non-school qualification, compared to 27% of the total volunteer population.

Percentage distribution of volunteers, By highest non-school qualification - 2006
Graph: Percentage distribution of volunteers, By highest non-school qualification—2006


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Family composition

In 2006, 42% of the total volunteer population belonged to a Couple family with dependent children, while 28% belonged to a Couple family with no children. In comparison, 29% and 35% of cultural volunteers belonged to these family types respectively.

Percentage distribution of volunteers, By family composition - 2006
Graph: Percentage distribution of volunteers, By family composition—2006


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Attendance at cultural venues and events

In the twelve months before interview in 2006, 96% of both total and cultural volunteers had attended a selected cultural venue or event.

Whilst Cinemas (77%) and Libraries (63%) had the highest attendance rates for cultural volunteers, they also commonly attended Museums (62%), Popular music concerts (57%) and Art galleries (56%). Conversely, total volunteer attendance rates at both Museums and Art galleries were below two fifths of the population (38%).

Percentage distribution of volunteers, Attendance at selected cultural venues and events - 2006
Graph: Percentage distribution of volunteers, Attendance at selected cultural venues and events—2006


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SUMMARY

The following are the characteristics common to the 207,200 volunteers involved in cultural organisations:
  • older on average than total volunteers (average age of 49 years versus 44 years);
  • female (63%);
  • living outside of capital city statistical divisions (38%);
  • more highly educated (37% of cultural volunteers had attained a Bachelor degree, graduate diploma, graduate certificate or above);
  • cultural attendees (more likely to attend Museums (62%) and Art galleries (56%) than total volunteers (38% for both Museums and Art galleries).

For more information on volunteering within Australia please see the following ABS publications:

Voluntary Work, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4441.0)

Arts and Culture in Australia: A Statistical Overview (cat. no. 4172.0)

or the Volunteering Australia website www.volunteeringaustralia.org

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GLOSSARY

Volunteer

A volunteer is someone who willingly gave unpaid help, in the form of time, service or skills, to or through an organisation or group. The reference period was the 12 months prior to the survey. Voluntary work done overseas is out of scope for this survey. The reimbursement of expenses in full or part (e.g. token payments) or small gifts (e.g. sports club T-shirts or caps) was not regarded as payment of salary, and people who received these were still included as voluntary workers. However, people who received payment in kind for the work they did (e.g. receiving farm produce as payment for work done on a farm, rather than cash) were not included as volunteers.

For the 2006 voluntary work collection, in consultation with the peak body for volunteer organisations, the 'willingly undertaken' part of the definition was refined by the exclusion of an involvement with an organisation that, while recognised as unpaid community work, was not strictly voluntary or would not normally be seen as voluntary work: the Work for the Dole Program or Community Work under Mutual Obligation; work experience/part of an unpaid work trial; work under a Community Service Order; a student placement; or emergency work during an industrial dispute.

Volunteer involvement

For each volunteer, work for a particular organisation. A volunteer could have a number of organisational involvements: a set of information was collected for up to three of these.

Volunteer rate

For any group, the number of volunteers in that group expressed as a percentage of total population in that group.

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REFERENCES

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2007, General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2006, cat. no. 4159.0, ABS, Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2004, Information Paper: Measuring Social capital: An Australian Framework and Indicators, cat. no. 1378.0, ABS, Canberra.

Volunteering Australia, Definitions and Principles of Volunteering, www.volunteeringaustralia.org/files/AOAL2F8K3S/VA%20Definitions%20and%20Principles%20June%202005.pdf

Volunteering Australia, Universal Declaration on Volunteering, www.volunteeringaustralia.org/files/W1SB4NDLFF/Universal%20Declaration%20on%20Volunteering.pdf

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