Volunteers are people who freely choose to give their time to organisations or groups in the community for no monetary reward (ABS 2011b). The activities they undertake can include assisting an organisation to run more smoothly (e.g. performing administration and fundraising tasks) and providing information and advice (including counselling, teaching and coaching), as well as providing practical assistance to other people, such as serving food and helping with gardening and transportation. Sport benefits significantly from the input of volunteers, with sporting organisations relying heavily on volunteers to provide services for their members. According to New South Wales Sport and Recreation (2008), sport volunteers are the key to the success and long term sustainability of sporting clubs, sport organisations and sport events. It also recognises that without this contribution, many sport organisations or individual clubs could not continue to function.
Voluntary work helps to develop and reinforce social networks and cohesion within communities (Western Australia Department of Sport and Recreation 2011). Volunteering has also been seen to be particularly important in regional areas as it provides and sustains community interaction (Kemp 2006).
The ABS (2011a) 2010 General Social Survey (GSS) collected a range of information relevant to volunteers and sport. Information about the number of volunteers, their characteristics and motives for volunteering were collected together with a range of other information relating to community involvement, as well as involvement in sport and physical recreation.
A volunteer in the 2010 GSS was defined as someone who, in the previous 12 months, willingly gave unpaid help in the form of time, service or skills, through an organisation or group. Individuals who provided unpaid labour as part of work experience, study or mutual obligation were excluded. A detailed analysis of the characteristics of volunteers in sport and physical recreation is published in ABS (2012d) Volunteers in Sport, Australia, 2010 (cat. no. 4440.0.55.001).
People who volunteer may be involved with more than one organisation and more than one type of organisation. The data from the 2010 GSS provided detailed analysis of the characteristics of those who:
- volunteer for sport only, which includes sport and physical recreation organisation(s)
- volunteer for total sport, which includes sport and physical recreation and other types of organisation(s)
- volunteer for other types of organisation(s) only.
This chapter presents data from the 2010 GSS and describes the characteristics of volunteers in sport and physical recreation. These characteristics include sex, age, family and household type, and labour force status.