Small states lead the way in volunteering


Australia's smaller states and territories are enjoying higher rates of volunteering than some of the nation's larger states, according to statistics released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The General Social Survey (GSS) statistics show that higher proportions of people in the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania participated in voluntary work in the last 12 months, compared with people in Queensland and New South Wales. The Northern Territory also had a relatively low volunteering rate.

"The first data release of the 2014 GSS in June showed that the proportion of Australians aged 15 years and over who had volunteered declined between 2010 and 2014," said Lisa Conolly from the ABS.

"But this downwards trend is not as evident in states and territories such as the ACT, SA and Tasmania, with more than one in three people in each of these jurisdictions giving unpaid help through an organisation or group.

"Higher rates of volunteering among older age groups may help to account for the large proportions of people volunteering in SA and Tasmania, the nation's two oldest states. In the ACT, rates of volunteering were high for people aged 35 to 64 years.

"Volunteering rates were also strong for people in higher income groups, with 49 per cent of Tasmanians in the highest household income group volunteering, more than twice the rate for the state's lowest income group. In SA, 42 per cent of people in the highest household income group volunteered, compared with 25 per cent in the lowest income group. The national average for people in the highest household income group was 39 per cent.

"It seems, then, that even though Tasmania and SA tend to have relatively low income levels, they have high proportions of people in the top income groups who are volunteering.

"Students were another group drawn to voluntary work, with 47 per cent of those currently studying in Tasmania volunteering in the last 12 months.

"The GSS statistics also showed that females were more likely to volunteer than males in Queensland, WA and SA. The other states and territories showed no significant differences between the sexes."

In all states and territories, large proportions of people volunteered for sport and physical recreation organisations, including 41 per cent of volunteers in Tasmania and 38 per cent in the NT. Education and training organisations also attracted large number of volunteers across the nation, including 30 per cent of volunteers in the ACT and 27 per cent in WA.

Helping others or the community motivated more than half of volunteers in each state and territory to get involved in volunteering, and personal satisfaction was another driver for most volunteers.

For each state and territory, about one in two volunteers had committed 50 hours or more to voluntary work in the last 12 months.

Further information can be found in General Social Survey, 2014 (cat. no. 4159.0), available for free download from the ABS website

Media note

  • A volunteer is someone who is over the age of 15, and in the previous 12 months, willingly gave unpaid help, in the form of time, service or skills, through an organisation or group.
  • Voluntary work excludes employment or study commitments, for example, work experience, student placements or Community Work under Mutual Obligation in the last 12 months through an organisation.
  • Reported reasons for volunteering are multiple choice, therefore percentages do not add to 100 per cent.
  • When reporting ABS data, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or ABS) must be attributed as the source.
  • Media requests and interviews - contact the ABS Communications Section on 1300 175 070.
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