4441.0 - Voluntary Work, Australia, 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 01/12/2011   
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The age of persons on their last birthday.

Balance of state

'Capital city' refers to the capital city statistical division in each state and the Northern Territory, and all of the Australian Capital Territory. The balance of the state forms the second category. In the Northern Territory, for this survey, the balance of territory refers mainly to urban areas.


When considered in terms of family relationship and family composition coding, a child is defined as a person of any age who is natural, adopted, step or foster son or daughter of a couple or lone parent, usually resident in the same household, and who does not have a child or partner of his/her own usually resident in the same household.


Two people in a registered or de-facto marriage, who usually live in the same household.

Dependent child/Dependant

All persons aged under 15 years, and people aged 15-24 years who are full-time students, have a parent in the household and do not have a partner or child of their own in the household.

Disability or long-term health condition

A disability or long-term health condition exists if a limitation, restriction, impairment, disease or disorder, had lasted, or was likely to last for at least six months, and which restricted everyday activities.

It is classified by whether or not a person has a specific limitation or restriction. Specific limitation or restriction is further classified by whether the limitation or restriction is a limitation in core activities or a schooling/employment restriction only.

There are four levels of core activity limitation (profound, severe, moderate, and mild) which are based on whether a person needs help, has difficulty, or uses aids or equipment with any of the core activities (self care, mobility or communication). A person's overall level of core activity limitation is determined by their highest level of limitation in these activities.

The four levels are:

  • profound - always needs help/supervision with core activities
  • severe - does not always need help with core activities
  • moderate - has difficulty with core activities
  • mild - uses aids to assist with core activities.

Persons are classified as having only a schooling/employment restriction if they have no core activity limitation and are aged 18 to 20 years and have difficulties with education, or are less than 65 years and have difficulties with employment.

Equivalised gross weekly household income

Gross household income adjusted using an equivalence scale. For a lone person household it is equal to gross household income. For a household comprising more than one person, it is an indicator of the gross household income that would need to be received by a lone person household to enjoy the same level of economic well-being as the household in question. For further information, see Appendix 2 in General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2010 (cat. no. 4159.0).

Equivalised gross weekly household income quintiles

These are groupings of 20% of the total population when ranked in ascending order according to equivalised gross household income. The population used for this purpose includes all persons living in private dwellings including children and other persons under the age of 18 years. As the scope of this publication is restricted to only those persons aged 18 years and over, the distribution of this smaller population across the quintiles is not necessarily the same as it is for persons of all ages, i.e. the percentage of persons aged 18 years and over in each of these quintiles may be larger or smaller than 20%. For further information, see Appendix 2 in General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2010 (cat. no. 4159.0).


Volunteers were asked for any expenses related to their voluntary work in the last 12 months. They were also asked whether reimbursement was available for expenses they had, irrespective of whether the volunteer chose to accept this reimbursement or not. Reimbursement could be either full or partial.


Two or more persons, one of whom is at least 15 years of age, who are related by blood, marriage (registered or de facto), adoption, step or fostering, and who are usually resident in the same household. The basis of a family is formed by identifying the presence of a couple relationship, lone parent-child relationship or other blood relationship. Some households will, therefore, contain more than one family.

Labour force status

Refers to the situation of respondents in relation to the labour force at the time of the survey. Categories are:
  • employed - had a job or business, or undertook work without pay in a family business, in the week prior to the survey, including being absent from a job that they had:
      • full-time - persons who usually work 35 or more hours a week;
      • part-time - persons who usually work at least one hour, but less than 35 hours a week;
  • unemployed - not employed, but has been actively seeking employment in the previous four weeks, and, if had found a job, would have been available to start work in the previous week;
  • not in the labour force:
      • retired from work - persons aged 45 years or over who were no longer working and did not intend to work in the future;
      • other - other persons who were neither employed nor unemployed; such persons may have never worked and never intend to work, be persons keeping house (unpaid), voluntarily inactive or permanently unable to work.

Main source of household income

The source of income from which the most positive income for the household is received. If total income is nil or negative the main source is undefined. The household's main source of income comes from:
  • employee income - cash income received as an employee, i.e person who works for a public or private employer and receives remuneration in wages or salary, or is paid a retainer fee by his/her employer and works on a commission basis, or works for an employer for tips, piece rates of payment in kind; or, is a person who operates his or her own incorporated enterprise with or without hiring employees
  • unincorporated business income - the profit or loss from own unincorporated enterprise in the previous financial year. Profit or loss consists of the value of the gross ouput of the enterprise after the deduction of operating expenses (including depreciation). Losses occur when operating expenses are greater than gross receipts and are treated as negative income
  • government cash pensions and allowances - regular payments from government to persons under social security and related government programs. Included are pensions and allowances received by aged, disabled, unemployed and sick persons, families and children, veterans or their survivors, and study allowances for students
  • other sources of household income - income received from sources such as superannuation and annuity funds, property, interest or dividends, child support, and workers' compensation.

Non-dependent child/ren

All persons aged 15 years or over (except those aged 15-24 years who are full-time students) who have a parent in the household and do not have a partner or child of their own in the household.

Non-school qualifications

Non-school qualifications are awarded for educational attainments other than those of pre-primary, primary or secondary education. They include qualifications at the Post graduate degree level, Master degree level, Graduate diploma and Graduate certificate level, Bachelor degree level, Advanced diploma and Diploma level, and Certificates I, II, III and IV levels. Non-school qualifications may be attained concurrently with school qualifications.


An occupation is a collection of jobs that are sufficiently similar in their title and tasks, skill level and skill specialisation which are grouped together for the purposes of classification. In this domain, occupation is classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), 2006 (cat. no. 1220.0).

Organisation or group

An organisation or group is any body with a formal structure. It may be as large as a national charity or as small as a local book club. Purely ad hoc, informal and temporary gatherings of people do not constitute an organisation.

Overall life satisfaction

Overall life statisfaction is a summary measure of subjective well-being against a scale ranging from delighted to terrible. It measures a person's perceived level of life satisfaction in general and doesn't take into account specific illnesses or problems the person may have.

Remoteness areas

Broad geographical regions which share common characteristics of remoteness based on the Remoteness Structure of the ABS's Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC). In this publication unless otherwise indicated the categories Major Cities of Australia and Inner Regional Australia from the Remoteness Structure are presented along with a residual category labelled Other Areas. As the GSS did not cover very remote areas of Australia, 'Other areas' encompasses most of Outer Regional Australia, part of Remote Australia and only a small proportion of Very Remote Australia.

Socio-economic status of area

Determined by using the Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage, which is one of the five Socio-economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) compiled by the ABS following each population census. Each of the indexes summarises different aspects of the socio-economic status of the people living in those areas; the Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage includes attributes such as low income, low educational attainment, high unemployment and jobs in relatively unskilled occupations. The index refers to population of the area (the Census Collector's District) in which a person lives, not to the socio-economic situation of the particular individual. The index used in this publication was compiled following the 2006 Census. For more information see Information Paper: Census of Population and Housing, 2006 - Socio-economic Indexes for Areas, Australia (cat. no. 2039.0).

Self assessed health status

The selected person's general assessment of their own health, against a five point scale from excellent through to poor.


To ascertain people's feelings of trust in others, and in some major institutions, they were asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the following statements, giving a rating on a 5-point scale:
  • That most people can be trusted?
  • That your doctor can be trusted?
  • That hospitals can be trusted?
  • That police in your local area can be trusted?
  • That police outside your local area can be trusted?

The response categories in the five point scale were: 'strongly agree', 'somewhat agree', 'neither agree nor disagree', 'somewhat disagree' and 'strongly disagree'.

The phrase 'most people' is based on the respondent's interpretation - there is no specific definition. The idea is whether people can go about their affairs confidently, expecting that others will generally deal with them and act in the way normally expected in our society.

Type of voluntary work organisation

Each organisation or group for which a volunteer worked. Volunteers were asked to identify which category their organisation should fall into. They may have worked for different types of organisations. Some categories of organisation include multiple descriptions (e.g. Law/justice/political). However, an organisation did not need to fall into all of these descriptions to be included in the corresponding category. If an organisation fell into more than one category, respondents were asked for the primary focus of the organisation.

The categories are:

Animal welfare

Organisations promoting and providing services in animal protection. Includes organisations such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and the Wildlife Information and Rescue Service (WIRES).


Involvement in the arts component refers to the production of the arts in a way that provides a service for others, as distinct from small hobby and interest groups associated with craft, art and literature. These were included under 'Other recreation interest', as they are primarily for the enjoyment/consumption of members and not for providing a service to others. Examples of arts/heritage organisations include performing arts groups, public radio and television, libraries, museums and galleries, historical associations, festivals. Also included as heritage organisations are zoos and botanical gardens.


Organisations promoting, regulating and safeguarding business, professional and labour interests, including industry standards.


Organisations and institutions providing human and social services to the general community and specific target population groups. Included are organisations whose work is for the wider social benefit of the general community without the provision of direct services, such as Apex and Rotary. Other organisations included cover those giving material assistance, personal care and advice, such as Lifeline, the Smith Family, Brotherhood of St Laurence, Legacy, Royal Blind Societies, Wesley Mission, Meals on Wheels. Further examples include ethnic welfare groups, marriage guidance, information and referral services, community transport, community centres, accommodation referral and advice, homes and shelters. Nursing homes and child care centres are included in this category.

Education and training

Organisations and activities administering, providing, promoting, conducting, supporting and servicing education and training. Examples include preschools and preschool committees, schools, school boards, parent/community school support organisations, technical colleges and universities, and student representative councils.

Parenting, children and youth

Organisations and activities administering, providing, promoting, conducting, supporting and servicing effective parenting and child and youth development. Included are parent training and mutual support and development groups; play groups; scouts, guides and similar organisations; Police Citizens Youth clubs; Outward Bound, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and other such organised programs. Youth groups with specific interests are categorised to other appropriate categories, for example youth choirs, dancing performance groups and circuses to Arts/heritage, and youth sports groups to Sport and physical recreation.

Emergency services

Refers to those emergency services involved in protection against fire and flood, search and rescue and disaster relief (not including emergency medical services). While emergency rescue may involve medical attention the overall aim is search and rescue. Similarly, while disaster relief can include a range of services (material assistance, accommodation, counselling), the broad focus of the organisation is disaster relief. Included are Red Cross Disaster Recovery Services and Salvation Army Disaster Services. First aid is included under health, not emergency services.


Organisations promoting, and providing services in, environmental conservation, pollution control and prevention, and environmental education and health. Includes international groups such as Greenpeace; organisations such as the Australian Conservation Foundation and Landcare and riparian management groups. Also included are organised activity campaigns, such as tree planting and Clean Up Australia Day.

International aid/development

This refers to the focus of the organisation's activity rather than its origins. Such an organisation promotes greater inter-cultural understanding between people of different countries and historical backgrounds, may provide relief during emergencies, or promote development and welfare abroad e.g. exchange/friendship/cultural programs, development assistance associations, international disaster and relief organisations. Ethnic and Ethnic/Australian friendship clubs are included in social and leisure clubs. International human rights and peace organisations are classified to 'Law/justice/political.' This category has been included in 'Other' in this publication.


Organisations engaged in health related activities providing health care, both general and specialised services, medical research foundations and emergency health services, administration of health care services and health support services. Examples include specific health conditions support groups, hospitals and nursing homes, regional health services, Alcoholics Anonymous, eating disorder groups, Family Planning Associations, Royal Flying Doctor Services.


Organisations and groups that work to protect and promote human, civil and other rights, or advocate the social and political interests of general or special constituencies, offer legal services and promote public safety (related to the law rather than emergency services). For example, Amnesty International; Australian Consumers Association; the Civil Justice Research Centre; peak organisations and lobby groups such as Councils of Social Service, the peak disability group ACROD and the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia; legal aid organisations; political parties. This category has been included in 'Other' in this publication.


Organisations promoting religious beliefs as their primary focus, administering religious services and rituals. Includes churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, shrines, seminaries, monasteries and religious institutions, as well as smaller groups such as groups for prayer, scripture study and exploring spirituality or theology.

Sport and physical recreation

Organisations in both general and specialised fields of sport and physical recreation, such as football, cricket, swimming, orienteering, gliding and motor racing clubs; sports clubs and facilities; indoor and outdoor sport and physical recreational facilities; racing and related sports.

Other recreation/interest

Social and leisure clubs, including licensed clubs and gambling groups; recreational parks and gardens; theme and amusement parks. Included are hobby and general interest groups such as bird watchers' groups, book clubs, embroiderers' guilds, gardening clubs, car clubs etc. Ethnic and Ethnic/Australian friendship clubs are included in this category. Groups providing education that does not lead to formal accreditation are also included here, such as public speaking groups, science clubs of various kinds, historical and archeological tour groups and adult education courses, including University of the Third Age (U3A).


Organisations not elsewhere classified. In some tables and graphs, some of the above organisational groups may also have been included in this category due to small numbers of responses. This is indicated by a footnote.

Voluntary work

The provision of unpaid help willingly undertaken in the form of time, service or skills, to an organisation or group, excluding work done overseas.

Some forms of unpaid work, such as student placements or work under a Community Service Order, that were not strictly voluntary have been excluded.


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. From the 2006 General Social Survey, 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 rate

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