4441.0 - Voluntary Work, Australia, 2006  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/07/2007   
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Activity details for individuals were collected for up to three organisations. When the unit of analysis is the volunteer's involvement with an organisation rather than the volunteer, the same activity is counted more than once if it is done for more than one organisation. See Type of activity.


The age of persons on their last birthday.


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.

Current reasons for being a volunteer

Current reasons for being a volunteer were recorded for each volunteer. These do not necessarily relate to any specific organisation or reference period.

Dependent child/dependent

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.


A voluntary transfer of funds made to an organisation in the preceding 12 months by a person, on an individual not a business basis. The donor should not have received any benefit in return. Excludes purchases of goods and raffle tickets but includes contributions to door-knocks and sponsoring walkathons etc.

Donor rate

For any group, the donor rate is the number of people in that group who made donations expressed as a percentage of the total population in the same group.

Equivalised gross household income

Gross household income adjusted using an equivalence scale. For a lone person 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 wellbeing as the household in question.For further information, see Appendix 4: Equivalised gross household income quintiles in General Social Survey, Summary Results, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4159.0).

Equivalised gross 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 4: Equivalised gross household income quintiles in General Social Survey, Summary Results, Australia, 2006 (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.

How first became involved in voluntary work

This item relates to the practical means by which the respondent first became involved in voluntary work, as opposed to their motivation. It was only collected for those who first became involved in voluntary work 10 years ago or less.

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.

Length of time since first volunteered

This item refers to the length of time since the respondent first commenced voluntary work of any kind for any organisation, even a one-off activity such as participating in a door-knock.

Main English-speaking countries

Refers to the main countries from which Australia receives, or has received, significant numbers of overseas settlers who are likely to speak English. These countries comprise the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, the United States of America and South Africa.

Median hours of voluntary work

For any group of volunteers, the median hours of voluntary work is the number of hours such that half the volunteers in the group worked less than that number, and half worked more than that number. The median is calculated on the annual hours of voluntary work: where median weekly hours are presented, they are calculated by dividing the median annual hours by 52.

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.

Part 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.

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 summarise 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 2001 Census.

For more information see Information Paper: Census of Population and Housing, 2001- Socio-economic Indexes for Areas, Australia (cat. no. 2039.0)

Type of voluntary work organisation

Each organisation or group for which a volunteer worked, up to a maximum of three organisations, was coded to one of the categories described below. When a volunteer worked for more than three organisations in the preceding 12 months, the type of organisation was collected only for the three organisations for which the volunteer worked the most hours. The volunteer may have worked for more than one organisation of the same type and therefore their volunteering involvements may be counted up to three times in the same type of organisation.

Some categories include multiple descriptions (e.g. Law/justice/political). However, an organisation did not need to fall into all of these descriptions to be coded to the corresponding category. If an organisation fell into more than one category, it was coded according to the primary focus of the organisation.

If the organisation was a subsidiary of a larger body, the organisational group was based on the subsidiary group, not the umbrella organisation. Subsidiary organisations have their own management committee and exist as a separate organisation or entity. For example, a church netball club is a separate entity from the church.

The categories are:

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 coded to '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. Lawrence, 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.

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.

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.

Environmental/animal welfare
Organisations promoting, and providing services in, environmental conservation, pollution control and prevention, environmental education and health and animal protection. Includes international groups such the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace; organisations such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the Australian Conservation Foundation and the National Parks Association, the Wildlife Information and Rescue Service (WIRES), 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'

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.

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/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.

Type of voluntary activity

Activities performed in the preceding 12 months were collected for each organisation for which a volunteer worked, up to a maximum of three organisations. Volunteers may have performed multiple activities for each organisation. When a volunteer worked for more than three organisations in the preceding 12 months, activity information was only collected for the three organisations for which the volunteer worked the most hours.

The categories are:

Administration/clerical work/recruitment
Office work, typing and word processing, answering phones, filing, basic bookkeeping. Includes conducting campaigns for recruiting volunteers. Recruiting volunteers for a fundraising program was coded under this category rather than fundraising.

Befriending/supportive listening/counselling/mentoring
Includes providing companionship, staffing help lines and participating in mentoring schemes, e.g. for young people or for mothers in disadvantaged circumstances.

Includes training sports teams, adjudicating competitions for agricultural or wine shows, public speaking contests, umpiring sporting contests.

Includes a range of activities directed predominantly towards assisting organisations to raise money for their own programs or for those of another organisation. Examples include: door-knocking, selling buttons on button day, making or selling items on a stall or in a charity shop.

Management/committee work
Participation in management committees and functions, which involves making decisions about the direction and operation of an organisation. Examples include: sitting on a board, being an office bearer, being a member of the management board of a community welfare organisation, treasurer for the local church, managing a service or program, program planning.

Performing/media production
Includes performing, public radio and television, producing films and videos/DVDs, newsletters, pamphlets and other printed material and equivalent material produced on the Internet.

Personal care/assistance
Includes a wide range of activities such as: supervising or providing help with showering/bathing, dressing, eating, using the toilet and health care activities such as helping to administer medication, or dressing wounds.

Preparing/serving food
Includes food and drink preparation, serving meals and cleaning up. Examples are assisting in school tuckshops, helping with meals at children's camps, community sausage sizzles and reheating and serving frozen meals provided to frail aged people.

Includes a wide range of activities such as: repairing household appliances, painting, making furnishings, checking the state of repair of the dwelling, providing help with lawns, clearing up grounds, rubbish removal, cleaning out garages, gutters.

Teaching/instruction/providing information
Includes classroom assistance given by people other than qualified teachers, e.g. parents. Tour guides in museums and art galleries are included here, and work done by volunteers in local tourist and community information centres.

Transporting people/goods
Examples are taking people with injuries to medical appointments or rehabilitation centres, providing transport for school excursions, delivering food or household equipment to people in need, and transporting sport equipment for club activities.

Activities not classified elsewhere. In some tables and graphs, some of the above activities 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.

Examples of groups shown to respondents when they were being questioned about their involvement in voluntary work were: an organised sporting group/team; a youth group, such as guides, scouts, a choir; a charity organisation or cause; student government; a religious organisation, school or preschool; or some other kind of volunteer work. Organisations, groups or associations were classified from their names to the types of organisations previously described in this glossary.


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.