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National Volunteer Week 2023 (15-21 May) - Saying Thank You!

Australia's invisible workforce: the crucial role of volunteers in supporting our nation

This National Volunteer Week (15-21 May)Volunteering Australia is inviting all Australians to become a Change Maker by volunteering in their community.

Australia has faced an array of challenges over the last few years, from natural disasters to the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. Remaining a constant source of stability through these difficult times, volunteers are now more important than ever.

As the cost-of-living crisis bites, volunteers are vital in supporting our communities and helping those who are struggling in the challenging economic climate. Volunteering takes many forms, from fighting bushfires and supporting healthcare to simply bringing a smile to someone's face.

Volunteers are an integral part of Australian society, and it is estimated that over five million people volunteer through an organisation annually 
[1], while an additional 6.5 million [2] provide informal volunteering support within their community. [3]

A new report from Volunteering Australia featuring the latest volunteering data reveals key insights into the motivations and types of volunteering undertaken in Australia. The most encouraging finding is that, as pandemic restrictions have lifted, over two-thirds (69%) of volunteers are now back in person as change makers in their organisation.

The data also reveals that for almost three-quarters (72%) of volunteers, personal satisfaction, and the desire to do something worthwhile are primary motivations. Helping others and the community is also a significant motivator, with 61% of volunteers indicating this as a driving factor.

Vet Beyond Borders volunteers deployed during the 2020 bushfires & 2021 NSW flood emergencies

CEO of Volunteering Australia, Mark Pearce, explains that whilst the common volunteering motivators are personal satisfaction and helping others in the community, motivations can differ with each sector.

“Volunteering extends across society, including in the arts, education, emergency services, sports, environment, health, aged care and disability, community welfare and other vital community programs. Our new analysis of the latest volunteering data demonstrates that not all motivations and modes of volunteering are the same across sectors,” says Pearce.

“For me, it was my love for animals that led me to volunteer my time and be a part of the Animals Australia board. Additionally, I believe that everyone has a right to education that is tailored to their needs, so I volunteered my time launching The Sycamore School.

“Opening in 2017, the school was the first facility to Queensland to provide specialist support and education to people on the autism spectrum,” says Pearce.

The lockdown experience taught us the necessity of connection to others. In fact, seeking social contact was the most influential motivation to volunteer in emergency services (53%), arts and heritage (49%), and aged care (45%) organisations.

“This year’s National Volunteer Week theme, ‘The Change Makers’, highlights the powerful impact volunteers across all sectors make, supporting individuals, communities, and the nation. The week-long event recognises the millions of volunteers across Australia giving their time and energy to make change in our communities while encouraging others to consider putting their hand up.

To celebrate this week, we spoke to RSPCA Volunteer Mark Seeley, one of these selfless people who give up countless hours to help better the lives of animals across Australia.

What prompted you to volunteer and why did you choose to support RSPCA Australia?

“Initially, I wanted to do some volunteer work because I had just come out of a relationship, no longer played sport, and needed something to occupy my time on the weekends. 

I chose the RSPCA's Animal Care Section and Behaviour Program because I have always had a love for animals and always had dogs growing up. I loved the thought of helping animals find their new homes, so the RSPCA it was!

I have continued to volunteer with the RSPCA for the past 14 years because of my love for all animals, but I also see the dedicated workers at the RSPCA and find the work they do and the love they show for every animal absolutely inspiring. I know I only get to spend a short amount of time with each dog on my shift, but I do know that they appreciate every second they get. I do not volunteer with any other organisations, but did some work along time ago for a bat rescue shelter, which was very interesting.

Did you have any experience with dog or animal training & behaviour prior to volunteering?

“I had no prior dog behaviour training prior to starting at the RSPCA except having my own dog for the first 35 years of my life. Although I have not completed a Certificate as such, the training that I have received from all of the Animal Attendants and Behaviour Specialists over the years have certainly prepared me for most situations that I encounter. 

I have recently started working with the behaviour team at the RSPCA on a Saturday, in addition to my normal Sunday shift, which offers me more of a chance to work one on one with the dogs that require special attention for a variety of reasons.

What was one of your most significant experiences whilst volunteering at the shelter? 

“There have been so many stories over the years but a recent one was a young Blue Heeler that came into the shelter with her sister. One of the dogs was extremely outgoing and engaging and just loved cuddles, pats and anything else you could throw her way and she was adopted very quickly. 

The other dog was extremely timid and fearful. In my role with the behaviour team, I worked with this dog for several weeks, slowly bringing her out of her shell and getting her used to the world and all its noises. I have since managed to talk a friend into adopting her and have had the absolute pleasure of seeing her blossom into a vibrant, inquisitive, loving dog. Although still a little frightened of certain situations/noises, the improvement makes everything I do worthwhile.

There was also another very special dog, who was a very frightened Bulldog whom I worked with for several months. I used to come and see him even when I wasn’t rostered on, because he seemed to love me visiting and I always got a big smile, kiss and cuddle! After one unsuccessful adoption, he was adopted to a loving family, who have since shared photos and stories of how well he is doing and adjusting to his new life

These success stories make it worthwhile and are the reason why I keep coming back.

What have you found has been the most rewarding part of supporting this cause? 

RSPCA Australia Volunteer
Mark Seeley with Dixie
“The most rewarding part of my volunteering is without doubt seeing the animals go home with their (hopefully) fur-ever family. I’m not saying that volunteering is all cuddles and puppies but seeing some dogs that have been in the shelter for months or even possibly years, find their new home, certainly warms your heart and brings a smile to your face. 

I love seeing the dogs come out of their shells. Some of the dogs that come in are so broken and it takes a lot of pats, cuddles, patience and love to bring them out
Seeing these dogs slowly improve, week by week, and seeing them recognise you and get excited to see you makes me want to keep coming back. 

Each shift starts with a lot of noise and arousal and when I leave, the dogs are generally happy, fed, clean and importantly quiet. If they will have me, I will be with the RSPCA until I’m 75! 
“I think working at the RSPCA has made me a more grounded person and certainly makes me feel like I’m making a contribution to help improve society.”

National Volunteer Week (15th – 21st May) is Australia’s largest annual celebration of volunteering. Recognising there is always more work to be done, Volunteering Australia is inviting all Australians to become a Change Maker by volunteering or simply helping increase awareness of the vital role volunteers play in our lives this National Volunteer Week.

“Places to start your volunteering journey include the GoVolunteer website, contacting your State and Territory volunteering peak body or by approaching organisations in your local community.”

For more information, Aussies can visit or head to

About the Research & Citations

1. 5.025 million
2. 6.511 million
4. Volunteering in Australia: Volunteering experiences by sector

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