The simplest way to describe volunteering is 'an activity where people freely give their time and energy to benefit another individual, group or community'.
It's a way for people to become involved in their community that is interesting, satisfying and fun. It can be formal or informal, full-time or part-time, occasional or even once-off. However it happens volunteers are the life blood of communities across Victoria.
Healthier people in healthier communities
Volunteering has significant benefits for both the individual and the community as a whole. It can bring immense personal satisfaction for the volunteer as well as making communities more active, confident and resilient.
Victorian communities can grow in depth and strength through the efforts of volunteers and volunteering organisations. Communities build stronger and more lasting ties, and activities can have continued and long-term effects. These outcomes can be at a practical level such as a revegetation project or at a more emotional level through a renewed sense of community spirit.
Research shows that people who volunteer report better physical and mental health as well as improved employment opportunities. Volunteering allows people to learn new skills, meet people and create networks, as well as providing a sense of belonging through team work and getting involved in the local community.
What volunteers do
Some of the areas in which volunteers play a central role include:
- Fire fighting, lifesaving, and emergency response
- Health, welfare and care services, and associated support systems
- Pre-school and school education, mentoring, adult education and lifelong learning
- Arts, heritage and tourism
- Community justice, corrections and juvenile justice, courts and tribunals
- Sport and recreation
- Conservation, environment and animal welfare
- Community governance and local government
In some communities, support for extended families, neighbourhood groups or social networks is seen as an intrinsic part of belonging to that community. For these communities volunteering is not viewed as a separate or unique activity.