Easing the toll of being a voll

Community groups hope a new state government media campaign may be the solution to declining volunteer numbers.

The VOL_NTEER We need U initiative will run between March and June this year with a particular focus on attracting young people to the volunteering sector following COVID-19.

Curtin University student Mikaela Zuiderduyn volunteers 20 hours a week as the marketing manager for Teach Learn Grow.

She says there has been a noticeable decline in people taking up volunteer opportunities over the past few years.

Mikaela Zuiderduyn hopes more young people will consider volunteering. Photo: Orla Latawski.

“Volunteering is just not a priority for people so when you put something like COVID in the way, it kind of gets put on the back foot and the backburner until it’s just easy to do again,” she says.

“Instead of working towards our goal, [the focus is] getting more people into it, because we just don’t have the same numbers.”

Mikaela Zuiderduyn volunteers 20 hours a week as the marketing manager for Teach Learn Grow. Photo: Orla Latawski.

Zuiderduyn says the rising cost of living has forced young people to re-evaluate the time they have available to volunteer.

“If you’re out of home, and you have to pay rent, and you only have 30 hours a week, you’re not going to do those 30 hours volunteering,” she says.

“For organisations, it’s proving to your volunteers that you’re worth their free time, and that they can make something out of it.”

According to the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, volunteering brings a combined economic, social and cultural value of more than $39 billion to Western Australia.

It is estimated almost one third of Australians aged 15 years and above are engaged in volunteering, but this number continues to decline.

Vinnies has more than 300,000 volunteers including those who help out at their op shops across the country. Photo: Orla Latawski.

Vinnies volunteer Ann Bull has been helping her local op shop for the past three years, and hopes more people will consider lending their time.

“It’s very hard because for some unknown reason, people don’t want to do it,” she says.

“I like working here and I always will do as long as I can.”

Ann Bull, Vinnies op shop volunteer

Vinnies has more than 3,000 volunteers who collectively worked 786,333 hours in the 2022 financial year.

Vinnies op shops across WA depend on volunteers Like Ann Bull. Photo: Orla Latawski.

Bull says a larger volunteer base would ease the workload of those currently involved.

“I’d like to see a lot more volunteers because, you know, as I say, the more the merrier,” she says.

Victoria Park Centre for the Arts has a core group of volunteers who assist with everything from garden maintenance to managing the gift shop.

Volunteers at Victoria Park Centre for the Arts assist in running workshops for the community. Photo: Orla Latawski.

However KYC Coordinator for Community Programs Siobhan O’Gara says it has been difficult to attract volunteers for some roles.

“We don’t open the centre at weekends, but if we had volunteers who [were] willing to attend, it would be good,” she says.

“People have so many different demands on their time that it’s hard to give up any time to volunteering.”

Victoria Park Centre for the Arts finds it difficult to attract volunteers for weekend shifts. Photo: Orla Latawski.

Mikaela Zuiderduyn says she understands how busy life can get but hopes more people will prioritise volunteering.

“I’ve made some of the best mates I’ve ever met in my life, they’re now my best friends and this community is just these awesome, high achieving, like-minded people.”

“It’s my responsibility to use my privilege to help those less fortunate than me.”

“If I’ve got the time to sit on my phone every afternoon then I’ve got the time to do something for someone else,” she says.

Mikaela Zuiderduyn, Curtin University student.