Everything you need to know

Welcome - you have just taken the first step in an exciting journey!

Volunteering overseas is an experience that will change you and those around you. It will be challenging, exhilarating, frustrating and immensely rewarding.

The information below and the related resources are provided as a means of preparing you for what lies ahead. This is not an exhaustive resource; you will keep learning as you progress. 

If you’re not ready just yet, there are many other ways of getting involved, such as signing up to our mailing list to stay informed.

Everything you need to know:

1. Early stages
2. Ready to apply
3. While you're on assignment
4. Advice from recently returned Australian volunteers


Early stages 

This section is intended to introduce you to some of the initial considerations before applying for an Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) assignment. We use the term assignment when referring to a position or role.

Who can apply?

The AVID program accepts applications from Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents and New Zealand citizens resident in Australia, aged 18 and over. 

Can I choose where I go?

Assignments in the AVID program are developed at the request of host organisations. This means you will be applying for a particular position with a particular organisation in a particular country, so the application process is much like applying for a regular job. 

How long do I go for? 

AVID assignments are usually 12 to 18 months in duration. This allows for relationships to be developed, skills passed on to the community and exit plans implemented. However, we also receive requests for shorter assignments. 

How are assignments developed?

All assignments have been requested by host organisations. They tell us what skills they need to develop their capacity and strengthen their work. We recruit people with the right mix of skills and experience to work with them. Most assignments require a professional qualification and relevant work experience as volunteers are expected to pass on skills to their colleagues, and to work in advisory and training roles. An assignment will be re-advertised if the applicants are unable to demonstrate a satisfactory match to the requirements.

Can I take my partner or children?

The AVID program accepts applications seeking support for accompanying dependants (partners and/or children), with some limitations based on security, visa, cultural and program support issues. These are usually listed in the assignment description. We encourage you to disclose and discuss your family circumstances if you are considering applying to have your partner or family accompany you. 

Twenty-five per cent of combined living and accommodation allowance (see table below) is available per dependant. Dependants must accompany the volunteer for the duration of the assignment. Assignments must be for a minimum of 12 months.

Download the fact sheets:

What is provided?

The Australian Government supports participants by providing funding for return airfares, visas, medical insurance, modest living allowances and accommodation. You will also participate in a comprehensive briefing before you depart and an orientation program when you arrive in country. In addition, AVI provides in-country support through its network of international offices.

The living allowance

The living allowance will enable you to live a modest local lifestyle. Payment will be made on a monthly basis in Australian dollars and into an Australian bank account. This allowance takes into account food, your daily commute, communication and other local costs. At the same time, it will not enable you to save money or meet financial commitments at home, such as a mortgage or a personal loan. We set living allowances based on the cost of living in a particular country (see table below).


Accommodation will either be provided by the host organisation or you will be provided with an accommodation allowance to cover rental of secure but modest housing. With an allowance you will be able to seek housing that best matches your own needs and the budget available. In some locations, the high cost of rental housing may mean that volunteers will share accommodation, so that they are able to afford the appropriate level of security. 

Other financial support

If your assignment is seven months or longer in duration, you will receive a settling-in allowance of AU$1000 and a resettlement allowance of AU$1200. These allowances are designed to contribute towards the cost of passports, excess baggage, initial food, household items and any other costs incurred during departure. The settling in allowance is paid prior to departure by direct transfer to your Australian bank account.

The resettlement allowance is designed to offset some of the costs of excess baggage, departure tax and en route and resettlement expenses. This allowance is paid on completion of an assignment. 





Total Amount

Federated States of Micronesia








Indonesia (Jakarta, Bali)




Indonesia (rest of)




Marshall Islands




Myanmar (Burma)




Papua New Guinea (Port Moresby)




Papua New Guinea (rest of)




Solomon Islands




South Africa








Thailand (Thai/Myanmar border)








 *figures quoted are paid monthly and are correct as at October 2015

Safety and security

There are security issues of some kind in every country. We monitor security very closely at all times through official and local contacts and are experienced at responding rapidly to situations if they change. We also work with you to develop your own security plan. You will be provided with an in-country emergency contact that will be available at all hours. We will work with you to develop a crisis management plan and organise evacuation if necessary.

Understanding the culture, observing local social behaviours, establishing friendships and seeking advice from the local community will improve your everyday personal security, as will being sensitive and sensible. 

We also encourage volunteers to register with the closest Australian Embassy or Consulate once in country. To sign up to receive the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) travel warning advisories for your country of destination, visit:

Embassy and Consulate -
DFAT Travel Advisory -  

Language training 

In some countries formal language training is provided as part of the in-country orientation. Volunteers often start language training prior to taking up their assignments, as even speaking a little of the local language can greatly increase your integration in the community and work-place.


Once you are selected for an assignment, a standard consultation with the Travel Medical and Vaccination Clinic (TMVC) will be provided. This also covers the costs of recommended vaccinations and anti-malarial medication if required. 

In-country support

AVI has a network of international offices. In other areas, we have partnerships with local organisations to ensure that there is support available to volunteers if needed. The AVI Country Director for your country of assignment will be your primary contact. You will also get to know the other AVID volunteers in your country of assignment. They will help you settle in and find your way around. 

If you need to return home urgently, it is important to discuss this with both your host organisation and AVI. Depending on the circumstances, we may be able to cover your travel costs through insurance. 

Will AVI help me prepare for my assignment?

There is a reciprocal responsibility between you and AVI to research and prepare for your time as a volunteer. You will receive increasing amounts of information from the time you apply to the AVID program to the time you begin your assignment. As you progress through the process, we will send you detailed country notes and reading material and put you in touch with current and returned volunteers from your country of assignment. 

At the same time, we expect you to undertake your own research and in depth exploration of the issues you will face and the strategies you will use to be successful in all aspects of your assignment. 

Prior to departure and on your arrival, you will participate in a range of activities. These will inform and orientate you in everything from your role in international development to how you will adjust to your new life in country. These blended learning activities include: 

  • A series of online learning modules
  • A three day face to face briefing in Melbourne
  • A one week in country orientation program



Ready to apply

This section is intended for those who are familiar with the program and are ready to apply. 

The decision to undertake an AVID assignment is a substantial commitment both in terms of the significant period of time that you are prepared to be separated from your family, friends and familiar surroundings, as well as a willingness to accept the challenges that living, working and learning in a cross-cultural environment involves. 

The making of such a decision needs to be done in a considered and reflective way. We suggest that it should be based not only on a desire to 'give something back' or 'to make a difference' for example, but also on a realistic assessment as to whether the timing is right for you. We ask you to reflect on what you anticipate gaining from the volunteering experience and what personal attributes you feel would be required to ensure that such an experience was a satisfying and effective one for yourself and for the host organisation and host community. 

How do I apply?

AVID assignments are advertised on our website from the 1st to the 21st of each month. You are required to submit an online application in order to be considered. View all current assignments.

What happens to my information?

All participants in the AVID program are required to agree to the terms and conditions of the AVID Privacy Disclosure Statement. You will be asked to consent to this statement before you can lodge your application online. The statement allows your information to be used in the administration, evaluation and promotion of the AVID program.

Read the AVID Privacy Disclosure statement

Read the AVI Privacy Policy statement 

The recruitment process 

The process between applying for a volunteer assignment and departing is quite involved and can take 5 to 6 months.

Applicants for AVID assignments are selected based on their likelihood to successfully meet the objectives of the assignment, in the context, culture and location of the host organisation and community. 

Your professional and personal competencies will be evaluated utilising a range of assessment tools. These include an interview, a personality assessment, reference checks, police and medical checks, contact with current and returned volunteers and a three-day pre-departure briefing. Find out more about the recruitment process.

All applications must be completed online, by selecting the appropriate assignment, providing your details and uploading the relevant documents

AVI’s recruiters will work with you to provide context and information for self-assessment and research, guidance on the formal assessment and clearance steps, and opportunities for learning and networking to prepare for a successful assignment. You can contact and discuss your interest with the recruiters toll free at any time on 1800 331 292.

We use the application information to assess if there is a sufficient match between the requirements of the host organisation and the applicant's skills, experience, qualifications and understanding of the unique role of a volunteer. If there are many applications that are sufficiently matched, we will rank the applications, and progress to screening and interview those applicants who have demonstrated the closest match.

There are two steps required to submit your application. You will need to prepare two documents and submit them online. 

Step 1 – prepare your written application

A. Response to selection criteria

Please begin by writing your responses to the following three questions, in a document headed Response to selection criteria:

  • Why do I feel that volunteering overseas is the right thing for me to doing at this time in my life? (up to half a page)
  • What are the biggest personal adjustments I’m likely to have to make to be accepted as a useful colleague and engaged community member in this assignment? (up to half a page) 
  • How do I meet the essential skills and experience? Write a brief summary of your most relevant experiences, results and achievements against each of the criteria in the Qualifications, Essential Skills & Experience section of the assignment description (up to 2 pages).


Use examples, particularly those that you think would be the most relevant to the assignment objectives, the duties, the host organisation context and the AVI personal competencies – the unique skills necessary for successful volunteering.

Do not respond to the other selection criteria sections in the assignment description –Desirable Skills & Experience or Essential Personal Qualities. These areas will be covered during interviews and reference checks.

B. Resume 

Prepare a resume (2-3 pages) which includes the key dates of your professional history.

Step 2 - Lodge your application

  • Log in or register on the AVI website. 
  • Open the assignment.
  • Click on the Apply Now link at the bottom of the page. This link will only appear if you are logged in. 
  • Answer a few questions and upload your two pre-prepared documents: Response to Selection Criteria and Resume.
  • You will receive an automatic email acknowledgement of your application. Please contact the recruitment team if you do not receive this email or if you have any difficulties.

You will receive advice on the progress of your application within three weeks from the close of applications date. Please contact the recruitment team if you do not receive advice.

First Aid training

AVID volunteers are required to have completed first aid training equivalent to the Australian standardised Provide First Aid HLTAID003 certificate (previously known as Senior First Aid and Apply First Aid), before starting an assignment. This requirement is part of the responsibility that volunteers are asked to accept, to support them in managing risks to their health and well-being while on assignment. 

The cost for attending the training is the responsibility of the volunteer.

A card or certificate of attainment, dated within three years of the start date of assignment is required to be lodged with AVI, before an offer of an assignment can be confirmed.

Organisations such as Australian Red Cross and St John Ambulance provide short courses and certificates in a wide range of locations.



While you're on assignment

This section looks ahead to your time on assignment and answers some of the frequently asked questions. If it doesn’t answer your question, give us a call or drop us a lin 

What should I take with me?

As you progress through the process, we will put you in contact with current and returned volunteers. We will also provide you with country notes. Alongside your own research, these resources will be able to advise you on what to pack and what to leave at home.

Should I take any resources with me?

You are encouraged to make use of the resources provided by your host organisation when you are at work. For example, if there is no computer, you may be doing your counterpart and your host organisation a disservice by using your own. Coming in with a laptop that has all the right software, no viruses, is speedy and makes your work look better will definitely make your work easier for you, but will not benefit your counterpart who may have to use an old desktop (if there is one at all). 

And what happens when you leave? The 'visual quality' of the work produced will likely go down. Your counterpart and the organisation may not be able to continue to produce the outputs that they have come to rely on.

Host organisations seek the flexibility of volunteers, not just a skills exchange. Flexibility involves being able to come up with creative solutions to challenges at work. For example, if there is no computer, you may be able to help your host organisation purchase one. 

Finally, when considering what resources to bring for your personal use, please be aware that your possessions and money are not covered by the insurance provided during your assignment. You may wish to purchase cover for your possessions while you are in your assignment location. 

Should I take my pet with me? 

The AVID program does not have the capacity to support volunteers with pets on assignment.

In the case of a medical, political or natural emergency evacuation, volunteers would be required to leave their pets behind. There would be a high risk of suffering to the animal and additional stress to their owner. In addition, the pets that are left may cause problems for the host community.

The need to care and settle a pet, keep them safe within a developing community environment, and then return them to Australia creates a high risk that volunteers will not be able to focus on their own orientation and could compromise relationship-building with the community and colleagues.   

Volunteers in many locations are unable to find suitable accommodation within their budget that is also suitable for pets, or cause unintended disrespect to their host organisations by bringing a pet into the accommodation that has been provided to them.

How will my work be assessed? 

You will have a detailed assignment description with set objectives. When you arrive, you and your host organisation will develop a work plan to meet the objectives of the assignment. AVI will hold regular review sessions with both you and your host organisation to get feedback on the progress of your assignment and how the benefits from your work can be sustained.

Will I have holidays?

A minimum of 4 weeks annual leave will apply, along with sick leave entitlements. AVID volunteers work and accrue leave in line with their local colleagues. 

What are my responsibilities as an AVID volunteer?

You will be expected to work fairly and cooperatively with your host organisation and colleagues. In addition, all AVID volunteers must sign and comply with the AVID Code of Conduct and AVI's Child Protection Policy.

What happens if I do not complete my assignment? 

Each AVID volunteer is part of a country program strategy which has been negotiated with local communities and organisations based on their expressed needs. If you leave before completing your assignment, you will compromise the AVID program, community expectations and the work of your host organisation.

The program also incurs substantial costs for every volunteer. If you leave before your agreed term, we are not obliged to provide further financial support and you may be liable to refund all expenses. If problems arise, please discuss them with your AVI Country Director and your host organisation before making any decisions. 

We do acknowledge that occasionally assignments do not work out. There can be emergencies or commitments back home, emergencies in country, changes within your host organisation or the work may simply be completed early. These situations are dealt with on a case by case basis in consultation with your Country Director.

How can I stay healthy during my assignment?

Your health is your responsibility when you're on assignment. Depending on where you're living, there may be an increased risk of contracting some illnesses, including tropical diseases.

Your health risks can be minimised by attending thoroughly to your health preparation before your departure to ensure you are as healthy as possible. This may include vaccination updates, specialist check-ups (e.g. dental, skin, optical) and routine screening tests. 

Taking sensible precaution when you are in-country can also minimise the risk of getting sick. This includes strict basic hygiene, attention to the standard of food and water, mosquito bite prevention, stress management and remaining physically fit and active.

Your doctor and travel medicine specialist can give you more information and guidance on how to stay healthy while you are on your assignment.

What happens if I get sick on assignment?

You will have access to 24-hour medical assistance. This can take the form of a referral through to medical evacuation. In most cases, volunteers will need to pay medical expenses up front, but will recover the costs after submitting a claim form to the insurance providers.

Reference material

We encourage you to proactively seek out information about the location of your assignment. There are numerous ways to do this, from visiting your local library to reading online work and lifestyle accounts from locals and ex-pats.

The following organisations and networks will also provide some background information and advice about international development and volunteering overseas. 

Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID)

Australian Council for International Development (ACFID)



A guide to working abroad for Australian Medical Students and Junior Doctors

The Global Health Gateway


The Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program is an Australian Government initiative. This program has been developed by Australian Volunteers International, a delivery partner for the AVID program. Photo: Australian volunteer Pyrou Chung working in rural communities of Kiteto and Longido in Tanzania. Photo > AVI.