Frequently Asked Questions
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I'm not an Australian citizen. Can I participate in the Australian Volunteers Program?
Program volunteers must be Australian citizens or holders of a Permanent Residency Visa of Australia, or New Zealand residents in Australia with a Special Category Visa (SCV).
Refer to the Passports, Visas and Work Permits section of the Volunteer Guidebook for details you'll want to consider when applying.
How are assignments created?
Assignments are created in-country, when an organisation requests the assistance of a volunteer in consultation with the country office staff. Driven by local needs, each assignment is aligned with good development practice and the country’s development priorities. Volunteers do not replace local jobs. They are committed to developing local capacity where a skill, knowledge or experience gap has been identified.
When are assignments advertised?
Assignments are advertised every Wednesday for a minimum of two weeks.
Where are assignments advertised?
On the Australian Volunteers Program website. Assignments are also promoted on other jobs boards such as Ethical Jobs and LinkedIn.
All applications must be submitted online through the Australian Volunteers Program website.
How long are assignments?
The duration of assignments will vary depending on the requirements of the role. It can vary from 1 - 24 months, with the average length of assignments being 12 months.
Accessible and inclusive volunteering
Can I volunteer if I have a health issue?
A health problem does not exclude you from volunteering. However, some locations can be challenging and may have limited medical facilities. Volunteers and approved accompanying dependants must go through a medical clearance process. Any existing health issues and their potential management will be considered during pre-assignment medicals. This may include being referred to your GP or specialist to prepare a health management plan for the duration of your assignment.
Can I volunteer if I have a disability?
We actively support and encourage people with disabilities to participate in the program. We aim to make the program as accessible and inclusive as possible to people with a wide range of disabilities. Access and inclusion plans are available for volunteers with disabilities to ensure their assignments and living and working arrangements are made more accessible.
People who identify as having disabilities or who would like to find out more information about the program’s disability-inclusion approach, please contact Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator, Paul Deany at firstname.lastname@example.org or 03 9279 1738.
Can I volunteer if I'm LGBT+?
We actively support and encourage people who identify as LGBT+ to volunteer overseas. We have supported hundreds of gay, lesbian and queer-identifying people to participate in the program. There are things you need to factor into your planning, such as potential behaviour changes to different legal contexts and cultural norms. We encourage you to talk to our recruitment team if you feel comfortable self-identifying. You can call us on our toll-free number 1800 331 292 or email email@example.com.
Can I volunteer if I’ve volunteered before?
Many people show interest in wanting to do multiple volunteer assignments. The benefits of applying the learnings, relationships developed and language acquired from previous volunteer assignments is well recognised. However, in the event that a position attracts multiple candidates who meet the selection criteria and needs of the partner organisation, preference is given to new applicants. We aim to give as many people as possible the opportunity to participate.
Volunteering as a couple/family
Can my partner and I volunteer together?
If you are both successful candidates for roles in the same location at the same time, we will support you to volunteer together. However, we are unable to guarantee that you will both be successful as the selection process for each role is competitive. There are a number of scenarios that can apply for couples, please refer to our Couples Factsheet for more guidance.
Will the program support my partner or children to come with me?
There is some financial support for approved accompanying dependants which may be available if your assignment is 12 months or longer. You must indicate your request for this support during the application process. Support for dependants is assessed on a case-by-case basis and is not taken into consideration when nominating the successful candidate. Support is not provided for schooling or childcare. There are a number of different scenarios that can apply for couples and families, please refer to our Couples and Families Factsheets for more guidance.
Can I take my pet with me?
The program does not have the capacity to support volunteers with pets on assignment.
In medical, political or natural emergency evacuations, people have to leave their pets behind. There's a high risk of suffering to the animal and additional stress to their owner.
The need to care and settle a pet, find suitable accommodation, keep them safe within a developing community environment, and then return them to Australia detracts from your own orientation and could compromise relationship-building with the community and colleagues.
What costs are covered by the Program?
What allowances are provided to volunteers?
In general, volunteers will receive the following allowances:
- Settling in - To assist with expenses associated with passports, excess baggage, and any other costs associated with your departure and setting up accommodation in your country of assignment. If your assignment duration is six months or less, the program will provide you with a one-off settling-in allowance of AUD$500. For assignments of more than six months, the settling in allowance is AUD$1,000. The allowance is paid prior to departure by direct transfer to your Australian bank account.
- Living – To offset daily expenses such as food, internet data, incidentals.
- Accommodation - To enable you to access accommodation of a reasonable standard that is considered safe and secure.
- Resettlement - For assignments that were more than six months, a resettlement allowance of AUD$1200 will be paid at the conclusion of the assignment, to offset some of the costs of excess baggage, departure tax, en-route costs and expenses associated with resettling back in Australia.
- Dependents - A 25% supplement is included in the living allowance for approved dependents joining on assignment.
Explore the table of current living and accommodation allowances.
When are living and accommodation allowances paid?
Living and accommodation allowances are paid monthly, one month in advance.
Supplements for approved partners and/or children are included in the monthly payments.
What expenses can be reimbursed?
Before you go
What should I take with me?
We will put you in contact with current and returned volunteers, and program staff in-country. Alongside your own research, these people will guide you with what to pack and what to leave at home.
Can I bring extra baggage?
The Australian Volunteers Program will reimburse any excess baggage up to a total weight of 30kg per participant (e.g. if an airline allows one 23kg bag and your bag totals 30kg, the program will reimburse the extra 7kg). The program will not reimburse overweight baggage charges if excess baggage was not arranged by you prior to flying. Please refer to the Volunteer Guidebook for more information.
How long will it take to get my visa?
Every country has their own visa requirements. If you are the preferred candidate, further information on visas will be made available to you during the onboarding process.
I will not be in Australia prior to the start of my assignment. Can I fly directly to my assignment from elsewhere?
All travel arrangements covered by the Program have Australia as the point of origin. You can mobilise from overseas, but these costs are not covered by the Program. Please refer to the Volunteer Guidebook for more information.
Do I have to attend the Pre-Departure Briefing?
Satisfactory attendance is a mandatory component of the selection process unless you have previously attended an Australian Volunteers Program pre-departure briefing within the last 12 months prior to your mobilisation. This is a three-day program conducted in Melbourne. There is no flexibility around the Australian Volunteers Program pre-departure briefing dates, which are held monthly. You will need to arrange your schedule to ensure you can attend. Please refer to the Volunteer Guidebook for more information.
Reasonable transport and accommodation will be arranged for those who live outside of the Melbourne metropolitan area. For further details around the related costs covered by the Program, please refer to the Volunteer Guidebook and this matrix.
If you are overseas, you will need to return to Australia (at your own expense) for the briefing.
How do I get to Melbourne to participate in the Pre-Departure Briefing?
If you do not reside in the Melbourne metropolitan area, the Program will cover your flights to Melbourne (within Australia only) and also your accommodation. The Program will also reimburse transport costs to and from Melbourne airport to the hotel. Other travel costs for attending the briefing will not be reimbursed. Please refer to the Volunteer Guidebook for more information.
Do I need to have a First Aid certificate before I go on assignment?
Possession of a current Level 2 First Aid certificate is a mandatory requirement for acceptance on assignments greater than 6 weeks in duration. This is so that you can manage risks to your own health and others whilst on assignment. A card or certificate of attainment, dated within three years of the start date of assignment is to be submitted before an offer of an assignment can be confirmed.
If you don’t have a current certificate, you will need to obtain one. Qualified paramedics, medical doctors, and nurses can request an exemption from this requirement. Please refer to the Volunteer Guidebook for more information.
How long before I begin my assignment?
Expect to depart for your assignment between 3 - 4 months after being selected as the preferred volunteer. It takes time to process your visa and to receive appropriate medical checks and vaccinations.
As the volunteer it is up to you to ensure that checks and pre-departure activities are completed in a timely fashion, for you and any approved accompany dependants, so that you are ready to begin the assignment on the start date.
How do I vote in elections back home?
The Australian Electoral Commission advises that Australian citizens travelling internationally for periods of three years or less can register as Overseas Electors and vote by post in state and federal elections. Please contact the division where you are enrolled and inform them that you are travelling internationally and for how long. You will then be registered as an Overseas Elector. Failure to do this can result in being fined, being removed from the Australian electoral roll, and having to apply for re-enrolment on return to Australia.
Should I expect my assignment objectives to change?
The program recognises that like any organisation, circumstances and priorities in the partner organisations can change. When this occurs, it’s important to be flexible, and to keep your country office staff informed of any significant changes to your assignment objectives.
What happens if I do not complete my assignment?
We acknowledge that occasionally assignments do not work out. There can be emergencies or commitments back home, emergencies in country, changes within your partner organisation or the work may simply be completed early. These situations are dealt with on a case-by-case basis in consultation with country office staff.
What if I’m asked to go on radio or TV?
Volunteers are actively encouraged to share their stories by participating in media, publicity, social media and community engagement activities.
Public comments while on assignment should focus on volunteer activities and experience, and need to be run by your partner organisations and country office first. The program will provide advice to volunteers participating in publicity activities to help them share their experiences and promote the work of their partner organisations.
What kind of reporting do I have to do about my assignment?
All assignments are aligned with our monitoring evaluation and learning framework which includes preparing an assignment plan, a mid-term monitoring update, an end of assignment evaluation and an exit interview.
What are my responsibilities as an Australian volunteer?
You will be expected to work fairly and cooperatively with your partner organisation and colleagues. In addition, all volunteers must sign and comply with the Australian Volunteers Program Code of Conduct, Child Protection Policy and Code of Conduct, and all other program policies.
What hours will I work?
Working hours for Australian volunteers are the same as for full-time local employees in your partner organisation, usually Monday to Friday. Please refer to the details in your Assignment Description.
Should I take work resources with me?
You are encouraged to make use of the resources provided by your partner organisation. You should be provided with adequate tools to get the job done. Once you’re put in touch with your partner organisation you can discuss easy-to-pack resources like online learning material, software and document templates.
Will my work be assessed?
You will have a detailed assignment description with set objectives. When you arrive, you and your partner organisation will develop an assignment plan to meet the objectives of the assignment. The country staff will hold regular review sessions with both you and your partner organisation to get feedback on the progress of your assignment and how the benefits from your work can be sustained.
What is the accommodation like?
Volunteers primarily choose their own accommodation in line with what is considered safe and secure in the context they live in. This is very much dependent on the specific location of the assignment, transport facilities, whether the accommodation is shared, and whether the partner organisation supplies accommodation.
Accommodation is very much based on personal taste and some volunteers supplement their allowances to support their lifestyle choices. Fundamental to any choice is maintaining a safe and secure location given the location specific context.
Volunteers are provided with guides to assist them in this process, as well as assistance as and when required by the country office team.
Do I need to speak the local language?
In nearly all partner organisations, a level of English is spoken, and sometimes it will be the fourth, fifth or sixth language spoken by locals. Unless specified as a pre-requisite, you are not expected to be fluent in the local language. The local level of English fluency and the language acquisition expected of you will vary country-to-country, between partner organisations and from capital cities to rural/remote locations, and of course, who you're talking to.
Learning the local language or dialect is highly encouraged. Many volunteers report that language acquisition greatly enhances their experience and ability to foster relationships.
All volunteers will receive some basic language support during their in country orientation program (ICOP). The amount of language training and support provided by the program after the in country orientation varies based on your country and region. Self-directed learning via apps and podcasts is recommended.
Do I need to abide by the host country’s laws and cultural expectations?
If you are offered an assignment, you will need to sign a Code of Conduct requiring you to follow local laws, so you must be mindful of any laws affecting you, prior to your application.
Some countries have restrictive laws that impact on the freedom of women, LGBT+ people and religious expression. In saying this, the program encourages and supports all Australians to volunteer and recognises the value of diverse experiences.
If you have questions we encourage getting in touch with our recruitment team on toll-free number 1800 331 292 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I do paid work while I’m on assignment?
Engaging in any paid work and/or business enterprise for personal gain while on an Australian volunteer assignment or as an approved accompanying dependant is not acceptable and breaches the Australian Volunteers Program Code of Conduct.
Can I donate money to my partner organisation?
It is against the Australian Volunteers Program Code of Conduct to make a personal donation to your partner organisation while on assignment, as it can have unanticipated negative consequences. There is no restriction on post-assignment donations.
Can I go to church in my host country?
It is usually acceptable to practice your own faith, provided respect is shown for the local religion/s. Australian volunteers are not to proselytise, that is to preach or attempt to recruit an individual or group to a religion. This includes volunteers who are assigned to a faith-based organisation.
Can I drink alcohol in my host country?
All Australian volunteers and approved accompanying dependants are responsible for being aware of and adhering to the laws of their host country. Laws relating to the consumption, supply, trafficking, or cultivation of drugs – including alcohol and tobacco – vary from country to country.
What if I want to stay longer in the country of my assignment?
Should you decide to remain in-country and seek work after the conclusion of your assignment, it is your responsibility to organise the necessary visa and work permits. You will also need to provide your own travel and medical insurance.
You should be mindful that remaining in your country of assignment in paid employment could be perceived as taking jobs from local people, which could endanger the reputation and operating context of the program.
Health and medical
Do I need to have a medical assessment before I go on assignment?
As a part of the recruitment process a mental health check, which is undertaken by Response Psychological Services, is required.
Once you have been selected as a preferred candidate for the program, you will be required to complete a health check process which includes:
- Dental health questions
- General health clearance and mandatory vaccinations
The clearance process includes the completion of a personal health profile, a review of your medical history via an online questionnaire, and, when required, a physical assessment by a doctor.
You are also required to complete mandatory vaccinations prescribed for the location and scope of your assignment before departure. This process is managed by the Program’s provider, International SOS. Please refer to the Volunteer Guidebook for more information.
What happens if I get sick on assignment?
All Australian volunteers and approved accompanying dependants are provided with 24-hour routine and emergency advice and assistance under the program. Please refer to the Volunteer Guidebook for more information.
What is covered by insurance?
Overarching travel and medical insurance cover is provided by the Program through Corporate Services Network.
The Program provides expatriate emergency medical assistance through International SOS during your assignment. This gives coverage in the event of injury, illness, disability and death. Cover commences from the time you depart for your assignment until the end of your assignment and includes approved travel during your assignment. Please refer to the Volunteer Guidebook for more information.
Where can I find policy details and how do I make a claim?
Volunteers on assignment are able to locate policy details and submit claims through the volunteer portal.
Who can I speak to confidentially if I am feeling depressed, anxious or otherwise concerned about my mental health?
Response Psychological Services has been contracted by the Program to provide confidential counselling for all Australian volunteers and approved accompanying dependants. This free service provides you with the opportunity to speak to a psychologist who is experienced in assisting people living and working on international assignments.
Safety and security
What happens if there is a war, unpredictable and violent situation, or natural disaster?
In case of an emergency, the Program reserves the right to evacuate Australian volunteers and approved accompanying dependents. Decisions about the evacuation of Australian volunteers in the event of war, unpredictable and violent political situations, or natural disaster will be coordinated by the Program with the Australian or other diplomatic missions in the host country.
Who should I call in an emergency?
All approved program participants have access to the Program’s 24/7 emergency assistance provider, International SOS. Prior to departure, you will be provided with details of how to contact International SOS at any time during your assignment.
Professional Indemnity Insurance
Professional indemnity insurance is not provided for Australian volunteers. Consult your partner organisation about the need for professional indemnity insurance for your role prior to your departure, and where required, you are advised to obtain adequate professional indemnity insurance from a reputable insurance provider. Please refer to the Volunteer Guidebook for more information.
Travel and leave
Will I get annual leave? Can I go on holidays while on assignment?
Volunteers are entitled to a minimum of four weeks (20 working days) annual leave per year, accrued on a pro rata basis. No more than 20 days annual leave is to be taken at any one time, and not more than five days should be taken in advance of your accrued entitlements.
You must request approval from your partner organisation and consult with your country office staff when planning leave. The partner organisation is within its rights to request changes to the timing and duration of leave in accordance with its own organisational priorities.
Can I take leave at the end of my assignment?
Annual leave needs to be taken within your assignment dates. If you leave your assignment early, then all allowances stop on the day you cease work, and unused leave will be not paid out. Should you wish to travel at the end of your assignment, this is not considered annual leave and would be at your own cost.