Frequently asked questions

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General questions about the program

What is the Australian Volunteers Program?

The Australian Volunteers Program provides the Australian community with the opportunity to share their skills and develop relationships with people and organisations in developing countries. The program is funded by the Australian Government and managed through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as part of Australia's official aid program

In what countries does the program operate?

See the list of countries in the About section.

What is an Australian Volunteers Program assignment?

A specific job or role that a skilled volunteer has been recruited to complete under the Australian Volunteers Program. Most assignments are designed to train, coach or mentor counterparts in specific skills within a partner organisation in a developing country.

How is the Australian Volunteers Program delivered?

The program is delivered by AVI in consortium with Cardno Emerging Markets and The Whitelum Group on behalf of the Australian Government.

What is a partner organisation?

Participants of the program volunteer for and with an organisation in a developing country while they are on assignment. These organisations are called partner organisations. 

What is an Australian partner organisation?

Australian partner organisations are Australian-based organisations that may provide financial resources, technical expertise, professional networks, research, or other forms of support, either directly or indirectly, to specific volunteer assignments, partner organisations or the Australian Volunteers Program generally. Read more about Australian partner organisations.

Can I volunteer if...?

Eligibility

Applicants must be aged 18 years or over (unless otherwise specified) and be an Australian citizen, New Zealand citizen with a special category visa (SCV) or an Australian permanent resident. There are no age limits. 

What kind of people volunteer?

Australian volunteers come from all walks of life. The demographics, expertise and motivations vary greatly. We take social inclusion and diversity seriously, actively encouraging and supporting diverse Australians to participate in international volunteering. 

As sharing skills and perspectives is part of every volunteer assignment, volunteers are required to have experience in their field and show their willingness to develop the capacity of others. We look for people who are open to learning, who can work in a team and with people of other cultures. 

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 accompanying dependents 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 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 pdeany@australianvolunteers.com 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 successfully participate in the program. There are things you need to factor into your planning, such as potential behavior 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 recruit@australianvolunteers.com.

Can I volunteer if I’ve volunteered before?

Many people return 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.

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.

Support and accommodation

What support is provided to volunteers?

  • Return airfares and relevant visas
  • Comprehensive insurance, medical assessments and vaccinations
  • Pre-departure briefings, in-country orientation and language training
  • Security information and access to 24-hour emergency support
  • Living and accommodation allowances
  • Financial support for partners and children (on longer assignments)
  • Debriefing and financial support on return to Australia

What does the living and accommodation allowances cover?

Allowances are provided to enable volunteers to maintain safe and secure accommodation, transport and to have a modest lifestyle in their local community. Living and accommodation allowances are country-specific. Check the assignment description to see the allowances available. 

When do I get the allowance?

Payment occurs on a monthly basis and is paid one month in advance.

Where do volunteers live? 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.  

Is there a relocation allowance?

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 assignment of more than six months, the settling in allowance is AUD$1,000.  This is to contribute to the expenses associated with passports, excess baggage, and any other costs associated with your departure and setting up accommodation in your country of assignment. The allowance is paid prior to departure by direct transfer to your Australian bank account.

Volunteer assignments and applications

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. Volunteer’s 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 and remain open for 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 should I approach my application?

Check out our Recruitment Guide for tips on what to expect and how to prepare your application.

What’s involved in the recruitment process?

Check out our Recruitment Guide for an overview of the steps involved in applying to volunteer.

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.

 

Mobilisation and pre-departure

We recommend reading the Volunteer Guidebook for any questions relating to mobilisation and pre-departure briefing. 

Travel, visa and insurance costs – what is covered by the program?

The program will cover the cost of your flight from Australia to your assignment, and also your return back home to Australia at the completion of your assignment. Standard fees for visa applications are also covered, along with comprehensive medical and travel insurances. You are also eligible for reimbursement for reasonable travel costs from your home to your nearest airport.

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 prior to flying. Please refer to the Volunteer Guidebook for more information. 

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 take my pet with me?
The program does not have the capacity to support volunteers with pets on assignment. There are several reasons for this. 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.

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 mobilisation process.

I will not be in Australia prior to mobilisation. Can I fly directly to my assignment from elsewhere?

It is mandatory that you attend the Australian Volunteers Program three-day pre-departure briefing. These briefings are usually held in the weeks prior to commencing your assignment and are held in Melbourne, Australia. If you are overseas, you will need to return to Australia (at your own expense) for the briefing.

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?

Yes, 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.

How do I get to Melbourne to participate in the pre-departure briefing?

If you do not reside in Melbourne, 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 medical assessment before I go on assignment?

Once you have been selected as a preferred candidate for the program, you will be required to complete a health clearance process which includes:

  • General health clearance and mandatory vaccinations 
  • Dental health clearance
  • Mental health clearance.

The clearance process includes the completion of a personal health profile as well as 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.

Do I need to have a first aid certificate before I go on assignment?

It is a mandatory requirement that you hold a Level 2 first aid certificate in order for you to be accepted into the program. This is so 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 required to be lodged before an offer of an assignment can be confirmed.

If you don’t have a current certificate, you will need to obtain one. You will need to cover the cost of this certificate. 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. It is up to the volunteer to ensure they complete these checks in a timely manner to ensure they are ready to begin their assignment by their start date. It’s also mandatory for volunteers to attend a pre-departure training event in Melbourne.

On assignment – work

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.

The amount of language training and support provided by the program varies based on your country and region. Self-directed learning via apps and podcasts is recommended.

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 any 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 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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

On assignment - personal

What costs will I have to cover?

The living and accommodation allowances provided are sufficient to cover safe and modest living costs in your country of assignment. The allowances are not a salary and will not cover mortgages, education, childcare and other ongoing costs at home. Other potential costs you will need to consider include excess baggage and travel while on recreation leave. You will also need to cover the cost of a valid First Aid certificate if you don’t currently have one.

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 restricted freedoms such as rights for women and religious expression. There are countries with legislation banning homosexuality. In saying this, the program encourages and supports diverse 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 recruit@australianvolunteers.com.

How do 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.

Can I still 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. 

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.

On assignment - safety and security

What about safety and security?

Volunteer safety and security is of utmost importance in the Australian Volunteers Program. Volunteers receive comprehensive security information and develop their own Security Plan as part of their mobilisation. Volunteers have access to 24-hour emergency support. There is also in-country program staff who provide support to volunteers while they are on assignment. Please refer to the Volunteer Guidebook for more information.

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 dependants. 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.  You will be provided with all of the details of how to contact International SOS at any time during your assignment, and prior to your departure.

What happens if I get sick on assignment?

All Australian volunteers and approved accompanying dependents 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, and how do I make a claim?

Overarching travel and medical insurance cover is provided by Chubb Insurance. 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.

Professional Indemnity Insurance

Professional indemnity insurance is not provided for Australian volunteers. You should 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.

Returning home

How do I organise flights home at the end of my assignment?

For your return to Australia, please check if you are holding a return ticket (assignments less than 10 months) or if you need to book a flight. Information on how to book your return flight home if required, is available in the Volunteer Guidebook.

What support is available to me when I’m back in Australia?

Volunteers are encouraged to plan for their return as they near the end of their assignment. Support includes a post assignment medical, counselling services (if needed) and a full-day workshop with other recently returned volunteers. Please refer to the Volunteer Guidebook for more information.

How can I stay in touch with other volunteers?

The Returned Australian Volunteer Network (RAVN) enables returned volunteers from all Australian Government-funded overseas volunteer programs to connect with each other and continue to tell stories and share ideas and resources, long after returning home from an assignment.

The RAVN e-newsletter and RAVN networking events, held in every capital city and some regional centres each year, enable returned volunteers to stay engaged with the program and each other.