Frequently asked questions – Australian Volunteers program

What is the Australian Volunteers program?

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

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.

What is a partner organisation?

A volunteer works for and with an organisation in a developing country while they are on an Australian Volunteers program 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.

Who is eligible to apply?

Australian citizens, holders of Australian permanent resident status and holders of a Special Condition Visa (SCV) for New Zealand citizens are eligible to apply.

Are there age restrictions?

Applicants must be 18 years of age or over.

What is the average length of an assignment?

The length of assignments vary depending on the needs of the partner organisation. The average length is 12 months, however, the length can vary from between four weeks to two years.

How are volunteers selected?

Volunteers must apply and are selected through a competitive, merit-based recruitment process which is managed by AVI. The partner organisation may also have the opportunity to review the applications of preferred candidates if requested. AVI manages the pre-departure training, mobilisation, in-country management and the return of volunteers.

How long does the application process take?

Prospective volunteers should allow from three to six months between being accepted for the assignment to arriving in their destination country. Assignments may be delayed or withdrawn at any time due to security concerns, changing requirements of partner organisations, or other programming reasons.

Once I receive a conditional offer, what other checks are required?

If you are selected as the preferred candidate, you will be required to obtain a health clearance, Police Check and Working with Children Check before a final offer can be made.

Does everyone need a working with children check?

Yes. The Australian Volunteers program is committed to the protection of children and young people. All candidates are required to have a Working with Children check, irrespective of the assignment and partner organisation with which they are working.

Is there a Code of Conduct?

Yes. The Australian Volunteers progam Code of Conduct sets out the standards of individual behaviour required of all people assigned overseas through the Australian Government's volunteer program.

What support is provided?

All volunteers are managed by AVI, an organisation which has significant experience in supporting volunteers. From the application process to the return to Australia, volunteers are supported by AVI. While on assignment, each volunteer has access to an in-country team who provides comprehensive briefing on arrival in country and support as needed during their assignment.

Some of the other practical ways in which volunteers are supported by the program include:

  • volunteer allowances
  • return airfares to your country of assignment
  • pre-departure health assessment, vaccinations and travel consultation with a doctor specialising in travel medicine
  • visas
  • 24-hour emergency support arrangements
  • pre-departure briefings and in-country orientation
  • leave (one week's leave for three months served)
  • re-entry support services, including post-assignment health assessment and debriefing.

What allowances are provided?

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. All other allowances apply equally to volunteers irrespective of their assignment location. For further information about conditions and allowances please contact AVI.

Where will I live?

Volunteers are generally on assignment with partner organisations that are located in capital cities in a developing country. Assignments with partner organisations in remote or provincial locations will be identified on the advertised assignment description.

Volunteers are provided with an accommodation allowance so that they can choose their own accommodation, except in cases where accommodation is provided through arrangements with the in-country team. All accommodation must meet the safety and security standards as assessed by the in-country team.

What about safety and security?

Volunteer safety and security is of utmost importance in the Australian Volunteers program. Volunteers receive comprehensive security information as part of their mobilisation as well as access to 24-hour emergency support arrangements. AVI has in-country program staff who provide support to volunteers while they are on assignment.

What about work health and safety training?

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is committed to the wellbeing of all its workers and actively seeks to improve work practices and foster attitudes which sustain a healthy and safe work environment. It is important that all workers, including volunteers, contractors and attached agency staff are aware of their responsibilities under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act).

In certain circumstances, volunteers and contractors will be requested by DFAT to successfully complete DFAT’s mandatory work health and safety (WHS) eLearning program as part of their training. Other workers, such as attached agency staff, are encouraged to use the WHS eLearning program as a refresher resource or where there is no comparable training available to assist them in maintaining WHS awareness under the WHS Act.

This program is comprised of eight modules and an assessment. It takes about 60 minutes to complete and should be completed in one sitting as progress is not recorded. It includes a pre-assessment option for recognition of prior learning, which allows one attempt to pass the assessment. If the assessment is failed, all modules must then be completed before it is unlocked for another attempt. It is recommended that you review the ‘How to get the most out of this program’ section before commencing.

Following successful completion of the assessment, volunteers should save an electronic copy of their certificate of completion and then email it to their designated in-country manager who will verify completion of this training requirement for DFAT. Similarly, contractors should email a copy of their certificate to their contract manager. Other participants should retain their certificates and provide to DFAT on request.

Can partners and children accompany the volunteer?

Some financial support may be available for dependants (partners and children) who accompany an Australian volunteer on an assignment of 12 months or more. There are some limitations based on security, visa, cultural and program support issues. Dependants must be Australian Citizens, Australian permanent residents or hold a Special Condition Visa for New Zealand citizens.

Can partners also volunteer?

As the Australian Volunteers program uses a competitive, merit-based process to select volunteers, partners cannot be automatically placed on an assignment in the same location. Partners are welcome to apply for an assignment in the same location if they meet the selection criteria. They will then be considered as part of the standard selection process as for any other candidate.

Do I need to speak the local language?

Fluency in the local language is not a requirement, however access to some language training may be available for up to four weeks upon arrival in country. Volunteers on assignments for more than six months can also apply in advance for reimbursement for some additional language training they may choose to undertake while on assignment.

What happens after volunteers return to Australia?

Upon return to Australia, volunteers participate in a de-briefing meeting with AVI to contribute their lessons learnt about volunteer experiences. Returned volunteers can stay connected with the program by joining the Returned Australian Volunteer Network (RAVN) which provides access to personal and professional development opportunities. Many returned volunteers share their volunteer experience through media and public speaking events or presenting at the pre-departure briefings for new volunteers.

Last Updated: 4 January 2018