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Volunteer Benefits

Volunteering has a meaningful, positive impact on your community. But did you know that it can have many benefits for you too? Here are some reasons to volunteer:

 

Learn or develop a new skill

Volunteering is the perfect vehicle to discover something you are really good at and develop a new skill. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.” It is never too late to learn new skills andthere is no reason why you should stop adding to your knowledge just because you are in employment or have finished education!

  • Planning and implementing a major fundraising event can develop goal setting, planning and budgeting skills.
  • Supervising and training other volunteers helps to develop supervisory and training skills.

These are examples of skills that can enhance a career but you don’t have to develop skills with the intention of facilitating your career. Painting a mural or making banners for International Volunteers Day – to celebrate the wonderful and priceless work that volunteers do – could gently push you to discover graphics and art talents. Explore your love for music and learn to DJ (disc jockey) so you can offer your newfound panache to local youth club discos. The possibilities are many.  

 

Be part of your community

No man or woman is an island. We sometimes take for granted the community that we live in. People and societies co-depend on each other for survival but growth of such things as commercialism are seeing traditional values being disregarded. Communities are suffering due to the growth of secular societies but at the same time we can really bridge that expanding gap through volunteering. Volunteering is ultimately about helping others and having an impact on people’s wellbeing. What better way is there to connect with your commmunity and give a little back? As a volunteer, you certainly return to society some of the benefits that society gives you. 


Motivation and sense of achievement

Fundamentally, volunteering is about giving your time, energy and skills freely.  Unlike many things in life, there is choice involved in volunteering. As a volunteer you have made a decision to help on your own accord, free from pressure to act from others.  Volunteers predominantly express a sense of achievement and motivation, and this is ultimately generated from your desire and enthusiasm to help. Sometimes volunteers are regarded as do-gooders and those that hold that view also assume that one person can never make a differnece. It may be true that no one person can solve all the world’s problems, but what you can do is make that little corner of the world where you live just that little bit better.

 

Boost your career options

If you are thinking of a career change then volunteering is a perfect way to explore new fields. If you have a passion for the arts but have career in computing then why not volunteer at your local theatre? Or if your ambitions are to be a doctor why not find out about volunteer opportunities at your local hospital – the ideal way to expand your work portfolio in your field and to gain a real insight into your chosen path.

 

New interests and hobbies

Sometimes we do get locked into the “rat-race” of life and volunteering can give that escape to everday routine and create a balance in our lives. Finding new interests and hobbies through volunteering can be fun, relaxing and energising. Help run a youth radio station or website for a few hours a week or assist in publishing a charity newsletter. The energy and sense of fulfilment can carry over to a work situation and sometimes helps to relieve tensions and foster new perspectives for old situations. Sometimes a volunteer experience can lead you to something you never even thought about or help you discover a hobby or interest you were unaware of. You can strengthen your personal/professional mission and vision by exploring opportunities and expanding your horizons. 

 

New experiences

Volunteering is a brilliant way to get life experience. Whether you build a library or mail flyers to raise awareness for a local charity, you will experience the real world through hands-on work. This guide section has established that volunteers can do almost anything and with the new millenium has dawned an era of infinite volunteer opportunities. For example, it is possible to volunteer in developing countries and see the direct impact of your actions on some of the most vulnerable people of the world. You could skydive for charity, a chance to experience the ultimate thrill and raise funds to help the charity continue its work. 

 

Meeting a diverse range of people

Volunteering brings together a diverse range of people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Both the recipients of your volunteer efforts and your co-workers can be a rich source of inspiration and an excellent way to develop your interpersonal skills.  Volunteering also offers an incredible networking opportunity. Not only will you develop lasting personal and professional relationships but it is also a great way to learn about people from all walks of life, different environments, and new industries. Networking is an exciting benefit of volunteering and you can never tell who you will meet or what new information you will learn and what impact this could have on your life.

 

Send a signal to your employer, teachers, friends and family…

People pay attention to your life outside the environment in which they have direct contact with you. For example, your employer would be interested in the activities that gives you a good work-life balance, just as academic institutions are interested in your extra-curricular activities. Volunteering reflects and supports a complete picture of you, and gives real examples of your commitment, dedication and interests. Show people what you are passionate about and maybe you will inspire them too!

 

Centrelink Volunteering Obligations (as at January 2013)

Under Social Security law, any job seeker aged 55 years or over in receipt of Newstart Allowance, Special Benefit (Nominated Visa Holders) or Parenting Payment can choose to undertake voluntary work with an approved organisation to meet their Activity Test or participation requirements. These job seekers can undertake suitable paid work or voluntary work of 30 hours per fortnight or a combination of both of these activities to meet their requirements.


Job seekers who are under 55 years of age may negotiate with their Job Services Australia provider to include voluntary work as their agreed participation activity.


Can I request a list of all approved organisations for Centrelink purposes?

Due to privacy this list is not released. However at any time, Centrelink can advise if a particular organisation is listed on the departments' internal database.


Why are some schools being told by Education Departments that they cannot be approved as a voluntary organisation for Centrelink purposes?
To seek Centrelink approval, voluntary organisations must complete a "Voluntary Work and Community Work - Request for Organisation Approval" form (SU461) (attached). Based on the information provided by the voluntary organisation and the organisation meeting the approval criteria (detailed below), the organisation will be approved for voluntary work purposes, and the details of the organisation will be entered into the internal database.


Can SES volunteers use their voluntary work for Centrelink purposes?

Each individual State Emergency Service office is required to be formally approved before they can be recorded on the internal database.


To be approved by Centrelink as an activity which fully satisfies a job seeker's Activity Test or participation requirements, a voluntary work placement must:

  • occur without payment other than for out of pocket expenses, and
  • have a community focus, and
  • not be undertaken in the job seeker's own home, and
  • not primarily promote a particular religious or political view, and
  • not involve working for the job seeker's or a family member of the job seeker's own organisation, and
  • not involve violence towards people or damage to property, and
  • not undertake tasks which would normally be done by a paid employee, including a casual or part-time paid employee, and
  • not reduce hours usually worked by a paid employee or reduce customary overtime of an existing worker.

For an individual to have voluntary work approved to meet the Activity Test they will need to complete the Voluntary Work - Verification of Approved Voluntary Work (SU462) (attached) form and return it to a Centrelink Service Centre.

 

Approval process for Voluntary Work

1. What is the approval process for Voluntary Work for job seekers under 55 years old with Activity Test/participation requirements?
Job seekers who are under 55 years of age may negotiate with their Job Services Australia provider to include voluntary work as their agreed participation activity.  The voluntary work activity would usually need to be focused on providing the job seeker with improved employment prospects, for example, where there are low employment opportunities in the area, limited educational opportunities and there are significant vocational aspects to the voluntary work. Where the voluntary work is not approved as a job seeker's sole requirement, it may still be able to partially satisfy participation requirements, as agreed with the provider.

 

These under 55 year old job seekers will not usually have a specific voluntary work activity code placed on their Centrelink record, but the agreed activity will be recorded in their Employment Pathway Plan (an agreement to undertake specified activities) by their provider. It is therefore difficult to determine an overall 'count' of people undertaking voluntary work to satisfy, or partially satisfy, their Activity Test or participation requirements.


Voluntary work for job seekers with Activity Test/participation requirements (aged 55 and over).
Under Social Security Law, any job seeker aged 55 years or over in receipt of Newstart Allowance, Special Benefit (Nominated Visa Holders) or Parenting Payment can choose to undertake voluntary work with an approved organisation to meet their Activity Test or participation requirements. These job seekers can undertake suitable paid work or voluntary work of 30 hours per fortnight or a combination of both of these activities to meet their requirements.


Voluntary work can be undertaken at any time, including evenings and weekends. If Centrelink approves a voluntary work activity, the job seeker must remain connected to their Job Services Australia provider even though they do not have any job search requirements. These job seekers are expected to accept any offers of suitable paid work, either full time or an increase in part time hours, and accept all referrals to job interviews, but will be fully meeting their requirements while undertaking these activities. Both Centrelink and Job Services Australia providers can approve voluntary work to fully meet requirements for job seekers aged 55 years and over.


There are two parts to the voluntary work approval process:

  • Approval of the voluntary work organisation
  • Approval of the voluntary work placement within the organisation

2. What is the approvals process for voluntary organisations?
Where Centrelink is approving a voluntary work activity for a job seeker, the organisation will be formally approved and recorded in an internal database.


To seek approval, voluntary organisations must complete a "Voluntary Work and Community Work - Request for Organisation Approval" form (SU461). Based on the information provided by the voluntary organisation and the organisation meeting the approval criteria (detailed below), the organisation will be approved for voluntary work purposes, and the details of the organisation will be entered into the internal database.


Organisations must meet the following criteria to be approved as voluntary organisations:

  • be a 'not for profit' organisation. This can be verified through one of the following:
  • articles of incorporation or certificate of incorporation and/or their constitution;
  • being a registered member of the National/State/Regional Volunteer Centre; or
  • other verifiable documentation proving their 'not for profit' status, such as documentation proving that they are a Charitable Trust
  • be community based
  • have appropriate Public Liability and Personal Accident insurance in place to cover job seekers. The voluntary organisation must hold a minimum of $5 million public liability insurance. There is no minimum amount of personal accident insurance, but organisations should seek independent professional advice on the level of insurance they should have in place.


3. What is the Approvals process for individual voluntary work placements?
To be approved by Centrelink as an activity which fully satisfies a job seeker's Activity Test or participation requirements, a voluntary work placement must:

  • occur without payment other than for out of pocket expenses, and
  • have a community focus, and
  • not be undertaken in the job seeker's own home, and
  • not primarily promote a particular religious or political view, and
  • not involve working for the job seeker's or a family member of the job seeker's own organisation, and
  • not involve violence towards people or damage to property, and
  • not undertake tasks which would normally be done by a paid employee, including a casual or part-time paid employee, and
  • not reduce hours usually worked by a paid employee or reduce customary overtime of an existing worker.

Job seekers whose voluntary work is approved by Centrelink will have a specific activity code placed on their Centrelink record to indicate their participation in voluntary work/ combined voluntary work and paid employment activities.


Below are the links to the Department of Human Services website where the Voluntary Work forms (SU461 and SU462) can be found.


Voluntary Work - Request for Organisational Approval
Voluntary Work - Verification of Voluntary Work form