Volunteer work

What is it?

  • Unpaid work
  • Generally with not-for-profit or community based organisations both in Australia and overseas
  • Can also be positions of responsibility within clubs and societies, many of which can be found on campus
  • Can be related to either personal or professional interests and goals

Why do it?

  • To gain valuable experience and put your skills to work in a field related to your studies
  • To develop your employability skills
  • To develop contacts in a field relevant to your career goals
  • To make a contribution to society in accordance with your personal values
  • To help your resume stand out from the crowd

Graduate employers prefer to hire 'well-rounded' graduates. This means they look for graduates who have not just performed well academically, but have been engaged in a variety of activities other than their studies.

Choosing a Volunteer role

When choosing a place to volunteer look for a role and a cause that you feel passionate about. Your volunteering is more likely to be successful and rewarding if you do. To help you choose a role you should find out:

  • What the organisation does and what it stands for. Think about whether it is somewhere that you would like to volunteer. Will you fit in with them? Look at their website, previous projects or annual reports, and read their vision and mission statements to find out more about them.
  • What types of opportunities are available and do they match your skills and interests? Perhaps an opportunity to gain skills and experience related to your degree? An opportunity to explore career ideas?
  • How much supervision, support and training are provided to volunteers?
  • Does the organisation have adequate insurance to cover you for the volunteer work you will be undertaking with them and appropriate volunteer policies in place?

You should also think carefully about how much time you are able to or willing to commit to the position. Are you looking for a volunteering position that is long term or short term? Will it be a continuing obligation or just a one-off involvement? Make sure you can balance your studies, volunteer, work and social commitments.

Volunteering Australia has produced a Volunteer Rights & Volunteer Checklist (PDF) which you should look at when considering a volunteering role.

When considering volunteering overseas check out Choice ‘Volunteering abroad’ and Choosing a Volunteering Agency (Australian Volunteers International).

Further information about unpaid work and the Fair Work Act is available from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Where do I find it?

There are thousands of opportunities advertised on national and international volunteering websites. If you are interested in a specific cause you could try searching on the internet for organisations that address or respond to issues related to that cause in the country you would like to volunteer. If you have decided on the sector where you might like to volunteer, you could consider contacting an organisation within the sector and asking about volunteering opportunities. For example, in the health sector, contacting a local hospital or community health service, or in the environment sector enquiring at your local council and other environmental organisations both locally and nationally.

  • Search for volunteer positions on Sydney CareerHub.
  • GoVolunteer is an online tool provided by Volunteering Australia which you can use to search for volunteer positions in Australia.
  • The Australian Council for International Development lists volunteer opportunities with non-government organisations
  • University of Sydney Clubs and Societies – these groups offer a range of opportunities including specific positions and support roles.
  • The V Team is managed by the University of Sydney Union and offers a wide variety of volunteering opportunities on campus and in the local community.
  • Use your networks to create your own opportunities in a relevant field, for example, if you are a member of a sporting club you could volunteer to create a newsletter for members or assist them with their bookkeeping