The Social and Economic Sustainability of WA’s Rural Volunteer Workforce 2019 (WA)


Published: February 2019

Authors: Kirsten Holmes, Amanda Davies, Leonie Lockstone-Binney, Mary O’Halloran, Faith Ong

Published by: Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre

The past two decades have seen an increase in the community services delivered by volunteers and demand on the volunteer workforce has intensified. Yet, according to data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) over the same period there has been a decline in volunteer participation across Australia, resulting in a shortage of volunteer labour.

This study identifies how rural communities in WA are addressing the challenges of recruiting and retaining volunteers at a time of unprecedented demographic change and increasing pressure on the rural volunteer workforce. It identified the critical role of volunteering in creating a sense of community wellbeing and delivering essential services in rural areas and also presents the strategies volunteers and voluntary organisations are using to sustain the rural volunteer workforce.

The findings confirmed the importance of rural volunteering in WA, with a very high level of participation across the state’s rural communities. Particular problems identified included structural population ageing; a reliance on key individuals to take on multiple volunteering roles; pressure from increased accountability and regulation; and rural organisations being governed from metropolitan headquarters with little apparent consideration for differences in rural service provision.

Related BCEC media release and summary of key findings:

The full report is available here.