FAQs for Volunteers
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No. Informal volunteering groups are often established to fill a short term or emergency need, although some may continue to operate for a number of years. Informal groups are often effective at responding to issues in local communities and neighbourhoods.
It is important to understand that when you volunteer for an unincorporated organisation, you cannot access civil protections for volunteers under WA legislation, the organisations may lack policies and procedures and training, and almost certainly will not hold Personal Accident Insurance for volunteers. For this reason, they are not eligible for membership of Volunteering WA.
To find out more about informal volunteering, and some of the issues to consider to help keep you and your community safe, please see our Guide to Informal Volunteering (PDF).
Volunteers in WA are covered by the Volunteers and Food and other Donors (Protection from Liability) Act 2002 which protects:
- volunteers from civil liability when undertaking community work on a voluntary basis; and
- volunteers who donate food or grocery products from incurring civil liability for personal injury resulting from the consumption of that food or the use of those grocery products.
The legislation includes a number of requirements to be met including that the voluntary work is undertaken for a local government or an incorporated association. Volunteers must act in accordance with directions from these organisations in carrying out their role and should not be impaired (such as under the influence of alcohol or other drugs).
Volunteers in formal organisations are also generally protected by occupational safety and health, anti-discrimination and bullying and harassment legislation. There are variances in application from organisation to organisation.
As a volunteer, it is important that you understand how these apply to your role. Your volunteer organisation should be able to discuss these with you.
If you feel uncomfortable at any time, you can always choose not to volunteer, or not to continue to volunteer, in a role. We encourage volunteers to discuss any concerns with their organisation.
No. This is why it is important that you check that your organisation covers you for Volunteer Personal Accident insurance, which may cover a portion of your salary if you cannot attend your usual paid work as a result of an injury while volunteering.
Police checks may be required by legislation for some volunteer roles (such as volunteers in aged care or disability services). They may also assist in ensuring that applicants meet the legislative requirements for some governance roles (such as Board members of an organisation). A volunteer organisation will advise you if a police check is required for your volunteer position and will seek your agreement to the check. Many volunteer organisations are able to cover the cost of police checks for their volunteers and they will let you know the procedures for reimbursement if applicable.
The legislation is clear that if you volunteer with children you must obtain a WA Working with Children Check.
The WWC is a compulsory criminal record check that ensures a consistent and high standard of checking for certain people in child-related work in WA.
It is important to note the WWC is only valid in the state in which it is issued and is therefore not transferable between States.
You will need the support of the volunteer-involving-organisation to gain the WWC. Make sure you check to see if they support you to obtain and pay for the check. Volunteers under 18 years of age are exempt.
Rather than being the definitive check for volunteers, the WWC check is just a part of an organisations process to protect children.
Yes. Organisations have the right to take only the most suitable people that will help them achieve their mission. Don’t take it to heart if you’ve been refused. Go to our website to explore other options.
Generally age isn’t a barrier to volunteering but depending on the type of role, the activity and the organisation there may be an age limit. This is largely a result of the type of risk that organisations face and what their insurance policies cover. Go to our website to explore volunteer opportunities.
Any volunteers who do not have permanent residency in Australia need to ensure they are keeping within the law and abiding by their Visa restrictions.
It is important that you make sure that you can legally undertake volunteer work on your particular visa. Generally if you have the right to work in Australia, you generally have the right to volunteer.
The National Standards for Volunteer Involvement indicate that an organisation that involves volunteers should ensure that a policy and procedure exists for reimbursement for volunteer out-of-pocket expenses.
This varies from organisation to organisation and we recommend that you check with your organisation before spending any personal money.
Where financially feasible, organisations should provide reasonable reimbursements for pre-approved out-of-pocket expenses.
Yes. Organisations are in existence to achieve their mission and volunteers need to support and not hinder the work they do. We ask all WA organisations to have a thorough set of volunteer Policies and Procedures to ensure that each situation is dealt with consistently and fairly. If a volunteer has a grievance about the way things are handled, please write to the organisation.
Bullying may involve, for example, any of the following types of behaviour:
- aggressive or intimidating conduct
- belittling or humiliating comments
- spreading malicious rumours
- teasing, practical jokes or 'initiation ceremonies'
- exclusion from work-related events
- unreasonable work expectations, including too much or too little work, or work below or beyond a worker's skill level
- displaying offensive material
- pressure to behave in an inappropriate manner.
In order for it to be considered to be bullying the behaviour must be repeated and unreasonable and must create a risk to health and safety.
It is your organisation’s responsibility to ensure bullying is identified early and dealt with appropriately so make sure you let them know you feel you are being bullied, preferably in writing.
If you feel the organisation isn’t taking action after you’ve made a complaint, you may be able to put in a claim to the Fair Work Commission. There are forms and fees that need to be completed. The website will also tell you about the process involved.
Grievances come in many guises and can include:
- Having a problem with or about a person or system
- Not feeling appreciated or treated very well
- Being unfairly dismissed
- Feeling discriminated against
- Feeling victimised or bullied
- Feeling no one is doing anything about a problem volunteer
- Plus other complaints.
Every organisation should have Policies and Procedures to handle grievances. Check your organisation’s Grievance Policy and follow the procedure. If there is no procedure, put your grievance in writing to the most appropriate and senior person within the organisation.
This is unfortunate, however, as some Volunteer Managers only work part-time investigating these things can take longer. We suggest you write to the organisation and ask for an update. If there is a higher body / association you may wish to write to them as well.