Migrants & refugees

Volunteering is an unpaid activity & something that people choose to do for the good of the community


For migrants and refugees who have recently arrived in Australia, volunteering can be a great way to learn about the community they live in. Volunteering can help migrants - new or established in the community - to make connections as they settle into their new home.

The benefits of volunteering

Volunteering is ideal for helping refugees and migrants connect with their new community. Not only does volunteering provide a basis for people to make new friendships, share their skills and help people in need, it also provides an opportunity for migrants to:

  • gain experience within the Australian community
  • develop community knowledge and social connections
  • build an understanding of the Australian work environment
  • develop English language skills
  • source local referees and support networks
  • make contacts for future employment opportunities.

Ways to volunteer

Migrants may find it easiest to volunteer with groups they already have an association with, such as:

  • places of worship, including churches, temples and mosques
  • their child’s kindergarten or school
  • sports groups, such as basketball and athletics clubs
  • community organisations and cultural groups.

Community organisations also welcome volunteers in activities such as:

  • helping children with homework
  • preparing and serving food
  • caring for older people
  • transporting people or goods
  • fundraising and administration
  • recreation activities for people with a disability
  • website development
  • caring for the environment
  • mentoring young people
  • working in second hand stores (op-shops).

Who can volunteer?

Everyone has a unique set of skills to offer. Opportunities are available for everyone whatever their situation - whether they possess limited English skills or are working full-time, seeking employment or studying. It isn’t necessary to be an Australian citizen to volunteer. Anyone on a temporary, permanent, student or visitor visa can volunteer.

When to volunteer

Depending on the role, there are opportunities to volunteer at any time - whether it is during the day, after hours or at weekends. Depending on the activity and the availability of the volunteer, they may volunteer for any period from one hour to a full day. Some roles require a weekly commitment; others may be for a single event, such as a festival or fundraising initiative.

Most importantly, it’s imperative to find the best fit between the volunteer and the community organisation to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship.

What are the challenges?

Some people with specialist qualifications may have difficulty finding a volunteer role in their field of expertise. For example, to date there have been limited volunteering opportunities available in the fields of information technology, engineering and accounting.

Other refugees have reported that even though they have high level English reading and writing ability, their conversational English makes it difficult to perform some roles. An understanding of Australian culture can be required for some voluntary roles, such as homework tutors.

However, don’t let these challenges stop you. Try to find a role you are interested in, even if it isn’t necessarily in the field of your professional experience.

People enjoy volunteering by doing things they love to do, and the new skills and experiences they gain will only serve to broaden their abilities, networks and confidence!

Applying to be a volunteer

Organisations recruiting volunteers will have their individual application process, which may involve completing an application form, attending an information session, having an interview, attending training or a combination of these activities. Many roles require a criminal history check or Working with Children Check. The organisation will help organise this.

Most organisations have training and ongoing support for volunteers, and may ask for a commitment of several months or more.

Rights & responsibilities

Volunteers have the right:

  • to work in a healthy and safe environment
  • to be covered by insurance
  • not to be discriminated against
  • not to do the work of paid staff
  • to receive orientation and training.

Organisations can expect volunteers to:

  • be punctual and respectful of others
  • tell them when something goes wrong or isn’t working
  • do training and carry out the job they have agreed to do.

For more information, view our volunteer checklist and rights and responsibilities.

Ready to support your new community?

Start searching all volunteer opportunities - and view roles suitable for people with limited English.


Photo: Young woman, mentoring & environmental volunteering.