Volunteering in Australia as an Overseas Visitor

volunteer australia

Volunteering in Australia is a popular way to spend a vacation for backpackers, gap year travelers, and all sorts of other visitors who want to see the land Down Under.

There are various opportunities to volunteer, whether it is working with people, animals, or the environment, and these all provide the chance to experience Australia in a more real way.

Australia is the only place on earth where a number of unique and iconic animal species can be found, notably marsupials like the kangaroo. Its numerous indigenous cultures, natural wonders, and diverse cities make it a great place for traveling and volunteering.

How can foreign nationals volunteer in Australia? What sort of things can volunteers do? Can you volunteer with a tourist visa or ETA?

How to Volunteer in Australia

Australia is the only country in the world that spans an entire continent. It has a range of environments, including sunny beaches and coasts, snowy mountains, tropical rainforest, and arid desert.

Many visitors who want to do a good deed while seeing the riches that Australia has to offer choose to volunteer here.

Visitors from overseas can volunteer in Australia as long as they meet certain requirements.

Firstly, they must be in the country legally and be in possession of an Australian valid visa.

Next, they must apply to a volunteer organization. There are many that specialize in conservation, which are the most popular with international volunteers. There are also various other fields that accept voluntary work.

What Kind of Volunteer Work Can I Do in Australia?

There are various types of volunteer work that international travelers can do. Most involve preservation efforts and working with Australian wildlife or the environment.

For visitors who want to volunteer in Australia with animals, types of conservation volunteer work available in the country include:

  • Rehabilitation and medical care of sick or injured wildlife
  • Caring for orphaned animals (including bottle-feeding joeys)
  • Rehabilitation of marine life
  • Turtle conservation
  • Working to maintain and conserve ecosystems
  • Working at wildlife sanctuaries

There are opportunities to volunteer in community service-oriented programs and the possibility to work with vulnerable people, such as the elderly or with disadvantaged children.

Certain events organizers in Australia may also recruit volunteers to help stage their events, particularly charities.

There is also a high demand for volunteers in disaster relief efforts during bushfires. Various organizations are involved in helping evacuees, repairing damage, and protecting wildlife. The rural fire service itself also accepts volunteers.

How Can I Volunteer in the Australia Fires?

In the event of serious bushfires, volunteers are recruited to help evacuees, aid in efforts to fight the fire, and recover threatened wildlife.

Opportunities to volunteer in Australian bushfires include:

  • Various roles with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service
  • Rebuilding fences for bushfire survivors with BlazeAid
  • Volunteering with the Australian Red Cross
  • Taking donations to fund relief efforts
  • Rehabilitating wildlife
  • Being a volunteer rescuer and carer with WIRES in NSW

Do Volunteers Get Paid in Australia?

Strictly speaking, volunteers do not get paid. However, certain expenses may be covered by the volunteer organization, such as food and accommodation.

Foreign nationals volunteering in Australia with an eVisitor, visitor visa or ETA should ensure that they are not receiving payment for their services, as this would violate the terms of their authorization to be in the country.

Requirements for Volunteers in Australia

Overseas visitors in Australia must comply with certain requirements in order to volunteer in Australia.

If visiting with a visitor visa, eVisitor, or ETA, the volunteer must meet the following criteria:

  • The work must not be paid, except for meals, accommodation, and/or reimbursement of living expenses paid out of pocket
  • The main purpose of the visit to Australia must be tourism
  • The work done voluntarily would not have been paid work for an Australian resident if the foreign national had not done it for free.

A volunteer may only receive payment for work done if they hold a valid work visa.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Volunteer in Australia?

Volunteers in Australia generally must be 18 years of age or older. This is particularly the case if the activity carries any risk, such as working with dangerous animals.

Some organizations may allow younger volunteers, but this may require parental consent and/or special consideration. Some junior volunteer programs are available for children as young as 11, but these tend to be aimed at local communities rather than international visitors.

What Visa Do You Need to Volunteer in Australia?

Providing the main purpose of the visit is tourism and that no payment is received,  international travelers may volunteer in the country with the following visas or travel authorizations:

Overseas visitors who wish to seek paid voluntary work in Australia must apply for the relevant work and holiday visa instead.

It’s good to remember that both the eVisitor and ETA can be obtained more easily than a traditional consular visa by completing an online application form designed by Australian authorities. These travel authorizations are quick and simple to fill out and greatly speed up the process of arriving in Australia.

The eVisitor is for travelers from a number of European countries with reciprocal agreements with Australia, while the ETA is for nationals of a select few states around the world.

Find out which documentation you need by checking the Australia visa requirements.