Declining Rate of Volunteering Heralds ‘Collapse in Community Life’

The new Charities Minister, Andrew Leigh, is on a mission to stem the drop-off in volunteering numbers, and halt the community participation crisis.

In common with many other charities, Leep is constantly searching for volunteers. At the beginning of the pandemic there was an uptake in volunteers, but this number soon dropped. Recent reports from the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission (ACNC) show that volunteering numbers have fallen steeply over the past two years. There were 3.3 million volunteers in 2020, but in mid-2021, the census reported that number had dropped to 2.9 million.

This Sydney Morning Herald article by Katina Curtis highlights two contributing reasons: one, volunteers are affected by illness and Covid has kept people away; and two, people are tired and fatigued. It therefore makes sense that volunteer numbers have fallen, as people look to create more space in their life. Whether you’ve had Covid or not, we’re all exhausted. And none of us feel that we have time to spare…

As a result, Australians are increasingly less likely to be a member of a community organisation, attend religious services, join a union, play team sports, and/or give blood. Research shows that we also don’t know as many of our neighbours or have as many friends as we used to.

Leigh describes this “collapse of community life” as being “one of the biggest challenges that Australia faces”. Recognising that communities cannot continue to function without the valuable contribution of volunteers, he plans to meet with as many registered charities as he can, so as to hear directly from those in the sector what government should do to help rebuild civic communities.

He makes a start over the next fortnight with a series of roundtables in every capital city, before visiting regional areas. Leigh believes that “reconnecting community is … fundamental to building a better nation,” and we couldn’t agree more.