The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia. Voluntary work


Voluntary work is an activity undertaken in a not-for-profit community organisation in a voluntary work position. If voluntary work would be beneficial to the job seeker's employment prospects, job seekers can undertake voluntary work as part of their mutual obligation requirements. For example, voluntary work may be beneficial for the job seeker because involvement with the organisation and/or the type of work undertaken is likely to lead to paid employment. Voluntary work should not be undertaken as an end in itself, and should be combined with job search and other requirements as appropriate.

Note: In some circumstances, principal carer parent job seekers and job seekers aged 55 and over may fully meet their requirements through voluntary work (3.11.6).

A voluntary work placement must:

  • benefit the job seeker and the community, and offer no financial gain to the voluntary work host organisation
  • provide the job seeker with the opportunity to gain skills that will directly improve their employment prospects
  • provide opportunities that will develop or enhance a job seeker's ability to work as part of a team, take directions from a supervisor, work independently, communicate effectively, and improve motivation and dependability, and
  • not exceed 26 weeks duration, unless it is the best participation option in the circumstances, as determined by the delegate or if the job seeker is fully meeting their mutual obligation requirements through approved voluntary work (3.11.6).

Unpaid work performed under a CSO or participation in clinical trials are NOT considered to be voluntary work.

Approval of voluntary work

Regardless of the circumstances in which it is undertaken, voluntary work must:

  • occur without payment other than for out-of-pocket expenses
  • have a community focus
  • not be undertaken in the job seeker's own home
  • not primarily promote a particular religious or political view
  • not involve working for an organisation of a job seeker's family member, or for the job seeker's own organisation
  • not involve violence towards people or damage to property
  • not undertake tasks which would normally be done by a paid employee, including a casual or part-time paid employee, and
  • not reduce hours usually worked by a paid employee or reduce customary overtime of an existing worker.

Note: Voluntary work at religious or political organisations may be considered appropriate, if the placement itself or the activity/ies the individual is expected to undertake as part of their voluntary work placement does not primarily promote a particular religious or political view.

For job seekers aged 55 and over who are fully meeting their mutual obligation requirements through voluntary work:

  • Services Australia can give approval to the job seeker for the voluntary work, AND
  • Services Australia must formally approve the organisation for which the work is undertaken.

As part of the organisation approval process, Services Australia ensures that community organisations are:

  • 'not for profit' organisations
    • This can be verified through one of the following: articles of incorporation or certificate of incorporation and/or their constitution, being a registered member of the National/State/Regional Volunteer Centre, other verifiable documentation proving their 'not for profit' status, such as documentation providing that they are a charitable trust.
    • Government sector agencies are considered to be not-for-profit organisations for the purpose of voluntary work.
  • community based
  • adequately insured.
    • Organisations must have public liability and personal accident insurance. Verification of insurance may be requested.

Any voluntary work organisation approved by Services Australia may have the name of their organisation publicly disclosed.

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