Slow English

Podcasts about Australia for intermediate learners of English

Podcast 85 – Volunteering in Australia


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Learn English while learning about daily life in Australia, with Rob McCormack

Podcast Number 85 – Volunteering in Australia


Volunteers are people who willingly give some of their time in order to help others, without getting paid for it.  In Australia, like in other countries around the world, volunteering is very important because, without it, some very important things would not get done at all.  In this podcast, I would like to tell you a little about volunteering in Australia.

Volunteers from Rotary International in NSW raise money for charity by running a sausage sizzle at the local Bunnings hardware store.
(Photo by Henk Tobbe (vk2gwk) – ( [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Formal volunteering is when your volunteer work is done through an organization.  For example, it might be the Red Cross, or your local church or mosque, or for a local sporting club, or for some other type of charity organization.  Informal volunteering is when you help out or care for somebody in your family, or a friend or a neighbour.  They might be sick, or have a disability or be very old.  In Australia however, by far the most common type of volunteering is the former, through an organization.  In fact, a recent survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS for short) found that around 31% of Australians over 15 years of age took part in some formal volunteering in 2014.  That’s a lot higher than I expected.  The most popular areas for volunteering in 2014, according to the ABS survey, were sport and recreation organizations (31%) and education and training organizations (24%).  This tells us that most formal volunteering in Australia is probably in sporting clubs, where parents volunteer as coaches, judges, referees, in fundraising and in organizing and administering the club.  Many volunteers in education and training are most likely volunteering in the schools where their children attend, helping out in the classroom, in the school’s canteen or in fundraising for the school. One common way that schools raise money is by having a school fete, which is usually run by volunteer parents.  I will talk about school fetes in another podcast, as this is quite a common fund raising activity in Australia.

It is also interesting to look at how much time Australians are spending on volunteering.  The 2014 ABS survey shows that, on average, people volunteer for around 56 hours per year, or about 1 hour per week.  For example, in my state of Victoria in 2014, those aged between 35 and 44 years and those aged between 65 and 74 years do the most volunteering.  The former are typically those people with young children and the latter are those who are nearly always retired.  The figures also show that the largest number of volunteer hours are given by those aged 65 to 84 years.  This makes sense, as these people are generally retired and have the most time available, just like me.

During my working life, I was always very busy with either my work, or my family life.  I didn’t have a lot of time to do volunteer work.  Nonetheless, I did help out with the sporting clubs in which my children were involved.  For example, I used to love doing the scoring during the cricket matches my children were involved in.  Now that I am retired and my children have left home, I have more time to do the things that I enjoy, and that includes some volunteer work.  For example, writing and recording my Slow English podcast is volunteer work, which I am happy to do without payment.  I also volunteer for about 2 hours a week at an aged care home near where I live.  I organize and lead a game of Scrabble for about 6 – 8 of the residents.  I must admit it is a lot of fun, both for me and for them. It helps them keep their minds active, as all of these residents are over 85 years of age.   I also try to make it fun and enjoyable.  I have been volunteering at the same aged care home since I retired in 2011.

Doing volunteer work makes me feel good.  I’m not sure how to explain that.  I guess it’s a bit like giving a present.  It is said that the person who gives the present enjoys it more than the person receiving the present.  This is especially the case as we get older.  This is also the case with volunteers.  According to the ABS 2014 survey on volunteering, 64% of people said that they do it in order to help others and the community, while 57% said it gave them personal satisfaction.  That is certainly true in my case.  It gives you a good feeling to know that you are giving back to your community and helping others.  That’s why I love it so much when my Slow English listeners write to me to tell me that they enjoy and value my podcasts.  I also love it when my Scrabble players in the aged care home thank me for coming and say how much they enjoyed it.  Every week they thank me and I will never tire of that.

For Volunteers

I think the health of a community can be measured by how much volunteering is happening.  Volunteering is good for everybody, both for those who are doing the volunteering, and for those lucky enough to have volunteers helping them out.  I hope that continues in Australia.

If you have a question or a comment to make, please leave it in the comments box at the bottom of this page. Or, you can send me an email at  I would love to hear from you.  Tell me where you live, a little bit about yourself and what you think of my Slow English podcast.  I will write back to you, in English of course.  If you would like to take a short quiz to see if you have understood this podcast, you will also find it on my website. Goodbye until next time.


Podcast 85 Quiz - Did you understand the podcast?

You can take the quiz as many times as you like.



a bit like = a little like

according to = when someone else says something

activity = things people do

administering = helping an organization to run correctly. For example, writing down information, collecting fees

aged care home = a place where very old people live when they can’t live at home any more

attend = to go to

Australian Bureau of Statistics = a part of Australia’s government which collects and reports useful information about Australia’s people

available = when there is a lot of something

canteen = a place in a school where you can buy food for lunch

charity = an organization which helps people in need

church = a place where Christians go to worship

coaches = people who teach you how to play sport

common = something you see very often

community = the people you live with, in your town or city

disability = when you are not able to do some things because of a problem with your body or mind

education = when you are learning things in a school, college or university

expected = what you or others think will happen in the future

fete = a market where you sell things in order to raise money, usually for an organization like a school

formal = something that is organized

former = (here) when two things are talked about – the former is the first one

fundraising = asking people for money for your organization

giving back = to do something for someone, after they have done something for you

in order to = so that (you can do something)

informal = the opposite of formal, not organized by a group

involved = when you are part of an activity

judges = (in sport) people who decide how well you have played a sport

latter = when two things are talked about – the latter is the second one

measured = to find out how heavy, or tall, or long, or good, or bad something is

mosque = a place where Muslims go to worship

neighbour = someone who lives near you

nonetheless = even though there are things against this

organization = a group of people who work together in an organized way

paid = when someone has given you money for doing work

present = something a person gives you, a gift

receiving = to be given something

recent = just a short time ago

recording = to make a copy of music or a voice so that it can be played again and again

recreation = when you are doing things just for fun or to relax

referees = (in sport) people who make you play according to the rules

residents = people who live in the same place.  For example, a home

retired = when you are no longer working, usually because you are 65 years or older

satisfaction = the feeling when you like something and it makes you feel good

scoring = to write down the points which each player has got, usually in a sports game

Scrabble = a word game played by a group of people

sense = when something is a good idea

spending = giving your money to someone because you are buying something

survey = when the same questions are asked of many people

tire = to become tired, when you need a rest

training = when you are learning things about how to do a job

type = a group of things or people that are the same in some ways

typically = an example of something that you see many times

value = (here) when you think something is good and you want to keep it or get some more

willingly = happily, when you chose to do something without being told that you must do it


  1. Hi
    I just find your valuable blog.
    I am living in Melbourne now, and I really looked for such source to improve my English.
    I don’t know how to stress my thank to you…

    • Hi Ram. Many thanks for your comment. I am glad that you find my podcast useful. Good luck with improving your English.
      Have a great day.

  2. Hi Rob,
    Many many thanks for the volunteering which you have been doing with the podcasts since you published your first podcast. It is said in China that the best satisfaction is to help others. I’m sure you know how that feels. You said that the health of a community can be measured by how much volunteering is happening. Yes, as it is with a community, so it is with a nation.
    Cheers from China.

    • Hi Dep,
      Many thanks for your comment. I hope you are well. Yes, I agree that the health of a nation can also be reflected in the degree of volunteering.
      All the best from Melbourne.

  3. Hello Rob.

    I think this your podcast is very useful not only in reason of learning English and not only for learning life in Australia. But also important for anybody they can stop and think if he can return something to this world.

    It was very touching to know you visit an aged care home to make Scrubble with old people. You are very kind person.

    • Hi Tatiana,
      Many thanks for your comment and your kind words. I really appreciate it.
      I hope you are safe and well during the pandemic.
      Have a great day.

  4. Hi Rob. Thank you for the podcasts. You spend your own time ( the most valuable resource, in my opinion) to help us. You are very good person.

    • Hi Sergey,
      Many thanks for your comment and your kind words. I really appreciate it. I am happy when people find my podcasts useful.
      Have a great day.

  5. Dear Rob
    i am in Melbourne for about 2 years and also looking for opportunities to improve English, i found your podcast very interesting and unique, it is not only informative but also easy to follow if we want to practice pronunciation with you, currently i am trying to print out many transcripts on each podcast i listened, then try to listen again while reading it with you together. i hope that could help me learn your accent, and also many local expressions people often used here. other than that, is there any other suggestions for intermediate learners like me? are you offering private lessons?


    • Hi Merasa,
      Many thanks for your comment and for your kind words about my podcast. I am pleased that you find the materials useful, including the PDF link which I provide for printing each podcast. I think what you are doing is a great idea and will help with your pronunciation. Unfortunately I don’t offer lessons at the moment, although I am sure you could obtain a good English tutor in Melbourne if you did a search on the internet. There are also meetup groups which you might join to practice your English (see This site also looks interesting (
      Have a great day.

      • Thanks for your reply, Rob. I forgot to mention on my last comments that I totally agree with you that Volunteer works are beneficial for both sides, I am also doing volunteer at primary school on a weekly basis, helping young kids with reading and maths which give me a lot of self fulfillment , and I am agree that these feelings can not be expressed by words. You are great role model for our Australians, and I also wish our community would keep having people volunteer and help each other.


        • Hi Merasa,
          Thanks again for your thoughtful comment and for your kind words. It’s great that you are volunteering at your school. No doubt the children really appreciate the help you give them.
          Have a great day.

  6. Hi Rob, I just found your podcast and I loved it. I’m Brazilian and I arrived in Melbourne last year. Improve my chat in English has been a challenge for me, because is hard to find an Aussie with time to talk to someone doesn’t have a good english. I liked the idea about to do a volunteer work. I’ll look for something at my children School. This can help my english skills to.
    Please continue your podcast, it’s amazing!

    • Hi Guisela,

      Many thanks for your kind comments. That’s a good idea about doing volunteer work. Mixing with native speakers is the quickest way to improve your conversation skills. As you say, it is a challenge, but it is worth it. You might also try a meet up group, where you will be able to practice your English conversation skills. Check out this link. I hope you find that useful.
      Cheers and have a great day.

  7. Thanks for the podcasts rob.. your job is amazing! It’s really could help a lot of guys to learn English and learn about Australia…

    Thanks sooo much!

    • Hi Sam,

      Thanks for your comment and your kind words. I appreciate your feedback.

      Good luck with your English studies.
      Have a great day.

  8. thank you very mach mr rob

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