Volunteer Your Skills Abroad in Australia and New Zealand

The complete guide to making a real impact

Anybody can visit Australia or New Zealand. But if you really want to experience the natural beauty, lively people, and inspiring communities, you’ll have to find more than the most popular tourist attraction.

With their strong economies, global connectivity, and strong tourist attrations, there are a combination of world-leading technology, social, and environmental innovations across both countries. To make a real impact, learn new skills, and see the lands from unique perspectives, you can engage in skills-based volunteering or Experteering.

But, before jumping at the first volunteering project you see, here are some tips to make sure you have the experience of a lifetime.

Finding the Right Volunteer Project in Australia or New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand have a vast network of nonprofits, social enterprises, and nonprofits working on a variety of issues. Both also have supportive governments and citizenship that give back to social and environmental causes. So when you search for a project, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does this project use my real skills?
  2. Is this something that a local could be doing? Is it possible that I’m taking a local job?
  3. Will the tasks I will be completing leave a lasting impact on the organization and the surrounding community?
  4. Are the goals and objectives I am being asked to complete locally driven?
  5. Is the host organization reputable?

There are many organizations that make sure the volunteering opportunities they post are through organizations that operate in an ethical and sustainable manner. Some include: VSO International(Voluntary Service Overseas), MovingWorlds, CUSO International, and Peace Corps. For more information, read these tips for finding the right volunteering project abroad.

Best Practices while Volunteering in Australia and New Zealand

When you get to your destination, there is a right (and wrong) way to volunteer in a way that truly makes an impact. First, you should outline clearly defined goals that are created in partnership with your hosting organization. Beyond that, following these rules will help create positive outcomes for all parties:

  1. Support locally initiated projects, to make sure that the work will continue after you leave.
  2. Train local staff to take over your work so that the transition after you leave will be seamless.
  3. Spend more time teaching than doing.
  4. Do what’s best for the host organization, not what’s most interesting to you.
  5. Embrace cultural differences and discuss with your host the differences you might have, and how you can use those to your advantage.
  6. Check in with your team consistently to make sure everyone is on the same page about tasks and timelines for projects.

Take this free training for international volunteering best practices through Udemy, and review this complete guide to volunteering your skills overseas.

Cultural and Communication Tips to be an Effective Volunteer in Australia or New Zealand

It is important to understand the cultural differences that Australia or New Zealannd have from other parts of the world so that you can work and communicate effectively with your partners while you're abroad.

globe-smart-Australia-newzealand This chart shows the cultural differences between someone from Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and where a typical Experteer might be. Image from GlobeSmart® provided by Aperian Global.

As an example, people in Australia and New Zealand tend to be highly individualistic and there is a strong achievement mindset. However, it is also very informal and participatory. According to Geert-Hofetede's cultural comparison:

"Within Australian organizations, hierarchy is established for convenience, superiors are always accessible and managers rely on individual employees and teams for their expertise. Both managers and employees expect to be consulted and information is shared frequently. At the same time, communication is informal, direct and participative."

- Geert-Hofetede's cultural comparison

Use Kwintessential and other country-specific travel guides to learn more about customs and social norms.

Finishing Your Project and Recapping Your Story

When you return from your trip, we highly recommend you develop and execute your plan to keep in touch with your host organization: We like to say that success happens after you leave. By doing what you can to ensure your work lives on after you leave, you increase the change that the work you did made, and continues to make, a real impact.

You should also make sure to reflect on your experience during and after your overseas experience. There are several reflection strategies you can use to promote your own learning and improve happiness. You should also be sharing your stories with as many people as possible about your experience with the aim to inspire others to go volunteering abroad and do good, just like you!

Share your story with the #Experteering hashtag

Additional Tips While Volunteering in Australia or New Zealand

Here are some additional resources to help you plan, fund, and prepare for your trip, if you do decide to travel and volunteer in Australia or New Zealand:

  1. Guide to funding your trip
  2. Gear, resources, and tools for volunteering adventure
  3. Books to read while volunteering in Australia and New Zealand

In Summary

Since you can volunteer anywhere from 1 week to several years there is no reason not to give volunteering abroad a chance. Especially because the majority of opportunites posted through movingworlds.orgMovingworlds.org offer free accommodation during your stay! We hope this guide will help you find the right projects, ensure the work you do is sustainable, and communicate effectively with your host organization.

So get out there and seize your next life adventure in Australia or New Zealand. We promise you’ll find that immersive life-changing experience you’ve been searching for!