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Volunteering Tasmania is committed to the development of the sector and to the professional development of managers of volunteers, paid and unpaid.

Behind great volunteer experiences is effective leadership and management. Volunteering Tasmania is passionately committed to supporting organisations through the provision of information and advice. We offer a range of opportunities for advancement and support.

Celebrating volunteers with disability

Our disability awareness campaign is the result of a co-design project facilitated by Volunteering Tasmania, alongside key stakeholders, to help understand the challenges and needs of people with disability, and to support organisations to deliver more accessible and inclusive volunteering opportunities. The campaign aims to support a volunteering sector where volunteering opportunities are meaningful, equitable, and accessible for people with disability.

The experiences of seven volunteers with disability from across the State are highlighted in video or story form, below.

Disability Inclusion Explained – a conversation with Jan and Vaughn

Celebrating difference – a conversation with Dee, a volunteer

Click here to read the video discussion guide pdf
Click here to read the video discussion guide Word

Finn’s volunteer story

For Finn, volunteering has given him many rich experiences as well as a sense of achievement.

With his support worker, Thomas, he volunteers regularly at a Launceston City Mission op shop. The role involves sorting through donations such as clothes and bric-a-brac.

He says it’s been a great learning experience.

“I learned different things. It could be hard sometimes (being asked to do new things), but it’s actually easy getting the hang of a new skill. It’s exciting.”

Finn says he loves the sense of belonging that comes with volunteering. “It’s a fantastic feeling to be with the other people who work there.”

He believes it’s important for volunteers to get to know each other. “Introduce yourself to other people, talk to somebody who’s a bit different. It’s a good thing to learn about meeting new people, a big skill.”

Finn strongly feels that “having a support worker can be really good” when volunteering and that this can help someone with disability to volunteer.

Being flexible around a volunteer’s availability and encouraging new volunteers to ask questions are other things volunteering organisations should bear in mind. His advice for new volunteers is to remember that “it doesn’t matter that you don’t know, it’s actually okay that you don’t know.”

Thanks to the skills Finn acquired from volunteering, he has gained employment at the Launceston Airport Café. Volunteering has increased his confidence, which was beneficial during the recruitment process.

He says the airport environment can be frantic. “It’s okay if it’s busy – you just get the hang of it. It’s a good feeling.”

Finn says his volunteer experience has been one of growing, learning, and joy.
“It’s fantastic to be a volunteer.”

Interested in learning more?
Be sure to check out our upcoming workshop Becoming an Inclusive Volunteer-Involving Organisation listed in our training and events calendar.

Listen to Finn’s story here. 

Caroline’s volunteer story

Caroline’s journey exemplifies the profound impact of volunteering, both on oneself and the community. Despite living with a disability, her focus remains on aiding others, and for her, volunteering is a means to “contribute to the community, develop new skills and knowledge, and make friends.”

With rich experiences spanning over 25 years, Caroline’s volunteer roles have been as diverse as her skills.  She has volunteered in retail, administration, research, fundraising, events, and on boards. She has provided advice to organisations and contributed to submissions on disability and a paper on inclusion.

Her passion for making a difference led her to pursue a Certificate IV in Community Service Work, specialising in disability. Caroline credits this certification with enhancing her skills and confidence, enabling her to share her experiences and advocate for others with disabilities.

In 2012, she dedicated her time to 26Ten, an organisation affiliated with Libraries Tasmania, where she assisted a person with disability in learning to write. In 2017, Caroline published ‘A Changed and Uplifted Life,’ a book chronicling her volunteer journey with the Choir of High Hopes Hobart and other organisations. Reflecting on this endeavour, she notes, “I wanted to raise the choir’s profile in the community. The Story Island Project assisted me in writing my book, and they got me to undertake a workshop with some of my friends from the choir to get their assistance as well.”

Caroline is a vocal advocate for improving the volunteer experience for people with disabilities. She emphasises the importance of open communication between organisations and volunteers with disabilities, suggesting that a personalised approach is key. “Try to get to know them. Ask the person what they would like to do for the organisation. Ask them how the organisation can help them. The idea that one job fits everybody just doesn’t work.”

She underscores the need for flexibility, encouraging organisations to consider remote volunteering options and tailor roles to individuals’ abilities. Sharing her own experience, Caroline advises, “If there’s a job that the person can’t do, leave that. Don’t give them jobs without knowing what they can do and what they can’t.”

In Caroline’s view, the benefits of including people with disabilities in volunteer programs are manifold. She states, “People with disabilities are available, have skills, and want to work. The organisation might learn from the person what their disability is like, what the person has to go through.”

Caroline advocates for organisations to undergo disability awareness training and suggests asking prospective volunteers with disabilities, “What support, if any, do you need to volunteer with us?”

Expressing her deep love for volunteering, Caroline shares, “I love to share my experiences and ideas and to develop new skills. Volunteering has always been and will always be an important part of my life. I love it, I help people and, in turn, they help me.”

Caroline’s story serves as an inspiring testament to the transformative power of volunteering for individuals and communities alike.

Listen to Caroline’s story here. 

Nathan’s volunteer story

Navigating life with a disability, Nathan discovered a newfound sense of purpose by venturing into the realm of volunteering. Sharing his transformative experience, Nathan recounted, “I was diagnosed with anxiety – I normally used to keep to myself and would actually never talk to strange people. I talked to a psychologist and decided to try something different. When I first started volunteering, it was awkward. It took me a good few weeks to start talking to other people. I hardly said a word, but now I just talk all the time. By getting used to people on a daily basis, I started becoming comfortable.”

At Mersey Community Care, Nathan’s volunteer role revolves around home maintenance. Tasks range from mowing lawns and clearing gardens to disposing of rubbish for clients. Nathan’s journey commenced with a proficiency test, a valuable process that enabled the organisation to understand his unique needs.

As time unfolded, Nathan’s engagement expanded, and he secured a paid car cleaning position. Reflecting on this experience, he shared, “I clean the vehicles, providing drivers and clients with a clean vehicle when they’re going from place to place.” This experience has equipped him with additional skills and sharpened his problem-solving abilities when asked to pick up supplies or get quotes. “I’ve undertaken tasks I never thought I’d do.”

Nathan derives deep satisfaction from dedicating his time to helping those in need. “It feels good knowing that someone needs my help. I’ve never had anyone value the hard work I do.”

Offering valuable insights for volunteering organisations, Nathan emphasised the significance of effective communication tailored to diverse learning styles. Volunteers absorb information differently; for instance, Nathan is a visual learner. Demonstrating tasks, like vehicle cleaning, was particularly beneficial for him. “Patience is probably another thing organisations need to have. When I started, I didn’t bother asking questions. By seeing how patient they were here, I started asking questions again.”

He advised organisations against rushing volunteers and emphasised the need for simple, relevant information. He says it’s important to skip the irrelevant details and focus on what volunteers need to know. During his induction, skipping unnecessary information streamlined the process, aligning with his specific interest in home maintenance.

Over time, Nathan found himself gradually opening up about his disability. Cleaning the vehicles, and receiving compliments on their cleanliness inspired him. Organising a meeting with the volunteer coordinator allowed him to delve deeper into their operations. The conversation naturally unveiled details about his disability, which he says felt liberating.

Believing in the power of representation, Nathan says he believes it’s essential for people with disabilities to witness the achievements of volunteers like him. “If they can do it, I can do it.”

Reflecting on his time with Mersey Community Care, Nathan expressed, “Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve been welcomed. The volunteers are truly the heart and soul of this place.”

Nathan’s journey stands as a testament to the transformative impact of volunteering, showcasing the resilience and capabilities of individuals with disabilities. His story serves as an inspiration for others, encouraging them to explore the boundless possibilities within the world of volunteering.

Listen to Nathan’s story here. 

Jan’s volunteer story

Jan has an impressive volunteering career spanning over five decades, where her journey has been marked by resilience and a commitment to creating positive change. Despite early challenges, the advent of technology proved transformative in overcoming obstacles.

As often the lone visually impaired individual on committees or boards, Jan navigated a landscape where information was primarily in print. Her self-advocacy, coupled with the aid of technology, has now positioned her on a board where information is efficiently shared through email, and she actively promotes the utilisation of tools like Dropbox.

Jan underscores the importance of transparency when individuals with disabilities approach organisations, stating, “Advocating for ourselves is part of what we do. It’s in your own interest. Ask yourself – do I need extra support?” She encourages organisations to assess how they can adapt, recognising that individuals with disabilities may approach tasks differently, yet there are often effective workarounds that yield the same end result. Engaging potential volunteers with relevant resources before discussions and implementing a comprehensive disability action plan can significantly contribute to a more inclusive environment. Jan also advocates for introducing a buddy system, fostering organisational support.

Highlighting the invaluable benefits of volunteering for young people with disabilities, Jan emphasises the wealth of learning opportunities volunteering offers, including organisational structure, punctuality, and professional etiquette. She speaks from her own experience, bringing a blend of commitment, problem-solving acumen, and adaptability to her volunteer roles.

Jan’s remarkable contributions have not gone unnoticed, as evidenced by her receipt of the Order of Australia medal in 2020 for her outstanding services to individuals who are blind and have low vision. Reflecting on the impact of her volunteer journey, she acknowledges the personal growth it facilitated, opening doors to employment and equipping her with skills she never anticipated acquiring. In Jan’s view, volunteering transcends boundaries.
“Volunteering is a wonderful thing—for everyone.”

Listen to Jan’s story here. 

Hanna’s volunteer story

Hanna, with nearly two years of dedicated volunteering under her belt, is a driver for Mersey Community Care, going the extra mile, quite literally, to support her community. Her role involves transporting members to appointments, aiding in family visits, and assisting with grocery shopping. She also extends her kindness to helping others during Mersey’s bus outings, ensuring passengers’ comfort with seat belts, walking sticks, and walking frames.

For Hanna, volunteering is simply an extension of her personality, driven by a genuine desire to help others.

Drawing from her diverse experiences, Hanna provides valuable insights into creating supportive environments for volunteers with disabilities. She emphasises the importance of open-mindedness and clear communication, stating, “Not everyone understands the same. Not everyone’s brain works the same.”

She encourages organisations to explicitly express their support for volunteers, assuring them that they can ask for help without fear of rejection.

Hanna also underscores the significance of language, urging the use of plain English and tailoring communication to individuals’ needs. She highlights the importance of considering diverse perspectives, such as using both 24-hour and 12-hour time formats on documents.

Additionally, she advocates for a more personalised approach during induction, suggesting organisations offer one-to-one explanations rather than overwhelming volunteers with extensive written information.

In terms of technology, Hanna recommends embracing tools that facilitate volunteering, especially for those with literacy difficulties. She shares her positive experience using a voice recorder during training sessions to capture information, suggesting its use as an alternative to filling out overwhelming forms. She says that providing volunteers with sample completed forms and key words would also assist in the process.

Hanna maintains an overwhelmingly positive outlook on her volunteering experience. She describes the environment at Mersey Community Care as inclusive and understanding, emphasising that if she doesn’t know something, she can always ask.

In Hanna’s world, volunteering is not just a task but a source of joy and connection.

Listen to Hanna’s story here. 

Volunteer Connect

Volunteer Connect is a national volunteer referral system which connects volunteers and organisations. It allows people to search for a new volunteer role and for volunteer-involving organisations to advertise for and recruit new volunteers.