Updated for 2023-2024
Australia is much more than a country: on top of owning the dual title of “continent,” it is a biodiverse region with everything from coastlines to enormous expanses of arid Outback. The nation’s varied landscapes are home to a wide array of flora and fauna, many of which are in need of protection from encroaching development and pollution. Indeed, in 2020 nearly a billion animals were killed by bushfires in Australia, including koalas, kangaroos, and wombats. And now with climate change, areas such as the Great Barrier Reef are in desperate need of protection. If you would like to help, please consider volunteering with the organizations highlighted below or check out International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)’s Marine Conservation Program in Australia or GoEco’s Wildlife Animal Sanctuary project, which cares for kangaroos, koalas, wombats, and dozens of other indigenous species.
Volunteerism in Australia is popular because of the country’s sites and landscape. When you’re planning your trip Down Under, it’s worth considering if you want to be in a well-populated area or spend your time in the quiet respite of one of the nation’s forests or desert spaces. Wherever you choose to go, there’s a rich culture waiting for you. If you want to volunteer in Australia, here are some things to know in advance, plus a few excellent programs that will connect you with the work you’ll remember for a lifetime.
Know Before You Go
Australia is sometimes called “The Lucky Country” because of its wealth of natural resources, from mineral ores to natural gas. However, many of the industries that tap into the country’s earthly wealth are posing problems to the natural environment. In fact, Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions per capita are among the highest of any nation.
Because some of the biodiverse environments in this country are becoming depleted, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities in Australia to contribute to environmental protection and animal rescue Down Under as an international volunteer. For all the industries that fish, log, and mine, there are plenty of organizations aiming to keep Australia clean and safe for the native creatures. Volunteers can contribute to the conservation of Australia through coastal cleanups, animal rescue, and release, and supporting local ranches.
Before you depart for your volunteering in Australia, you should also keep in mind that the seasons are reversed from the Northern Hemisphere. If you volunteer over your summer break, you will be arriving during Australia’s winter. In most communities, especially in the state of Queensland, temperatures remain mild during this time. And while the country speaks English, you should also get a phrasebook or brush up on local vernacular before you go.
Established in 2007, International Volunteer HQ has sent more than 111,000 volunteers overseas. They offer affordable, year-round programs across 50+ destinations, including wildlife volunteering projects in Australia. A leader in volunteering, many great institutions, such as UCLA and Salesforce, have volunteered with IVHQ.
Through IVHQ, you can volunteer on a Marine Conservation Program in Cairns, Australia, a city known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Your duties will typically include:
- Marine data collection and coral reef surveying (you’ll get trained by the experts!)
- Beach and marine debris collection
- Sea turtle rehabilitation
Suitable for those hoping to work in marine biology, conservation, or a related field, you can join this conservation project in Australia for 1-4 weeks or longer. During off-hours, feel free to socialize with other volunteers, enjoy the dining and entertainment in Cairns, and visit epic nature spots, such as Barron Falls and Fitzroy Island. Click here to learn more.
Though IVHQ’s project involves protecting the beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, and sea turtles, your work will help combat the destruction of the bushfires. Because the devastating wildfires in Australia have not only killed animals on land, they’ll also eventually affect the ocean and aquatic creatures. Volunteer help is needed now more than ever to keep Australia’s shorelines safe and healthy.
As a report in National Geographic notes, once “when huge quantities of ash wash into rivers, dams, and eventually the sea, they will likely pollute water supplies and kill aquatic wildlife.” By volunteering to protect the coasts and oceans in Australia, you’ll do your part to restore and preserve Australia’s environmental health. You’ll play a key role in recovery efforts!
Specializing in affordable, ethical volunteer projects across the globe, from Costa Rica to Australia, GoEco has more than 160 community, environmental, and wildlife initiatives. They began in 2006 and have sent more than 17,000 volunteers abroad. Recognized as the 2018 Top Volunteer Abroad Organization by GoAbroad, GoEco is a wonderful choice if you want to volunteer with wildlife in Australia. Currently, GoEco is offering a special travel grant where you can stay for the 3rd week free! Check out the qualifying programs here!
Specifically, GoEco’s Wild Animal Rescue Program gives you the opportunity to help koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, emus, and other indigenous wildlife in Australia. The wildlife sanctuary, which is situated on 170 acres of natural bushland, cares for more than 200+ species. Many of the animals have been rescued, injured, and/or displaced. As a volunteer, your duties will include habitat preservation, creating enrichments, general maintenance, preparing food, safeguarding Aboriginal heritage sites, and hosting conservation awareness programs. As you can see, you’ll learn a lot and make an impact when you volunteer on this project!
Held in Calga, this program suits animal lovers, especially those who seek a career in zoology, wildlife management, veterinary science, or related science. You can stay for minimum of 2 weeks or longer. And during free time, you can make a trip to the amazing city of Sydney, which is just over one hour away! Click here for more info.
An exciting volunteer opportunity awaits you to help protect and preserve the world’s largest coral reef alongside professional marine experts! The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is well known for its large variety of marine life, but also home to many endangered species, such as whales, dolphins, and lots of different fishes. This program is open for experienced Open Water certified divers or for beginners ready to get PADI certified! After getting your dive certification, you will be ready to help marine conservation through survey dives where you will collect data on coral reefs and species monitoring. In addition, you will also help in a turtle rehabilitation center. Learn more about this once in a lifetime opportunity!
Love Volunteers is a fast-growing organization that recognizes the unique challenges facing rural areas in Australia, particularly in terms of preserving natural habitats. If you’re interested in volunteering in Australia, Love Volunteers has placements in several cities along the east coast, and volunteers play a pivotal role in protecting the creatures that thrive in regions such as the Great Barrier Reef.
As a volunteer, you have a choice between three projects with Love Volunteers in Australia. With the Reef Conservation Program, you will spend a lot of time in the water monitoring the Great Barrier Reef and reporting back to marine conservation experts. You will also learn about the vital aspects of ocean conservation and how to take your knowledge into the community. Love Volunteers’ Sea Turtle Program also takes place at the Great Barrier Reef, but your focus will be exclusively on improving the environment for sea turtles who live in the reef. And with the Wildlife Program in Yackandandah, Victoria, you will provide veterinary treatment and other care to rescue animals.
If you want to volunteer in Australia and your passions are specifically related to the care and protection of animals, you will be impressed with the array of programs offered by Fronteering. This organization can place you in almost any type of Australian ecosystem, from the Great Barrier Reef to the rainforest. Volunteer for the Horse Rescue project in the state of Queensland, and you will work directly with majestic creatures being rehabilitated after years of neglect or mistreatment.
Also in Queensland, you can spend several weeks at the Koala Sanctuary Hostel getting hands-on experience treating more than just koalas. This nurturing facility treats animals ranging from kangaroos and emus to platypus and wombats. Other programs offered by Fronteering for volunteering in Australia include the Kangaroo Island conservation program and a Tasmanian Devil Care and Release project, where you will treat and then release these iconic creatures on their namesake island of Tasmania. These programs are enriching opportunities to benefit animal welfare.
Frontier is another volunteer organization that has a lot of volunteer and adventure programs across Australia, giving you the best of both worlds. Begin your time Down Under by participating in Brisbane Ethical Conservation in coastal Queensland or the Australia Wallaby Conservation project in rural Queensland, and then sign up for a road trip or surf camp experience.
Other volunteering opportunities through Frontier include the Australia Wombat Conservation project, where you will help care for the endangered wombat population, and the Australia Outback Ranch program, where you will earn money as you conduct work such as sheep shearing and maintaining fencing.
Ready to Travel Down Under?
Spending time as a volunteer in Australia offers a myriad of experiences. From surfing to adventuring out to Uluru, you can truly have a life-changing time experiencing Australia’s culture. Giving back to this incredible continent is the best way to round out your time there and ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the same culture and nature-rich landscape.