Volunteers the backbone of Australian communities

·2-min read

Adrian 'AJ' Baillie fell into homelessness as a teenager after fleeing a difficult family situation.

The 51-year-old Perth man, who has a brain injury, slept rough at Kings Cross in Sydney for many years before making his way to Western Australia.

It was in Fremantle where he first encountered Orange Sky Australia, a homelessness service that provides free laundry and shower facilities.

Even while he was still homeless, Mr Baillie offered to help the organisation through volunteering.

"I've seen both sides of the fence and I just love giving back to the community," he told AAP.

"Seeing the smiles on (people's) faces once they put nice, clean clothes on - they're nice and fresh and they feel like different people."

Mr Baillie now has stable accommodation but he never misses an opportunity to volunteer, even rising up the ranks to be a team leader with Orange Sky.

His passion to give back is reflected in a new report from Volunteering Australia, released on Sunday.

The organisation found 61 per cent of Australian volunteers say they do it to help others, while 72 per cent volunteer for personal satisfaction.

Volunteering Australia chief executive Mark Pearce said volunteers were essential to communities, especially at a time of rising living costs.

"They're what we would term the often-invisible part of the national workforce," he said.

"As need increases, the need for volunteers becomes all the more important."

Many people stopped volunteering at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and its related restrictions, but only about 70 per cent had returned to traditional volunteering roles, Mr Pearce said.

Some were looking for more flexibility and choosing informal volunteering as a way to support others while dealing with other aspects of life.

"There's an opportunity with this demographic and expectation of change that's taking place within the community," Mr Pearce said.

"For a lot of organisations, they've started to look through the eyes of the volunteer rather than through the eyes of the mission."

Ahead of National Volunteering Week starting on Monday, Mr Pearce called on Australians to become "change-makers" in the community.

"The wonderful thing about volunteering is it's profoundly personal," he said.

"It's one-to-one or one-to-many and it's built around your interests, your passions, your hopes and aspirations for the future."