Geelong Volunteering in COVID Times

Geelong, Monday 26 June 2021
Facilitated by Lucinda Rodrigue – Advisor (Gordon Skills and Jobs Centre)

Today the Gordon’s Skills and Jobs Centre was joined by three wonderful guest speakers who spoke about Volunteering in Geelong – the benefits, the types of opportunities that are available in these COVID times, and some of the things for you to consider.

A huge thankyou to our panel today:

Colin Dempsey – Operations Manager – Volunteering Geelong

Colin works for Volunteering Geelong and has been volunteering himself for 36 years so is an expert on how it all works!

Volunteering Geelong is the central body for around 150+ organisations around Colac, Golden Plains, Greater Geelong and Queenscliff.  Volunteering Geelong promotes volunteering in the community, recruits volunteers, advertises roles, and assists both organisations and volunteers with information, support and advice – this is a particularly valuable service for smaller organisations that may not have the resources to help them with their volunteering program.

Shelly Lehman – Volunteers & Special Projects Coordinator – Encompass Community Services

Encompass has been operating for over 30 years in Geelong, and work with people with physical, intellectual, sensory and psychological disabilities, as well as people facing other disadvantage eg disengaged youth, long-term unemployed and those facing financial, social or learning barriers.  They provide NDIS services – helping disabled people with trips to the football and bowling for example.

Encompass also have an employment and training arm and business enterprises including:

Emily Leary – Senior Manager, Volunteer Projects – GenU

GenU provides community services in the aged care and disability sector (where it has a 60 year old history), as well as providing employment, training, and in-home care services.  Emily’s team also accept students wanting placements.

Gen U currently have 500+ volunteers on their books and as well as traditional opportunities, Gen U also offer the chance to volunteer for ‘virtual’ roles that you can do from your own home (eg their Penpal, Voice chat, Virtual Gamers, and Remote Skilled Volunteer Programs).   These can be great if you have transport issues or are worried about COVID but still want to volunteer.  There really is something for everyone!

Benefits of Volunteering:

As well as contributing and giving back to our community, our panellists spoke about the many benefits to YOU from volunteering.  They include:

  • helping you to make new professional networks – and friends!
  • giving you valuable job skills and something to add to your resume
  • giving you a referee
  • helping you feel like you’re making an impact/contributing
  • giving you the opportunity to apply knowledge/skills you’ve learned in a training course (Emily mentioned she volunteered with Lifeline for 12 months after finishing her Bachelor of Social Work)
  • learning more about your community – which can really help if you’ve just moved into the area and don’t know many people!
  • Learning more about potential careers (Colin mentioned a volunteer who was interested in working with animals, but not sure in what capacity.  Some volunteering at the Winged Horse Equine Centre in Portarlington helped him to decide upon his future career – as a Farrier!)
  • increasing your own confidence, health and wellbeing

Lastly, volunteering is just a great thing to do!  Emily shared a short film – “A Letter From Reece” – which features a letter writing initiative that GenU started up to address loneliness and isolation of elderly residents and children during the 2020 COVID lockdowns (and it made us all a bit teary!) 

Shelly then spoke about an Encompass volunteer sewing group that switched to making face masks when the pandemic took off, to donate to people in need.  Though the group wasn’t able to meet face-to-face during the lockdown, they continued sewing at home, kept in touch with other and had some friendly rivalry going with the number of masks they were each producing each day!  The group felt that it gave them a sense of belonging and purpose throughout the long Victorian lockdowns in 2020.

Colin highlighted the direct link between volunteering and employment.  Recent research by SEEK found that 2/3rd of hiring managers “looked favourably” on volunteers because they were thought to have better interpersonal skills, be more proactive, and more willing to accept a challenge.  Colin also spoke about the IPEP program (Impacting Pathways to Employment Program), where participants did a 4 week placement as part of the program.  Several people were offered jobs straight from this experience, which is a great outcome for all!

Things to consider before volunteering

The panel emphasised that it’s important to think about why you want to be a volunteer, how much time you have per day/week/month, and what length of time you can commit to.  Organisations have different needs, for example:

  • one day a week regular commitment 
  • casual volunteers (eg Geelong Mums will do an induction with you, and then you come whenever you have time)
  • ad hoc volunteers (eg SES have trained and ‘ready to go’ volunteers in emergencies)
  • “one off” volunteers (eg Sporting Events like a triathalon.)

It’s also good to think about how far you are willing to travel to do your volunteer work, and importantly, think what you are passionate about and interested in – do you love animals?  Is conservation important to you?  Are you passionate about Aged Care?  This can be the clue to finding the right opportunity for you.

You should also think about any skills/experience that you may have, and that would benefit the organisation. 

What sort of opportunities are there and how do I apply?

Colin said that Volunteering Geelong has 150+ organisations on their database – including Hospitals and Aged Care; Health and disability providers; Animal and Wildlife; Health and Community Centres; Emergency Services; Conservation projects; Op Shops; Food Relief; Sporting Organisations and Schools. 

Click on their website: to see a current list of jobs available – at the time of writing these included retail, gardening, aged care visits, drivers, events, conservation, administration, animal care, café, receptionists and food bank distributor positions.

Volunteering Geelong also provides a referral service for volunteers looking for volunteer roles. You can just call or email Volunteering Geelong to express your interest:

Ph:  0352211377 or

Emily said to click here to see current volunteering vacancies at GenU.  You will need a resume, and can do the whole application on their website.  This is followed by an interview.  Emily’s hot tip is to research their organisation and understand them, their vision, mission and the difference that they are trying to make in the world.  This will really help your application to stand out.  If you are interviewed, she said that you can expect to be asked:

  • “Tell us about yourself”
  • “What do you know about GenU and our work?
  • “Why do you want to work with us?”

Shelley mentioned that Encompass is keen to boost their volunteer numbers back up to pre-COVID levels, and at the moment they are needing volunteers for their Café at Whittington, and if there’s any keen home gardeners reading, then they also currently need volunteers at The Paddock (the farm at Leopold).

Other places to look include:

What should you expect, as a volunteer?  What are your rights, and responsibilities?

Colin discussed that volunteers – just like paid employees – have the right to:

  • a safe workplace
  • a position description (so that it’s clear what your role is)
  • access to induction and training opportunities
  • flexible and agreed hours;
  • insurance (eg public liability insurance)
  • be treated fairly and equitably.

Shelley said that Encompass volunteers all receive an induction and will be met by their Supervisor on their 1st day for a proper site induction.  Encompass volunteers are treated just like staff and are invited to planning and training days – so you will be well looked after!

In summary

There are a great number of wonderful volunteering opportunities available – so why not get involved!