Volunteering research in Australia: A narrative review

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Objective: Australian research on volunteering is rich and diverse, but also increasingly fragmented. In an attempt to promote a more integrated study of volunteering, we review volunteering research conducted in Australia, using volunteering journey as a framework. Specifically, we summarise literature on volunteer characteristics, motivations, benefits, psychological contract, commitment, and withdrawal. Method: A comprehensive review yielded 152 studies on volunteering conducted in Australia. Results: We find that volunteers have distinct characteristics, such as being older, better connected, employed, and residing in rural areas. There are a variety of reasons that prompt individuals to volunteer, and this motivation does change over time. Volunteering leads to better psychological well-being, as well as increases in social and human capital. Volunteer expectations and commitment are key drivers of ongoing volunteering. Finally, stress, work–family conflict, and negative interactions with others lead to volunteer withdrawal. Conclusion: A lot is known about volunteering, however, future advancement of the field will depend on better integration across disciplines and domains. Currently, volunteering is viewed as a set of distinct stages, and a more integrated approach is required. We also note a lack of theoretical and methodological rigour in many Australian studies on volunteering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-360
Number of pages19
JournalAustralian Journal of Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date29 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


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