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Urban Volunteering: Melbourne

Melbourne Travel
by Laura Aberdeen Feb 4, 2010
Laura Aberdeen rounds up short and long-term volunteer opportunities in Melbourne.

As appealing as saving the orangutans in Borneo sounds, not everyone can afford to participate in overseas volunteer programs. Why not look closer to home?

There are a number of causes in Melbourne that are in need of your time and enthusiasm. You can take your pick from organisations caring for the environment, animals and people, and become an urban volunteer.

Greyhound Adoption Program (GAP)

GAP was created by Greyhound Racing Victoria with the aim of re-homing retired racing dogs. Dogs that enter the program are micro-chipped, wormed, de-sexed, vaccinated and have their temperament tested before being fostered out and taught family pet etiquette -racing dogs may not have encountered a vacuum cleaner or a staircase before! Once they’re acclimatised to domestic life, they are ready for adoption.

You can help by becoming a foster parent, for around three weeks at a time, as little or as often as you want. Training equipment, food and support are provided, and you’re not expected to be home all day. This is a great option for people who can’t commit long-term to a pet, but love animals.

For more information, contact Melanie Luscombe at GAP on (03) 5799 0166 or email

Fitzroy Learning Network

Melbourne is the most multicultural city in Australia, and the Fitzroy Learning Network provides workshops and support groups for new arrivals. They teach language, computer, job interview and life skills, and provide advocacy for people in Immigration Detention Centres. They also offer classes for the elderly, students at risk of dropping out, low-income earners and people with restricted access to new technology.

Mentors are needed for classes, and volunteers can help in other areas such as administrative duties, marketing, fundraising, gardening and cooking. To learn more, visit their website, and get a copy of the application form here.

Charity Shops

Australians sure do love their opportunity shops, or ‘op shops’, and there are a countless number of these stores throughout the city centre and suburbs. Run by charities in order to raise funds, they mainly sell second-hand goods, donated by members of the community. Not only are they cheap, but you can do your bit for the environment by re-using clothing and household goods rather than buying them brand new.

Op shops are always in need of volunteers to sort donations and work at the counter, so contact any of the major charities such as Animal Protection Society, St. Vincent de Paul, the Red Cross and Vision Australia.

Country Fire Authority (CFA)

The Victorian CFA is one of the largest volunteer-based emergency organisations in the world, with almost 60, 000 volunteers. The brigades respond to various types of incidents and have an important role in fire investigation and community education. The CFA played a vital part in fighting the horrific Black Saturday fires that displaced around 8000 people last year.

Volunteers can help in a variety of ways, from fighting fires or helping in emergencies, to administration, fundraising, media and education roles. Read more on their website or call 1800 232 636.

Collingwood Children’s Farm

The farm covers over 7 hectares of land on the Yarra River, yet it is only 5km from the centre of Melbourne. This country experience for city folk was opened in the seventies, and allows kids to explore sustainable horticulture, wildlife habitats and farm animals in a fun, safe environment. The farm has its own cafe, community garden plots and runs monthly farmers’ markets.

Volunteers can help with maintenance, gardening, horticulture, and animal care and husbandry. To find out more, or to register for an induction session, email

Community Connection

To learn more about Australia, stop by our Australia Focus Page.

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