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AusPlay

The AusPlay Survey (AusPlay) is a large scale national population tracking survey funded and led by the Australian Sports Commission. The survey tracks Australian sport and physical activity participation behaviours to help inform sport investment, policy and delivery. Research conducted July 2019-June 2020 revealed that around 3.3 million Australians volunteered in sport and physical activity.

Key insights from the April 2021 AusPlay survey release
  • 15.7% of people over the age of 15 participate in a non-playing role in sport (17.2% of men and 14.2% of women).
  • The most common roles across both genders are coach/instructor/trainer, official and administrator/committee member.
  • Peak ages for volunteering are 15-17 and 45-54 for both men and women.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

The 2020 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) General Social Survey report provides information on the overall number of volunteers. According to the report, almost one third (29.5%) of the Australian population aged 15 years and over participated in unpaid voluntary work through an organisation in the 12 months prior to the survey. 39.1% of people who volunteered, did so in sport/physical recreation organisations – the biggest cohort of volunteers across all sectors.

The 2012 ABS Sport and Physical Recreation: a statistical overview provided more detail about the motivation of sports organisation volunteers. The three main reasons for volunteering were: (1) to help others in the community (53% of volunteers); (2) personal satisfaction (46%); and, (3) personal or family involvement (46%).

Other key points from the report follow:

  • 93% of sport and recreation volunteers participated in organised sport as a child.
  • The ethos of volunteerism is ‘putting something back’ into the sport system that made an impact on that person’s overall development.
  • Sport and recreation volunteers are involved in a range of activities. About half of all sport volunteers also volunteered in another type of organisation outside sport.
  • There was a positive correlation between higher volunteering rates and being born in Australia; employed; and, in families with two parents and children aged under 15 years.
  • 88% of volunteers were employed and worked 41-48 hours per week.
  • Travel time did not appear to impact participation in sport and recreation volunteering.
  • There appeared to be an association between rates of volunteering and socio-economic status; lower rates of volunteering are associated with socio-economic disadvantage.
  • Lower rates of volunteering were also associated with self-reported health problems.
While the ABS no longer provides updated analysis relating to volunteering in sport, other research and evidence suggest that many of the insights from the abovementioned reports, remain relevant.

Access to resources
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Additional resources

  • Active Lives: Adult Survey, November 2018/19 Report, Sport England, (April 2020). Based on people having volunteered at least twice in the last 12 months Sport England found that men continue to be much more likely to volunteer in sport and activity (58% male; 42% female). This is in contrast to more general volunteering where men and women were equally represented. Additionally, male volunteers in sport more often held positions of influence as coaches, officials, and committee members. The report also found that people from lower socio-economic groups were less likely to volunteer (making up only 11% of volunteers although they make up 31% of the population), and people with a disability, who make up 21% of the population, account for only 13% of volunteers.
  • The AusPlay Survey (AusPlay) is a large scale national population tracking survey funded and led by the Australian Sports Commission that tracks Australian sport and physical activity participation behaviours to help inform sport investment, policy, and delivery. Results are updated in April and October annually. Current and past survey results and reports are available online.
  • The economic contribution of sport to Australia, Frontier Economics report to the Australian Sports Commission, (2010). There are three main ways in which sport delivers economic benefits to society: (1) promotion of physical activity for public health benefit delivers an estimated saving of $12 billion in health care costs, (2) labour input of volunteers is valued at around $4 billion, and (3) the international success of elite Australian sportspeople is one of the most significant measurable positive impacts on social well-being; with a value that is likely to exceed the current annual budget for elite sports.
  • General Social Survey, Australian Bureau of Statistics, (September 2020), latest release. This report provides a breakdown of the volunteer characteristics and hours which indicate that Australians had volunteered for 596.2 million hours in the previous 12 months. Almost one third (29.5%) of the Australian population aged 15 years and over participated in unpaid voluntary work through an organisation in the 12 months prior to the survey. Volunteering rates for males and females were similar at 30.7% and 28.5 % (Table 3). The most common types of organisations for which people volunteered were those relating to sport and physical recreation (39.1% of volunteers), religious groups (23.3%) and education and training (21.8%) (Table 8).
  • Intergenerational review of Australian sport 2017, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) for the Australian Sports Commission, (2017). This review focused on the overall sports sector, with a particular emphasis on participation in sport and community level sport. The report estimates that together, sport creates significant value for Australia, with at least $7 returned on every dollar expended in the sector.  This high rate of return is a combination of the benefits described above: direct economic benefits, the network of volunteers and not-for-profits, avoided health costs, and education benefits. It also highlights some of the challenges facing the Australian sport sector, including a decreasing participation rate of both sport participants and volunteers.
  • Involvement in organised sport as a coach, instructor, referee, or umpire, Australian Bureau of Statistics (Perspectives on Sport series), (October 2008). Results from the ABS survey of Involvement in Sport and Physical Activity conducted in 2007 show that 1.6 million people or 9.9% of the population aged 15 years and over were involved in one or more non-playing roles. This included 659,000 (4.0%) who were involved as a coach, instructor or teacher and 381,000 (2.3%) who were involved as a referee or umpire. Overall, more males (386,000) than females (273,000) were involved as a coach, instructor or teacher. This difference was also noticeable for those involved as a referee or umpire with 233,000 males involved, compared with 148,000 females. In most age ranges there were also more males than females involved as a coach, instructor or teacher; or as a referee or umpire. However, an exception was in the 15-24 year age group where there were more females (67,300) involved than males (50,700). Persons involved as a coach, instructor or teacher were most likely to undertake their role for between 3 and 9 hours per week (43.6%) or for less than 3 hours (42.6%). Just 13.8% were involved in these roles for 10 hours or more per week. In comparison, the majority (62.7%) of referees or umpires were involved for less than 3 hours per week.
  • Sport and Physical Recreation: a statistical overview, Australia 2012, Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2012) Final report (ceased). This report provides information on the overall number of sport volunteers. According to the report there are 2.3 million Australians who perform volunteer work in sport and recreation organisations.  volunteers in sports organisations reported a variety of reasons for volunteering, with the three main reasons being: (1) to help others in the community (53% of volunteers); (2) personal satisfaction (46%); and (3) personal or family involvement (46%).
  • Sport and physical recreation volunteers, Australian Bureau of Statistics (Perspectives on Sport series), (October 2008). Voluntary work enables many sporting clubs to deliver community services. Volunteering helps to develop and reinforce social networks and cohesion within communities. Sports and physical recreation organisations attracted the largest number and proportion of volunteers, 1.7 million people or 11.1% of the population.
  • Sport and Social Capital, Australia, 2010, Australian Bureau of Statistics, (March 2012) Final report (ceased). This report examines the relationship between participation in sport and physical recreation and social wellbeing using a range of indicators from the 2010 General Social Survey (GSS). This report shows the associations between participation and a range of social indicators that may be used to assess social capital and wellbeing. Literature suggests that volunteering in the community is an important contributor to the development and maintenance of social capital (Nicholson and Hoye 2008). Data from the GSS show that sport participants are an important source of volunteers in the community. Over three quarters of those who volunteered their time and services to an organisation also participated in some sport or recreational activity during that same time period. The participation rate for non-volunteers was much lower.
  • Sport Volunteers and Other Volunteers: Some Data From the 2002 General Social Survey, Australian Bureau of Statistics prepared for the Standing Committee on Recreation & Sport, (May 2005). This report completes a project on the 2004-05 SCORS Research Group (SRG) Work Plan to analyse data from the 2002 General Social Survey (GSS) as relevant to volunteers with a view to determining the population groups more likely to volunteer, and any social factors that may act as motivators.
  • Sustainable Australia Report 2013: Conversations with the future, Australian Government, National Sustainability Council, (2013). This report provides statistical information and analysis on key trends and emerging issues regarding Australia’s sustainability and the lifestyle of Australians. It provides an overview of volunteers in sport, and participation trends. Chapter 13, ‘Social Indicators’ contains information on volunteering (p.132) in both participation level sport and organised sport (p.136).
  • Value of Sport, Australia, 2013, Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2013) Final report (ceased). This publication collates ABS data related to the value of sport. The chapter on volunteers includes information on the number of volunteers by age and sex, family and household type, and their contribution to the labour force. Sport and physical recreation organisations attracted the largest number of volunteers as a sector, 14% of the adult population contribute in some voluntary capacity.
  • Volunteers in Victoria, State of Victoria, Ministerial Council for Volunteers, (June 2017). This report was developed to provide a contemporary narrative for volunteering. It also provides a summary of the known social benefits, economic value and current trends. Findings from this report highlight key trends, challenges and opportunities for volunteering, and have informed the development of strategic priorities to strengthen and support the volunteer sector in Victoria.
  • Volunteers in Sport, Australia, 2010, Australian Bureau of Statistics, (March 2012) Final report (ceased). Data from the 2010 General Social Survey of the Australian population provides information about various aspects of volunteering and how these may relate to each other. This report provides a detailed analysis of the characteristics of volunteers in sport and physical recreation. People volunteering in the sport sector are split into two categories; volunteers in sport and physical recreation organisations only, and volunteers who participate in sport and other organisation(s).

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