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The AusPlay Survey (AusPlay) is a large scale national population tracking survey funded and led by Sport Australia. The survey tracks Australian sport and physical activity participation behaviours to help inform sport investment, policy and delivery. Research conducted just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that about 3.1 million Australians volunteered in sport and physical activity.

Key insights from the April 2020 AusPlay survey
  • Around 16% of people over the age of 15 participate in a non-playing role in sport (18% of men and 14% of women).
  • The most common roles across both genders are  coach/instructor/trainer, official and administrator/committee member.
  • Peak ages for volunteering are 45-54 and 15-17 years (men) and 15-17 and 35-44 years (women).

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

The 2014 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) General Social Survey report provided information on the overall number of sport volunteers. According to the report, 31% 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 are employed and work 41-48 hours per week.
  • Travel time did not appear to impact participation in sport and recreation volunteering.
  • There appears 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 are also associated with self-reported health problems.
While the ABS no longer provides updated statistics or 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 ReportSport 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 Sport Australia that tracks Australian sport and physical activity participation behaviours to help inform sport investment, policy, and delivery. Current and past survey results and reports are available online.
  • Contribution of the Not-for-Profit SectorAustralian Government, Productivity Commission, research report, (2010). This report provides information on: (1) improving the measurement of the sector's contributions, and (2) promoting productivity and social innovation. The report highlights in many different sections the economic and social benefits that volunteering has on the not-for-profit sector generally.
  • The economic contribution of sport to AustraliaFrontier 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 2014Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4159.0, (2015). This report provides a breakdown of the volunteer characteristics and hours which indicate that Australians had volunteered for 157.5 million hours in the previous 12 months. With 11.5% of volunteers donating 200 hours or more to sport and physical recreation organisations. The most common type of organisations that people volunteer for are sport and physical recreation organisations (31 per cent).
  • Intergenerational review of Australian sport 2017Boston 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. While the synergies between participation and high performance sporting outcomes are recognised as being important to any discussion about the value of sport, the ASC’s high performance strategy is reviewed as part of the Olympic cycle. A separate, deeper analysis of the high performance sports system, including the AIS strategy and future direction of the AIS campus, commenced prior to the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games. This analysis includes an evaluation of individual sports' abilities to contribute to high performance outcomes. The outcomes of this analysis will complement this review.
  • Involvement in Organised Sport and Physical Activity, Australia, 2010, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 6285.0, (2010) Final. This report provides a breakdown, by characteristics, of people who are involved with organised sports.
  • Involvement in organised sport as a coach, instructor, referee, or umpireAustralian Bureau of Statistics (Perspectives on Sport series), Catalogue Number 4156.0.55.001, (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.
  • Sport and Physical Recreation: a statistical overview, Australia 2012Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4156.0, (2012) Final. 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 volunteersAustralian Bureau of Statistics (Perspectives on Sport series), Catalogue Number 4156.0.55.001, (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 Volunteers and Other Volunteers: Some Data From the 2002 General Social SurveyAustralian 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 futureAustralian 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, 2013Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 5156.0.55.002, (2013) Final. 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.
  • Voluntary Work, Australia, 2010Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4441.0, (2011). About 34% of Australians, 6.1 million people, participate in voluntary work. The types of organisations that volunteers gave most time to were sport and physical recreation (37% of all voluntary work hours), religious (22%). community and welfare (21.5%), and education and training (17.5%) organisations.
  • Volunteers in VictoriaState 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, 2010Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue Number 4440.0.55.001, (March 2012) Final. 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).
  • Youth sport volunteer coach motivation, Busser J and Carruthers C, Managing Sport and Leisure, Volume 15(1-2), pp.128-139, (2010). This study explored the motivations of youth sport coaches. A sample of youth sport coaches completed the Volunteer Functions Inventory that measures motivations. Demographic information was also collected. Results indicated that values were the most important function for youth sport volunteer coaches. Implications for the recruitment and retention of youth sport coaches and future research are discussed.

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