Engaging Newly Arrived Migrants

Modified on Mon, 19 Feb 2024 at 08:45 AM

Volunteering By Newly Arrived Migrants

In many migrant communities, it’s a normal part of the culture to help out within the community but they may not recognise this as volunteering. This is because many multicultural groups come from collectivist rather than individualist societies. In 2015, Volunteering Australia adopted a broader definition of volunteering as ‘time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain’. This better recognises informal volunteering activities, such as those undertaken in migrant communities. In fact, a large national survey of volunteers conducted in 2016 found that almost half of the 2,304 respondents participated in informal volunteering. Nineteen percent of these survey respondents came from migrant backgrounds. 


According to the latest census, 30% of Australians were born overseas, nearly half have at least one parent born overseas, and around 20% speak a language other than English at home. There are many reasons a migrant might consider volunteering, including to; 

  • Expand social or professional networks.
  • Learn new skills, or practice English language.
  • Improve job prospects.
  • Gain experience in an Australian workplace.
  • Give back to the community.

Key Challenges

  • Recruiting and supporting volunteers from migrant backgrounds may be a challenge for Volunteer Involving Organisations (VIOs), due to various reasons including language barriers, and lack of cultural awareness
  • Migrants may have limited knowledge or misunderstanding about volunteering, which can stem from cultural differences.
  • Migrant communities may not access mainstream communication channels, and alternative methods of engagement are often needed
  • Newly arrived migrants are often motivated to volunteer as a pathway to paid employment which may be incompatible with some VIO's capacities.
  • Data on informal volunteering activities is not currently being captured well, but is a prevalent form of volunteering within migrant communities.

Additional Reading and Tools from SBS

SBS Australian Census Explorer - The Australian Census explorer can help you learn more about your community, what age groups and what cultures are present in your community.

SBS Cultural Atlas - The SBS Cultural Atlas provides comprehensive information on the cultural background of Australia's migrant population. This aims to improve cohesion and promote inclusion in our increasingly diverse society.

Tips for VIOs Engaging MigrantsThis resource contains helpful advice for engaging new migrants in your volunteering program.

Video Discussions and Guides Series: Let's Talk Cultural Inclusion 

This series of videos was developed through a co-design project, facilitated by
Volunteering Tasmania, and involving many stakeholders. The project aims to support sector
and community change to improve the pathways and experience of volunteering for newly
arrived migrants.

For more information and discussion prompts to broach the topics addressed in these videos, you can check out the Video Discussion Guide.


Volunteering can have different meanings to different people and cultures. Understanding motivations for volunteering and ensuring your processes and procedures are clear can make the volunteering experience smoother for everyone.

Cultural Safety

Cultural safety means everyone is treated with respect, regardless of their background. Feeling culturally safe can help someone feel welcome and included.

Cultural Inclusion

Bias or prejudices can happen intentionally or unintentionally. It is important to understand and identify such biases and work to overcome them. 

Recruitment Support Video Series: New to Australia? Come Volunteer!

In partnership between  Canterbury Community Centre - STARS and The Centre for Volunteering, a series of videos and factsheets were developed to support more inclusive volunteering opportunities by facilitating engagement with newly arrived migrants.  Along with English, four additional languages were chosen, based on ABS Statistics, to further support Volunteer Managers using the videos to engage new migrant volunteers.

English Video and Factsheet

Click Here to Download the English Factsheet

Urdu Video and Factsheet

Click Here to Download the Urdu Factsheet

Arabic Video and Factsheet

Click Here to Download the Arabic Factsheet

Chinese Video and Factsheet

This video is spoken in Mandarin and the Factsheet is written in Simplified Chinese.

Click Here to Download the Chinese Simplified Factsheet

Vietnamese Video and Factsheet

Click Here to Download the Vietnamese Factsheet

Fact Sheets and Resources

These resources have been developed under the National Volunteer Management Activity project.

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