A report, released by NRMA Insurance, found that the so-called “selfie-generation” was among the most helpful and community-minded in the country.
The research, which surveyed more than 2,000 people, found the majority of Australians were committed to helping others with nearly three quarters giving up their time to help the community and 41 per cent of respondents formally volunteering. In particular, young people aged between 18 and 34 were found to be the group most likely to give up their time to help others (80 per cent compared to 74 per cent on average) or volunteer in their community (43 per cent compared to 41 per cent on average).
NRMA Insurance executive general manager shared value, Ramana James said while millennials were often perceived as “fickle or entitled”, the reality was quite different. “Young people are well connected, open-minded and have the energy and optimism needed to make a difference,” James said. “Help is who we are as Australians. We give people a hand up when they need it and we roll up our sleeves when things get tough. “It’s reassuring to see that this spirit of ‘help’ is alive and well among those who are the future of Australia.”
Volunteering Australia CEO Adrienne Picone told Pro Bono News she was “pleasantly surprised” with the findings. “In our experience it isn’t backed up by numbers particularly looking at the ABS data and Giving Australia Data,” Picone said. “Certainly in ABS they found that the age group between 45 and 54 were likely to be the highest group that were volunteering, and I think in Giving Australia it was 35 to 44 years olds but very closely followed by 45 to 54. “However, anecdotally, we do hear that young people are volunteering in vast numbers and they are volunteering in different ways than perhaps their older counterparts. “It is really promising for the future when we are getting these sorts of numbers of young people telling us that they are actually giving back to the community.”
Picone speculated there could be an issue in how volunteering data was captured and how volunteering was defined that could account for the different findings. “Often what we call volunteering, people don’t necessarily see as being a volunteer, they may consider themselves helping out or working on a project, they might not use that word. I think that often is the case with young people,” she said.
According to the survey, young people were more likely to say they gave back because it made them “feel good”’ (54 per cent compared to 41 per cent on average) and because they wanted to make a difference (36 per cent compared to 34 per cent on average).
The latest study also asked people about how they felt about their community and the challenges faced in helping others. The findings showed those who volunteered were more likely to feel like they belonged in their community (with 78 per cent compared to 65 per cent on average).
However the biggest barriers to helping others or volunteering were identified as work commitments (36 per cent), “busyness” (31 per cent) and the out of pocket expenses involved (25 per cent). James said while it was not always easy to find the time to volunteer and give back, for those who did, the rewards were great. “Not only are you helping others, but you are helping make your community stronger and more connected,” he said. “We think it’s important for people to remember that every little bit of help counts. Taking a few minutes out of your day to help a neighbour maintain their property, or help a local community organisation with a project can make a real difference.”
Michael Andrews, the Queensland Young Volunteer of the Year 2017, told Pro Bono News there was an “organisation for everyone”. “I think now more than ever people, especially young people, are volunteering for causes that are close to their heart and causes that they are passionate about,” Andrews said. “There is an organisation for everyone.“ Especially now organisations are taking a different approach to volunteering, and not just sticking with the traditional models, they have project based and skilled based instead of just the long term traditional model. It is great that they are providing the opportunity.”
The 19 year old, who started volunteering with St John when he was five years old and has spent the last five years volunteering with Surf Life Saving Queensland, said he thought people would be surprised to hear that young people were volunteering more but that it made sense. “I think our generation are passionate about issues. It should come as no surprise that people want to give back in ways that they enjoy,” Andrews said. He said it boded well for the future. “I know in the organisation where I am volunteering at the moment, they always say that young volunteers are the future, which is true to some extent, but they are also part of the present,” he said.“I think it is great that you can engage young people now, so as they grow up, they can still be involved in not-for-profit organisations, or volunteer organisations and continue throughout their life.”
Editor Wendy Williams – Probono Australia