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Volunteers- Covered by 'Workcover'?

23 September 2002 at 1:09 pm
Staff Reporter
Should volunteers be covered by Workcover or not? That is the question posed by one of our Pro Bono Australia readers...

Staff Reporter | 23 September 2002 at 1:09 pm


Volunteers- Covered by 'Workcover'?
23 September 2002 at 1:09 pm

Should volunteers be covered by Workcover or not? That is the question posed by one of our Pro Bono Australia readers, Paul McKillop from NNAAMI regarding small-unfunded organisations or small community organisations.

Pro Bono Australia sought the advice of the appropriate government departments in both NSW and Victoria.

The answer from both states is that volunteers are not workers and are not otherwise entitled to compensation unless deemed to be so by separate Acts of Parliament. But is this enough?

The position with volunteers in NSW is that only emergency services personnel, such as bushfire services & surf lifesavers are covered by the Workers Compensation Scheme.

Volunteers in NSW and Victorian Not for Profit organisations come under public liability. However, if a volunteer has an accident when visiting a NSW workplace that is covered by Workers Compensation, then they are covered, as are all non-employees visiting such workplaces.

The following Acts in Victoria provide that volunteers and other persons assisting Government Agencies are entitled to compensation in accordance with the Accident Compensation Act 1985 if injured while carrying out relevant duties:

· Victoria State Emergency Services Act 1987 (applies to casual emergency
· Police Assistance Compensation Act 1968 (applies to volunteers assisting
police officers)
· Country Fire Authority Act 1958 (applies to casual fire fighters and
volunteer auxiliary workers)
· Juries Act 1967 (applies to jurors)
· Education Act 1958 (applies to volunteer school workers or volunteer
student workers) and
· Emergency Management Act 1986 (applies to registered and casual emergency workers).

Where a worker of an employer is provided by that employer to emergency
organisations as part of the worker’s contract of service, the worker remains a worker of the employer.

If however, the employees are acting as volunteers, albeit with the
employer’s approval, they will be subject to the provisions of the Acts mentioned above.

Claims under the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 are handled by that
Authority; and claims under the Police Assistance Compensation Act 1968 are handled by the Police Department.

For claims under the other Acts, the Authority administers the claims on
behalf of the Crown. These claims are recorded on a separate system from ACCtion and the compensation is paid directly out of the WorkCover Authority Fund prior to reimbursement from the Consolidated Fund.

Finally, the Corrections Act 1986 deems volunteers in prisons and offenders
working or taking part in a program of activities pursuant to a correctional order, a provision of the Sentencing Act 1991 or Part 9 of the Corrections Act 1986, to be workers employed by the Crown, while carrying out the relevant duties.

These claims are administered by the agent for the Office of Corrections in
the same way as other claims against the Office.

That may be the confusing array of so called ‘cover’ for volunteers but is Workcover the answer?

Sha Cordingly of Volunteering Australia says their position is ‘yes’, all volunteers should be protected but the most sensible option especially for unfunded organisations at present would by personal accident insurance.

Cordingly stresses that this is not the same as Public Liability Insurance and at this stage is still fairly affordable.

She says many organisations are under the false assumption that volunteers are automatically covered by Workcover which is not necessarily the case.

During the International Year of the Volunteers in 2001, Volunteering Australia produced a National Agenda on the way forward for volunteering nationally.

In that document the issue of proper protection for volunteers was expressed.

The report said “Australian volunteers work in many settings and under a variety of conditions. Some work along side paid employees and under identical circumstances, others work alone or as a group in situations that are less than safe. Unlike paid staff, volunteers are not always covered by legislation that protects or compensates within the work place. Many volunteers are exposed to risk, injury, discrimination or prejudice in the absence of explicit mention in relevant legislation. Others carry huge financial responsibility or are exposed to legal liability. It is in the interests of all Australians that volunteers are protected under law.”

In this particular area some of the recommendations to government were that:
 The various workers’ compensation legislation around Australia is consistent in the level of compensation offered to volunteers injured in the course of their voluntary work.
 State governments specifically include volunteer protection in the relevant Occupational Health and Safety Act(s).
 An inter-governmental working group that identifies all of the relevant existing legislation across all jurisdictions and a methodology to address the process of legislative change and amendments.

On the issue of Personal Accident Insurance take a look at AON Insurance and its “Volunteers’ Vital Pack”. One of the features is that there is no age limit. If you would like details on this insurance package send us an e-mail to

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