Volunteering On the Rise in an Ageing and More Diversified Australia – Census 2016
Wednesday, 28th June 2017 at 11:24 am
The 2016 Census has revealed that Australians are still engaged and committed to volunteering activities, as well as highlighting that Australians are becoming older, more ethnically diverse and less religious.
The 2016 Census revealed that Australia’s population is now 23.4 million people, with 3.6 million people aged 15 years and over, or 19 per cent of the population, engaged in voluntary work through an organisation or group.
According to the data this is a 1.2 per cent increase from the 2011 Census results when 17.8 per cent of people responded that they were engaged in voluntary work.
The rates of volunteering are highest among males aged 45 to 54 years at 302,612 people. The rates of volunteering are highest among women aged 35 to 44 at 399,889 people and overall, the rates of volunteering are highest in the 45 to 54 year age group at 679,602 people.
National peak volunteer body, Volunteering Australia said that while the census data was encouraging, it warned that it may not necessarily be indicative of the narrative of Australian volunteering activity as the volunteer question had remained unchanged for the past three censuses.
“Currently the way the question is framed limits those who volunteer to those in the not-for-profit sector, and leaves out capturing volunteers who are informal, in the emergency services, private sector, sporting, education, arts, and those who volunteer in their community,” Volunteering Australia CEO Adrienne Picone told Pro Bono News.
“We believe the figure could be significantly higher given that the ABS question is narrow in its focus and doesn’t drill down and especially given the recent surveys like the Giving Australia report.”
Picone said that in May 2017, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) launched a national public consultation on statistics for volunteering and giving, to clarify the data needs on volunteering and giving activity.
“We are really pleased that they are now doing the consultation around how we capture data but I think it highlights for us the need to build on the ABS data and get some consistent volunteering figures across the country,” Picone said.
“It is so important in terms of planning and thinking and considering what is going to happen to volunteering into the future.”
The 2016 Census figures also showed a significant drop in the number of Australians (57.7 per cent) who still identified as Christian amid a long-term trend of falling religious affiliation.
When asked to list their religious affiliation, more than 13.5 million Australians chose Christianity, with about one third of Australians saying they had no religion.
More than 870,000 people – 3.7 per cent of all respondents listed their religious affiliation as Uniting Church. This 2016 figure is down by a total of 195,611 from the 2011 Census – and down from 5 per cent as a total of all respondents in the 2011 survey.
According to the Uniting Church it is the first time in its history that the census figure has slipped below one million, although other major Christian denominations have also experienced drops in membership in line with the generally ageing demographic profile of Australian Christians.
Uniting Church president Stuart McMillan described the census result as expected, and spoke of the transformation taking place.
“The Uniting Church is already embracing a future as a welcoming, vibrant, culturally diverse, post-denominational church with the same passion for justice and ecumenism we’ve always had,” McMillan said.
“The steady increase of people of other faith traditions through migration to Australia also underscores how vitally important our interfaith friendships and conversations are for a harmonious community.”
The census also showed a more culturally diverse Australia.
About half of Australians were born overseas, or had at least one parent born overseas.
About one million Australians were born in China or India with these two countries now the biggest sources of migration to Australia.
The census also showed that more Australians were renting than ever before, with rents increasing at twice the rate of inflation, and leaving more people in rent stress.
The census data showed there had been a 10 per cent increase in the number of households paying more than 30 per cent of their income on rent.
Victoria’s peak body for homelessness said the housing crisis was driving increased rates of homelessness, as low income renters are pushed out of the market.
“As housing prices have skyrocketed, more Australians are forced to rent long term, creating greater competition and squeezing low-income renters out of the market and into homelessness,” Council to Homeless Persons CEO Jenny Smith said.