Volunteering and the Equal Opportunity Act

Volunteers make an enormous contribution to the Victorian community. Every year, thousands of people give their time and energy on a voluntary basis to organisations in the not-for-profit, public and private sectors. In return, they gain valuable skills and strengthen their connection with their communities.

Victorians volunteer for very diverse organisations, including:

  • corporate bodies 
  • funded agencies with structured volunteer programs 
  • community groups 
  • clubs 
  • other associations run entirely by volunteers.

Not all these organisations are aware they have responsibilities under Victorian equal opportunity laws when they provide opportunities for volunteers. Likewise, many volunteers do not know they are covered by these laws.

The law

Under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 volunteers have the same protection against sexual harassment as paid employees. In some circumstances, volunteers also have rights, and organisations have responsibilities, under the Act’s discrimination provisions. 


In early 2011, we conducted a survey of the experiences of volunteers and organisations working with volunteers.  The Issues paper - Volunteers and the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 - May 2011 was released in response to issues raised with the Commission. 


Based on responses to the issues paper and further stakeholder consultation, we developed resources to help organisations working with volunteers to meet their obligations under the Equal Opportunity Act.

For organisations: 

Volunteers and the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 - Information for organisations

For volunteers: 

Volunteers and the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 - Know your rights.

We also have more information on volunteers and equal opportunity in the Workplace Rights and Responsibilities section of our website. <Workplace rights and responsibilities > Volunteers and equal opportunity>


For more information about this project, please contact the Commission on (03) 9032 3422 or email us at [email protected].

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