Resilience to Hazards


Ngarkat research volunteers
Ngarkat research volunteers_1

Project Status:

Significant time and money is invested in volunteers by agencies. Retaining volunteers saves substantial time and resources, increasing the capacity of individual brigades and units. Two areas contributing to the problem of retention have been attributed to poor leadership and cultural value alignment.The project has several aims but the core issues addressed are:

1. Retaining volunteers beyond their initial training period.

2. Increasing the skills acquisition of emergency service brigades and units.

The project has a blog, which can be accessed at

The frequency and impact of natural disasters is on the rise, while the volunteer workforce who are available and able to assist communities during these crises is reducing. High turnover of volunteers creates high operating costs (recruiting, training and equipping volunteers) as well as reduced organisational effectiveness.

The core volunteer issues being addressed in this study include retaining and engaging volunteers beyond their initial training period and increasing their skills to better handle emergencies.

The project has two research themes:

  1. Valuing volunteers - reconciling volunteer expectation and experiences. This aims to understand the primary motives for volunteering in emergency services, and the main reasons for volunteer turnover.
  2. Redesigning leadership – this involves a pilot Leadership Development Program, which provides hands on leadership training to enable volunteer leaders to understand their own leadership deficits and possibilities, providing them with skills to motivate their subordinates and to refine a program of leadership training for creating the next generation of volunteer leaders.

The pilot program teaches leaders to adopt more supportive approaches towards leading other volunteers. In doing so these leaders can manage their brigade or unit in a way that better supports motivation, job satisfaction and retention of volunteers. This program has been piloted with volunteer leaders from the NSW Rural Fire Service and the NSW State Emeregency Service.

The project has produced three conference papers.

Fire Australia Issue Two 2017
2 June, 2017
There is plenty of CRC science in the latest edition of Fire Australia.
SES volunteers undertaking a search.
30 May, 2017
Finding out why volunteers leave - and developing ways to improve volunteer retention—has been the focus of CRC research.
ACT ESA staff met with the UoW research team to learn more about the leadership program. Photo Paul Jones
15 December, 2016
A leadership program developed by Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC researchers at the University of Wollongong is helping the State Emergency Services and the Rural Fire Services tackle one of the biggest challenges they face: reducing the turnover in their volunteer workforce.
13 October, 2016
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
SES volunteers performing a rescue in bushland. Photo by ACT SES.
10 July, 2015
A recently released Hazard Note gives an overview of the Sustainable volunteering cluster of research projects.
RFS volunteer. Photo: Damien Ford NSW RFS
9 February, 2015
This update provides news on the four streams of research in the Emergency volunteering project.
22 October, 2014
New research is focused on retaining active emergency services volunteers, and better engaging untrained ‘informal’ volunteers who offer to help when incidents and natural disasters happen.
Michael Jones Conference Poster 2016
12 Aug 2016

Using the principles of diversity acceptance and organisational inclusive behaviour

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