Student researcher

Bill Calcutt
Bill Calcutt Research Leader

Utilising the NSW SES in a multi-site case study, this research project pursues two distinct but complementary aims.  The first is to identify and analyse the primary issues and reasons why people volunteer for mission-driven, physically-demanding, potentially-hazardous emergency service roles, and to assess whether these expectations are realistic give the often mundane and sometimes arduous nature of volunteer tasks (typically long periods of inactivity interspersed with short periods of intense activity) and (necessarily) bureaucratic risk-management processes.  Any significant dissonance between expectation and experience has the potential to engender frustration and dissatisfaction amongst volunteers.    

The second aim is to engage participative action research to investigate the application of different approaches to volunteer recruitment and management  which address specific key issues of concern to members. In this action research process, the intention will be to  increase volunteer satisfaction, participation and retention over the medium term.

The primary research questions therefore ask why people volunteer for emergency service organisations (like the SES) and what are their expectations of the experience; what is the workplace reality for volunteers in an emergency service organisation and why is that so; how does an emergency service organisation better recruit and maintain the satisfaction and commitment of its volunteers and retain their services?


Year Type Citation
2019 Thesis Calcutt, B. Valuing volunteers: better understanding the primary motives for volunteering in Australian emergency services. School of Management, Operations and Marketing Master of Philosophy, (2019).
Voluntary expectations and experience
25 Aug 2014
In the face of an increase in the frequency and severity of emergency events, various individual,...
Volunteer retention in emergency services
25 Aug 2014
The quality of volunteer leadership is an important factor in attracting and keeping volunteers.
Volunteering Challenges for Emergency Services
18 Aug 2015
Australian emergency services face a range of contemporary challenges, including the ongoing availability and...
Bill Calcutt Conference Poster 2016
12 Aug 2016
Australian emergency services face a range of contemporary challenges, including the ongoing availability and...
Valuing volunteers study
30 Jun 2017
Volunteers are the lifeblood of Australian emergency services and constitute a unique skilled workforce that...
27 Aug 2019
The research aims to provide a better understanding of the primary motives for formal volunteering in...