Research leader

Blythe McLennan
Dr Blythe McLennan Research Leader
Patrick Dunlop Research Leader

End User representatives

Ali Martin End-Users
Peter Jeffrey End-Users
Georgina Goodrich
Karen Roberts
Karen Roberts End-Users
Paul Davis End-Users
Adelaide Cooper End-Users
Deb Parkin End-Users
Jennifer Pidgeon End-Users
Troy Davies End-Users
Zoe Kenyon End-Users
Lisa Grieg End-Users
Jen Burgess End-Users
Kendra Clegg End-Users

Research team

Darja Kragt Research Team
Dr Alex Luksyte Research Team
Dr Djurre Holtrop Research Team
Prof Marylène Gagné Research Team
Dr Tarn Kruger
Dr Tarn Kruger Research Team
Prof John Handmer
Prof John Handmer Research Team

This new project began in July 2017, and has two parts:

  1. Adapting the sector
  2. Changing management practice

Adapting the sector

This section of will investigate why change is needed, and explore the developments that are likely to occur over the next decade that will require adaption by emergency service organisations. Current models, frameworks and processes will be reviewed, with a survey conducted with key stakeholders to understand the key barriers to organisational change. Outcomes will highlight the best ways to enable change and overcome barriers, or emphasise if new approaches are needed.

Watch the January 2018 project update for Adapting the sector.

What is emergency volunteering going to look like in 2030? How (and by whom) is it going to be organised?

How can the emergency management sector best enable the value of volunteering for communities - before, during and after an emergency - into the future?

This component is designed to engage stakeholders in finding answers to these questions. It is motivated by recognition of a transformation occurring in the way people volunteer in Australian society that presents both challenges and opportunities for volunteer management and community engagement. Adapting the sector is a foresight project. It will develop and explore future volunteering scenarios to consider their implications for today’s decision-making across urban, urban fringe, rural and remote settings. The research aims to support stakeholders in the emergency management sector to adapt to the transformation of volunteering and better position their organisations to enable and enhance the value of volunteering for communities - now and into the future.

Changing management practice

Watch the January 2018 project update for Changing management practice.

When a natural disaster strikes or an emergency arises, Western Australia (WA)’s regional and metropolitan communities rely on the assistance provided by State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers. SES involves around 2000 volunteers, but the turnover rate is roughly 25% annually. SES volunteers receive extensive and very costly training in various disaster management areas, which requires the expenditure of substantial financial, time, and human resources. The high turnover rate means that that these resources are not used efficiently and puts the delivery of a crucial emergency service in jeopardy. In addition, the recent socioeconomic changes gave rise to a ‘new’ styles of volunteering that are more diverse, fluid, episodic and digitally-enabled. This presents significant challenges to current volunteer management practices, such as recruitment and socialisation.

The present research project aims to improve the current volunteer recruitment, socialisation, and retention strategies. First, volunteer experience will be investigated through the various stages of engagement with the service: in the pre-recruitment stage, we will study expectations and stereotypes about volunteering held by prospective volunteers. At the recruitment stage, we will investigate the effectiveness of recruitment materials and strategies, including for the attraction of more diversity. At the socialisation stage, we will investigate induction and on-boarding processes, the development of volunteer identity, person-organisation fit. At the deployment stage, we will investigate volunteer motivation, wellbeing outcomes, psychological contract perceptions, and design of volunteer work. Throughout this investigation we seek to understand how a culture for inclusiveness shapes volunteer experiences, but also affects the diversity of volunteer base.

The findings of the research will inform and guide the design of better recruitment, retention, and wellbeing practices and will be broadly applicable to emergency services in Australia.

Year Type Citation
2018 Conference Paper Kruger, T. & McLennan, B. Volunteering into the future – disaster events, local governments & communities. AFAC18 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
2018 Conference Paper Kruger, T. & McLennan, B. Emergency volunteering 2030: a sector-wide, management perspective. AFAC18 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
2018 Conference Paper Bates, J. Research proceedings from the 2018 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2017 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
2018 Journal Article McLennan, B. J. Conditions for effective coproduction in community-led disaster risk management. Voluntas 28, 16 (2018).
2017 Conference Paper Rumsewicz, M. Research proceedings from the 2017 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2017 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
Date Title Download Key Topics
07 Jul 2017 Lightning presentation: enabling sustainable emergency volunteering - why and for what outcomes? PDF icon 748.26 KB (748.26 KB) emergency management, recruitment, volunteering
31 Aug 2017 Fire Australia Issue Three 2017 PDF icon 5.22 MB (5.22 MB) child-centred, prescribed burning, severe weather
12 Oct 2017 Adapting the sector: enabling sustainable emergency volunteering project (stage 1) PDF icon 1.28 MB (1.28 MB) emergency management, recruitment, volunteering
16 Oct 2017 Enabling sustainable volunteering - changing management practice - project update October 2017 File 0 bytes (0 bytes) communities, recruitment, volunteering
16 Oct 2017 Enabling sustainable volunteering - adapting the sector - project update October 2017 File 0 bytes (0 bytes) communities, recruitment, volunteering
16 Nov 2017 Enabling sustainable emergency volunteering: project overview File 0 bytes (0 bytes) communities, recruitment, volunteering
11 Jan 2018 Enabling sustainable volunteering - adapting the sector - project update January 2018 File 0 bytes (0 bytes) communities, recruitment, volunteering
11 Jan 2018 Enabling sustainable volunteering - changing management practice - project update January 2018 File 0 bytes (0 bytes) communities, recruitment, volunteering
03 Apr 2018 Enabling sustainable volunteering - adapting the sector - project update April 2018 File 0 bytes (0 bytes) communities, recruitment, volunteering
17 Apr 2018 Enabling sustainable emergency volunteering: Changing management practice PDF icon 1.68 MB (1.68 MB) emergency management, response, volunteering
Volunteer sustainability is about much more than recruitment and retention
18 Sep 2018

We asked 26 government and non-government volunteer managers about volunteer sustainability. You might be surprised by what they told us. Recruitment and retention practices are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the changes needed to meet the future.

When joining is not enough: Profiles of emergency services volunteers and the intention to remain
18 Sep 2018

In this study, we examined how meeting the initial expectations of new volunteers when they join an emergency service is related to their intentions to remain with that service. A survey of 539 emergency services volunteers revealed that the new volunteers whose expectations matched what the volunteering role could deliver tended to participate in more volunteer activities and had a stronger intent to remain a volunteer. By contrast, when new volunteers had either too few or too many expectations, they were more likely to express turnover intentions after one year of service.