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Volunteer in Australia with IVHQ

Volunteer in Australia

Volunteer in Cairns, Australia with International Volunteer HQ and join a unique Great Barrier Reef marine conservation volunteer project and help support the protection of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem, the world’s largest coral reef. Great Barrier Reef Volunteers are based in Queensland with conservation volunteer work taking place on two islands, located 45 minutes from the Port of Cairns. IVHQ offers safe, responsible and affordable volunteer opportunities in Australia and we are proud to have hosted over 110,000 volunteers across on our volunteer projects worldwide. Read more about our Great Barrier Reef conservation volunteer work below.
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Watch IVHQ volunteers abroad in Australia

At a glance…

  • Volunteer work in Australia is available year-round
  • Join a unique Marine Conservation volunteer project focused on the protection of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem
  • Live alongside other volunteers in Cairns - the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef
  • Coral reef surveying and marine data collection training is provided to volunteers in Australia
  • Program fee includes island transfers, orientation, accommodation, meals and 24/7 in-country support
  • Affordable program fees from US$1010 (approximately £840) for 1 week
  • Most affordable fees - as the world leader in affordable volunteer travel, we’re able to keep our fees low by partnering with a local organisation in Australia to support meaningful community projects and local employment.
  • Superior support - your experienced IVHQ Program Manager, teamed with our local team in Australia will ensure you feel supported every step of the way - from planning to volunteering.
  • Responsible projects - we’re dedicated to ensuring that our projects are responsibly run and have sustainable positive impacts that are supporting local needs.
  • Online training - as soon as you register on an IVHQ program, you will gain access to our interactive volunteer training to ensure you’re well prepared for your program.
  • Safety-first - volunteer safety is a top priority for IVHQ and we have clear standards for risk management on each program. You can feel confident that you are placed with trustworthy institutions, organisations and families that have been screened by our local teams.
  • New friendships - as an IVHQer, you’ll always be in the company of friendly locals and like-minded volunteer travellers who will quickly become your life-long friends.
  • Epic weekend adventures - you’ll have your weekends free to explore Australia with your new-found friends.

The Australia volunteer program is located in the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system. Volunteers are based in Cairns in Far North Queensland with conservation volunteer work taking place on Green Island and Fitzroy Island, located 45 minutes from the Port of Cairns. Your ferry ticket to and from the islands each day is covered by your program fee.

The program begins on the first Monday of every month. Volunteers can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 1 week to 4 weeks.

Marine Conservation

Volunteers on the Marine Conservation project in Australia have the opportunity to join a variety of important conservation efforts focused on the protection of Great Barrier Reef ecosystem.

When volunteering in Australia, you will work in collaboration with a number of oceanographic organisations to gather vital raw data and support the protection of the Great Barrier Reef through a range of initiatives, including:

  • Reef Monitoring - This portion of the Marine Conservation project involves snorkeling within an assigned area to collect data on the species living in the Great Barrier Reef. You do not require any previous reef surveying experience to participate, as you will be trained in the methodology of in-water surveying during your program orientation. A full-length lycra suit will be supplied and volunteers are just required to bring their own snorkel and waterproof watch.
  • Marine Debris Collection and Research - Marine debris represents a significant threat to the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem and is having a devastating impact on marine life. As a volunteer, you will be assisting with marine debris data collection and mapping. This data will then be categorised and shared with university and conservation groups to assist with their research objectives. Training is provided for all volunteers regarding the importance of this work and you will be shown how to undertake marine debris data collection using the equipment provided to you.
  • Sea Turtle Rehabilitation (For volunteers staying for 2-4 weeks) - To support sea turtle conservation efforts, you will be trained to assist with the care of sick and injured sea turtles during the rehabilitation process. You will also have the opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of each turtle’s specific case and rehabilitation requirements. Your tasks may include cleaning filters and tanks, preparing food and feeding turtles. Other activities may include assisting with the upkeep of the centre’s facilities.

To participate on the Marine Conservation project in Australia, you aren’t required to have any specialised experience or qualifications as volunteers receive comprehensive training to prepare for carrying out research-based activities at sea. Please note that you need to be confident in the ocean, able to float and swim at least 50 metres. Please be sure to state your swimming ability and confidence level in the ocean when you apply to volunteer in Australia. All volunteers will be tested upon arrival to the program.

The Australia volunteer program orientation begins on the first Monday of every month and volunteers need to arrive in Cairns on the day before orientation.

After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at the Cairns International Airport (CNS). Your airport arrival shuttle is included in your program fee.

When you arrive, you will catch the provided shuttle bus to the volunteer accommodation in central Cairns. Your accommodation is covered by your program fee and includes the night before your program orientation.

If you are travelling in Australia prior to your volunteer program, you will need to arrange your own transport to the accommodation in Cairns the day before your program orientation.

Orientation is hosted by our Australia team in Cairns. It begins the morning of your chosen start date and lasts for a full day, with a break in the middle for lunch and a walking tour. The orientation covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Australia – Introduction to Australia, Culture and Customs, Rules and Expectations, Safety, Travel Opportunities, Introduction to Project and Placement as well as a tour of the local area. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socialising.

Weekdays: After the initial orientation, you will start volunteering from the Tuesday.

An example schedule is as follows:

6:30 AM Breakfast at the volunteer accommodation

7.00 AM Depart hostel and head to the port where you will take the ferry to one of the islands (the ferry ride takes approximately 45 minutes)

9.00 AM Volunteer work begins on the islands

12:00 PM Break for lunch and catch the return-ferry to Cairns

1:00 PM Ferry arrives back in Cairns and have the rest of the afternoon to spend your free time as you wish

Please note that this schedule will vary depending on the volunteer work requirements. There will be some days where you will have the opportunity to stay on the island until 4:00 PM to relax and sightsee.

Volunteers are accommodated in a dormitory-style hostel in central Cairns, located in close proximity to a range of cafes, restaurants, the mall, the esplanade and tourism operators. The volunteer hostel is a short walk (approximately 20 minutes) from the Port of Cairns where you will catch your ferry to and from the islands each day.

You can expect to share a room with 1-8 others of the same gender (please note that you can be accommodated with both volunteers and non-volunteers). The bathrooms are communal but separated by gender and are equipped with toilets and hot showers.

WiFi is available within the volunteer hostel at all times, at no extra cost. There are also multiple shared communal spaces such as a kitchen, outdoor dining area, lounge and pool.

Bedding is provided, and you just need to bring your own towels and toiletries. Lockers are available for use in each bedroom if you bring your own padlock. There are staff who clean the accommodation throughout the week, including your sheets, however, volunteers are required to keep their rooms tidy.

Accommodation upgrades to private rooms or smaller rooms (e.g. twin shares) are available at an additional cost, as well as extra nights of accommodation for before or after your program. It is best to arrange accommodation upgrades or extensions with the local team at least 3 weeks prior to your program start date. Please note that these upgrades are subject to availability.

Air-conditioning is provided in each room but this must be turned off when you are not in your room.

Breakfast is provided every day during your volunteer program. A simple continental-style breakfast will be provided from Monday to Friday at the volunteer hostel. Breakfast typically consists of cereal, milk, toast and fruit. Tea and coffee will also be provided. The hostel also provides pancakes and maple syrup for breakfast from 7.00AM to 1:00AM each day. As you will depart for the ferry at around 7:00AM each morning, you will be able to enjoy these pancakes on a Saturday and Sunday.

Lunch is provided from Monday to Friday and consists of a healthy and balanced packed lunch that you will be able to take with you to the island each day. Tap water in Australia is safe to drink in most areas and we strongly recommend bringing a reusable water bottle with you as single-use plastic is strongly discouraged on this program. We also recommend bringing a reusable cutlery set, coffee cup and straw as you will be eating lunch on the island most days. You will need to purchase your own lunch on the weekends and you can expect to budget US$10-15 for lunch.

Volunteers are responsible for purchasing their own dinners, either from one of the nearby eateries or by purchasing groceries to prepare in the hostel’s communal kitchen. Supermarkets are a short walk from the volunteer hostel, along with a fruit and vegetable market. A night market operates every night where you can purchase cheap dinners. There is also an extensive food court in the mall opposite the hostel and a wide range of restaurants in the surrounding streets.


Length of Program Program Fee £GBP ($USD)
1 week £840 ($1,010)
2 weeks £1,675 ($2,020)
3 weeks £2,470 ($2,980)
4 weeks £3,260 ($3,940)
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee from US$299 (~£250) on top of the Program Fee (partially refundable until 60 days before your program start date*). A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment. Please note IVHQ fees are charged in USD.
  • * Terms and Conditions do apply
What extra costs will I have?
  • Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, souvenirs, in-country trips or tours
  • Transfer back to the airport at conclusion of the program
  • Dinners while in-country and weekend lunches
  • Spending money - Volunteers in Australia generally find US$200 to be sufficient for basic weekly expenses, including dinners.
Registration Fee
What it covers
  • Most affordable program fees
  • Expert support from a program specialist
  • Full MyIVHQ account access
  • Online volunteer training
  • Comprehensive preparation tools
  • Deals on flights and travel insurance
  • IVHQ alumni rewards
Program Fee
What it covers
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • Airport pick-up
  • Program orientation
  • Volunteer placement
  • Accommodation
  • Meals

As a volunteer in Australia, you will have your weekends free to explore the breath-taking scenery, cultural diversity, unique wildlife, adventure sports and relaxed lifestyle that Australia is famous for. There is enough to do in Australia to fill a year’s worth of weekends and still have a lot left undone.

Cairns is an extremely advantageous base for traveling to other parts of Australia, and has plenty to offer in its own backyard. Known for its wealth of geographic features, volunteers can use their weekends to explore Cairns’ beaches, nearby islands, Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest - Australia’s largest tropical rainforest. Marine lovers have an extensive selection of coastline and beaches to enjoy in Cairns and the opportunity to dive, surf, kayak, swim and snorkel in some of the most beautiful spots in the world. Adrenaline junkies can enjoy bungee jumping, gorge swinging, white water rafting, parasailing and mountain biking.

Those who prefer the city scenes have easy flight access to Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne so you can explore popular Aussie attractions include Bondi Beach in Sydney, Great Ocean Road, Noosa or the Gold Coast.

Capital Canberra
Population 25 million
Languages English
Currency Australian Dollar (AUD)
Time zone UTC+8:00

Weather and climate: Cairns is considered to have a tropical climate and is warm year round. The hot season lasts 4-5 months from November to March. During this time, the daily high is often around 86°F (30°C). The cooler season runs from June to August and the daily high is around 79°F (26°C). Being a monsoonal climate, most rainfalls occurs between January and March.

Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate on this program, unless volunteering with a parent or guardian. If you are under the age of 18, IVHQ offers alternative volunteer opportunities for teens. Visit our High School Volunteer Abroad page to to learn more.

Volunteers must speak fluent English. Volunteers must present a recent criminal background check to IVHQ’s partner organization staff upon arrival in Australia. Volunteers must have adequate travel insurance.

Free Interactive Volunteer Training - All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training, which is available exclusively to registered IVHQ volunteers. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer. Try a sample of the training here.

How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
Meet your personal volunteer travel expert
Pay the registration fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
Get ready to volunteer abroad, we’ll support you every step of the way!