Skip to content

The Museum is temporarily closed. See Plan your visit

Pol-G-033, Version 3.0d, 19 November 2019

1. Title

Volunteers policy

2. Introduction

The National Museum of Australia (the Museum) is a major cultural institution charged with researching, collecting, preserving and exhibiting historical material of the Australian nation. The Museum focuses on the three interrelated areas of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture, Australia’s history and society since European settlement in 1788 and the interaction of people with the environment.

The Museum is a publicly funded institution governed as a statutory authority in the Commonwealth Arts portfolio. Established in 1980, it is headed by a director appointed by the Governor-General. The Council is responsible for the conduct and control of the affairs of the Museum. The Museum building on Acton Peninsula opened on 11 March 2001.

3. Scope

The National Museum of Australia encourages the full involvement of volunteers in its mission to promote an understanding of Australia’s history and an awareness of future possibilities.

Volunteers are involved in all programs and activities of the Museum and serve at all levels of skill and decision-making. Volunteers will not be used to displace the work of paid employees.

3.1 Description

This policy provides a best-practice framework for the management and involvement of volunteers at the National Museum of Australia.

3.2 Purpose

The Museum provides an environment where:

  • volunteering is rewarding, interesting and enjoyable
  • volunteers are involved in activities that enhance and assist the programs of the Museum, activities that would not otherwise be available through the existing resources and general funding of the Museum
  • it is recognised that resources are required to support volunteer involvement
  • volunteers are treated in a professional manner and, where possible and appropriate, will receive the benefits and privileges enjoyed by paid staff
  • volunteers are regularly recognised for their commitment and contribution to the programs and projects of the Museum.

3.3 Rationale

Volunteers are important to the Museum. They enhance its programs beyond the skills and resources of staff. Additionally, through the engagement of volunteers the Museum is able to further its reach out to the community, facilitating the two-way transfer of skills and knowledge.

4. Principles or guidelines

All strategies for managing volunteers are derived from the values described in the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement. Volunteers are an integral part of the organisation and will:

  • be treated as equally and fairly as our paid staff
  • be valued for their input, and called upon for their opinions
  • be consulted on all matters that substantially affect the performance of their work
  • have the opportunity to effect change in the organisation through their suggestions and involvement in planning and management
  • be expected to provide feedback and input to their supervisor (team leader) regarding their work with clients.

4.1 Volunteer recruitment

The recruitment of volunteers is conducted in a similar way to paid staff. The procedure for recruitment of volunteers includes a general position description, an application, and interview and engagement process.

Volunteers are recruited:

  • with the intent of broadening community involvement in the Museum through volunteering and according to the principles contained in the Diversity Action Plan
  • on the basis of their suitability to perform a task on behalf of the Museum without any conflict of interest, perceived or real
  • after passing a police check and a Working with Vulnerable People check
  • through an interest in a specific function or a general interest in volunteering later matched with a specific function.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people from culturally diverse backgrounds are encouraged and supported to apply for volunteering positions. This is reflected in all recruitment advertising.

4.2 Museum staff as volunteers

Museum staff cannot become volunteers while they are paid employees of the Museum.

Approval is required from the Director or Deputy Director for former employees who apply for a volunteer position. Managers are responsible for ensuring they perform within the agreed volunteer position description and do not undertake additional work, regardless of their capabilities, experience or knowledge.

Former employees who leave the Museum due to a voluntary redundancy require approval to volunteer at the Museum. This approval can only be given by the Assistant Director and Deputy Director prior to any offers or agreements being made. There are a number of matters which need to be considered, including the type of work the person would be doing, the capacity in which they will be performing the work, and the level of security, records and/or IT access they should be granted. Additionally, consideration needs to be given as to whether the duties being undertaken should be undertaken by a paid employee, and if any capability development opportunities have been foregone by using a volunteer.

4.3 Volunteer responsibilities

Volunteers are expected to behave in a way that upholds the Australian Public Service Values, APS employment principles and the Code of Conduct.

The key document which defines volunteer responsibilities is the Volunteer Agreement, negotiated at the commencement of his or her duties with their supervisor, assisted by the Volunteers Coordinator. The agreement includes a detailed position description and key points from this policy.

Volunteers are encouraged to regularly discuss their performance with their supervisor. In the case of issues or complaints volunteer supervisors are the first point of contact. If resolution cannot be reached, the Museum’s procedure for handling grievances is followed.

Volunteers do not make public statements or speak on behalf of the Museum.

4.4 Volunteer learning and development

The Museum provides core training and educational opportunities for all volunteers.

Each volunteer is required to participate in an orientation program which provides an understanding of how volunteers contribute to the Museum’s vision, mission and values.

The Museum acknowledges that the two-way transfer of the skills and knowledge between staff and volunteers supports the organisational commitment to lifelong learning and volunteers are encouraged to develop their skills and knowledge wherever possible.

All volunteers are made aware of and work to the service level defined by the Client Service Charter.

4.5 Volunteer supervision

The Museum recognises the importance of supervision and adequate feedback on performance. Discussion about work planning or completion is undertaken on a one-to-one basis between the volunteer and their supervisor. Performance management of volunteers broadly follows the Museum’s staff Workplace Conversations model.

Other key elements of volunteer supervision include:

  • the assessment of performance based on the volunteer job description
  • establishing individual goals linked to the Museum’s strategic priorities as well as the Visitor Experience Business Unit Plan, observing the volunteer’s activities, and providing guidance to maximise the achievement of the goals
  • assessing progress, identifying problems and planning for future training and personal development opportunities
  • evaluating the performance, providing feedback, addressing performance issues
  • being receptive to feedback on ways to improve the volunteer program
  • encouraging the free and confidential expression of volunteers’ thoughts, opinions and doubts.

The level of supervision for each volunteer depends on a number of factors including:

  • how long they have been with the Museum
  • how often they work
  • the frequency of communication through telephone and emails
  • the type and location of their work.

4.6 Volunteer insurance

For the purposes of safety, rehabilitation and compensation, Museum volunteers are considered employees.

While volunteers are providing assistance to the Museum, they are covered by Comcare insurance. This does not include travel to and from home to the location of the Museum program for which they are volunteering time and skills.

For insurance purposes, accurate sign on and off records are kept for each volunteer.

4.7 Reimbursement of expenses

At the commencement of his or her duties, the supervisor provides general guidance on the kind of expenses volunteers can occur, that prior approval must be sought for reimbursement and the procedure for claiming such expenses. Appropriate records and/or receipts are kept and given as supporting evidence for any claims for reimbursement.

4.8 Volunteer recognition

The Museum acknowledges the valuable contribution of volunteers with a recognition program. The core recognition is:

  • access to the Friends Members Lounge while volunteering at the Museum
  • Museum Friends membership after 50 hours of volunteering in a calendar year
  • a recognition pin for each five years of service and at 15 years receive a Lifelong Friends membership
  • end of year thank you function.

4.9 Workplace health and safety

The Museum strives to promote and maintain an environment which protects the health, safety and welfare of employees at work, including volunteers.

All workers including volunteers:

  • have a duty of care to take care of their health and safety and that of others
  • must comply with safety procedures and directions
  • must follow reasonable instructions
  • must not wilfully interfere with or misuse items or facilities provided in the interest of health and safety
  • must inform their manager or supervisor of hazards, accidents and near accidents occurring at the workplace.

4.10 Working with vulnerable people

To provide a safe environment for children, all volunteers are required to undergo a National Police History Check and have a current Working with Vulnerable People check to determine their suitability to work with vulnerable people.

On engagement, volunteers undergo induction and training specifically in relation to working with children including:

  • appropriate behaviour guidelines such as:
    • not touching or picking up children
    • encouraging positive behaviours in children in a positive way
  • lost and found procedures
  • discussing sensitive content with children.

5. Definition of terms


Volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain.


Groups of people who share characteristics or bonds such as ethnicity, religion, or experience of a location or event.

6. Definition of responsibilities

Visitor Engagement section

  • champions the work of volunteers throughout the business units, encouraging all areas of the Museum to consider how volunteers can support their outcomes
  • manages the implementation and compliance of this volunteers policy
  • assists with identification, development and delivery of new and established volunteer projects.

Business Unit Managers

  • identify and establish rewarding volunteer roles
  • ensure compliance with this Volunteers policy
  • ensure adequate supervision of volunteers in their section.

Supervisor of Volunteers

  • ensures that volunteers are adequately supervised and trained to perform their duties
  • assists with development and delivery of training programs for volunteers
  • is the first point of contact for existing volunteers in their business unit
  • ensures sufficient tools and materials are available for performance of volunteer tasks
  • provides feedback through the volunteer check-in process.


  • performs assigned duties in a diligent, timely and professional manner
  • adheres to relevant Museum policies and guidelines
  • attends training as required or directed
  • actively participates in discussions about their volunteer role
  • openly discusses personal and professional needs and goals with supervisor.

7. References

National Museum of Australia Act 1980
National Museum of Australia Strategic Plan 2018–2022
Client Service Charter, National Museum of Australia, 2013
Diversity Action Plan, National Museum of Australia, 2018
National Standards for Volunteer Involvement, 2015
Code of Conduct Guidelines, 2016
Australian Public Service Values, 2014

8. Implementation

8.1 Coverage

This policy applies to all volunteers in all programs and projects undertaken by, or on behalf of, the Museum, and to all Museum sections and sites of operation.

8.2 Exclusions

This policy does not cover interns, work experience students, research associates and research fellows.

8.3 Other related policies

Audience development policy POL-C-011
Communication policy POL-C- 012
Cultural diversity policy POL-C-027
Education and learning policy POL-C-020
Environmental management policy POL-G-021
Interpretation policy Pol-C-027
Working with children and young people policy POL-C-043
Recordkeeping policy POL-G-001

8.4 Exclusions


8.5 Superseded policies

This policy supersedes:

Former policy/ies title Version no. Version date Approval date
Volunteers policy 1.0 Jan 1995 (by Council)  
Volunteers policy 2.0 14 Jun 2006  
Volunteers policy 3.0 2 May 2011  
Volunteers policy 3.0a 15 Jul 2013  

8.1 Monitoring

The Visitor Experience section monitors the implementation of this policy.

This policy will be reviewed in July 2022.






Version date

19 November 2019


General operational

Approval date

24 September 2019 (Executive Management Group)


04/1695; 19/1228


Public and all staff


Volunteer, management, community, recruitment, volunteer responsibilities

Responsible officer

Volunteers Coordinator


Volunteers policy version 1.0, approved by Council, January 1995
Volunteers policy version 2.0, approved by General Manager, Audience and Programs, June 2006

Review date

July 2022

Related documents

Strategic Plan 2018-2022
Work Health and Safety Policy POL-G-062
NMA Enterprise Risk Management POL-C-056
Diversity Action Plan 2018
Code of Conduct Guidelines
Client Service Charter, National Museum of Australia 2013


National Museum of Australia
GPO Box 1901

Tel: (02) 6208 5000

Return to Top