Volunteer in Australia
Work on development projects to foster healthy and sustainable communities while learning indigenous culture and history in tropical Australia.
Gain experience in environmental conservation and community development when your group ventures into four indigenous communities and homelands in Australia’s biologically diverse Daintree Rainforest, where the “rainforest meets the sea.” Teen groups can immerse themselves in indigenous culture, language and history, while making an impact on community development and national reconciliation efforts. For 10 days, you and your group be fishing, swimming in fresh water, working on service projects and experiencing some of Australia’s most famous sites, such as the Great Barrier Reef.
“The immersion saw us meeting our preconceptions and prejudices, our kindness and determination, and our best and worst selves. We were privileged to meet elders of two different homelands as well as their families, and hear their stories. It truly was a fun, rewarding and life-changing adventure as we immersed ourselves in a region where the pillars of simplicity, hospitality and compassion are at the forefront.” – Dale, former volunteer
During the volunteer program, you will be immersed in indigenous culture, gain leadership skills and make a direct impact on the economic opportunities and sustainability of the communities. The service projects during each volunteer experience depends on the wishes of the community’s elders.
Hands-on service projects have included building water tanks, erecting fences, and painting ranger stations.
You will also be able to:
- Learn about bush tucker, wild food native to Australia and foraged by indigenous communities
- Gain a deeper understanding of indigenous culture and their rooted connection to the land, as well as contemporary challenges and reconciliation efforts
- Speak to teachers, community members and law enforcement about life in rural Australia
- Safely experience the wildness of Australia through a crocodile spotting cruise and hikes through the Daintree Rainforest
Here’s an example of what your schedule might look like while volunteering in Australia:
We accept teen groups on a first come basis during July and August. Inquire with your program manager about the dates your group wishes to travel.
All group applications are due by May 1.
- 10 days: USD $3,150
Please refer to the payment schedule here.
Costs included in the program fee:
During the program:
- Full accommodation in tents with 2-3 other students of the same gender and one hotel accommodation the night before the program starts
- 3 nutritious meals a day for duration of the program
- Transportation in Land Rover 4WD vehicles between project sites
- Transport from Cairns airport
- Transport to airport at the end of program
- Workshops with indigenous elders and community members
- Entry permit fees for indigenous lands
- On-site orientation on the first day and continuous safety training throughout the program
- 24/7 on-site staff support and training
- On-site staff with Remote First Aid certifications
- Comprehensive medical/accident insurance
Pre-departure resources and training:
- An 8-week online pre-departure course about indigenous history and culture and safety preparation for the trip
- Online pre-departure orientation with Greenheart Travel
- Culture & etiquette guidebook
- The Greenheart Travel Atlas, an interactive guide to your cross-cultural experience
- Donation to support the Greenheart Odyssey, an award-winning youth leadership development program
- Part of your fee is also reinvested in local community building and sustainability
- Certificate of completion upon request after success program
Costs Not Included:
- Flight to Australia
- Spending money for personal purchases or activities
Arrival & Departure
Your group should plan to arrive in the Sydney, Australia, airport between 12:00pm and 6:00pm on on your start date to meet other volunteers, adjust to jetlag and prepare for the first day of volunteering. You will spend the night in a hotel prior to driving to the volunteer site the following day.
Volunteer accommodation is directly in nature to get the full immersion experience. You will sleep away on land outside of town, and there will be no hotels or cabins. You will sleep in spacious tents with 2-3 other students of the same gender. The program staff will provide all camping equipment (such as tents, cooking gear, etc.), but you should provide your own sleeping bag (suggested 5°C / 41°F) for hygienic reasons. You will have access to a drop toilet and showers, as well as makeshift sinks and basins to wash clothes.
The amenities are very basic. Do not expect to have electricity, WiFi, or cell phone reception.
Why Greenheart Travel
With so many volunteer options, why volunteer through Greenheart Travel?
Greenheart Travel is a non-profit, mission based organization committed to making a positive, long-lasting impact in the communities where we work. We partner with local, grassroots non-profit organizations in Australia to not only to create the most impactful program, but also to guarantee your volunteer work will make a difference.
Greenheart Travel has been operating volunteer abroad programs for many years. We are proud of our authentic, hands-on opportunities on 4 different continents, which allow you to provide service hours to communities around the world! There are lots of advantages to traveling with us:
Personalized and Consistent Support
- Our staff is in Chicago – we are available to answer questions during US business hours
- Friendly, responsive, and professional communication from staff who have actually volunteered abroad themselves
- Hands on support and personal attention every step of the way
- An experienced program manager will personally review your application to make sure this is the right program for you
Global Community of Volunteers
- Access to a community of alumni and current volunteers on the program, before you even leave!
- Automatic enrollment in the Greenheart Club, an online community for Greenheart alumni to find resources, log volunteer hours, and apply for alumni grants and scholarship
- Offer an online platform to log your service hours, qualifying you for a Greenheart Grant
- Exclusive access to Greenheart Travel Alumni Program
Top-Notch Materials and Preparation
- The Greenheart Travel Atlas, an interactive guide to your cross-cultural experience
- Comprehensive program handbook and 8-week course to prepare you for the volunteer experience
- Online pre-departure orientation with focus on cultural training
- Greenheart Travel T-shirt
- Australian Culture Smart! Guide Book
Don’t just take our word for it! Check out independent reviews from past participants of Greenheart Travel programs here.
The decision to send your teenager abroad can be difficult and there are a lot of questions to consider. We understand your concerns and the Greenheart Travel staff is here for you every step of the way! We want to make the process of traveling and volunteering abroad as fun and painless as possible for you and your child.
Here are some of the common questions we get from parents as they consider the program:
What does it mean to be in good mental health in the program eligibility requirements?
Moving to a new culture and staying in unfamiliar surroundings without your normal support structure can be very stressful, even to a well-adjusted student. Sending a student with pre-existing conditions on an exchange program could exacerbate whatever challenges the student was previously facing. In order to ensure the safety of our participants, we must be rigorous in our pre-screening of all applicants.
Therefore, we may not be able to accept students who have struggled with any kind of mental illness within the last 2 years and/or are reliant on medication to address their existing mental health condition.
These include, but are not limited to:
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Debilitating anxiety
- Eating disorders
If the student’s mental health issue has been resolved (post-medication) for over 2 years, we will ask for a note from his/her relevant practitioner (psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, etc) as part of the application process.
What is remote Australia like?
When many people think of Australia, they imagine kangaroos, the beach and the Sydney Opera House (and probably Finding Nemo!). But in the 2.97 square miles of the Australian country-continent there is much more than only surfers and Wallaby Way.
The remote areas where your student will be volunteering are often referred to as the last remaining wilderness areas in the world. Some areas have seen little changes since their origins thousands of years ago, and there exist many animal and plant species you’ve likely never heard of (know what a cassowary is?).
The inhabitants of remote Australia are sparsely populated and mainly consist of indigenous communities and homeland as well as some industries like mining and oil. Many towns consist of nothing more than a gas station, police station and health center.
Some areas of this part of the country are heavy in tourism, though in close proximity to those many people have not seen the natural beauty of the regions your child will visit due to entry restrictions on indigenous-owned land. On your child’s trip, they will see a fascinating mix of many uniquely Australian elements: stunning coastline, untouched rainforest, and the world’s oldest living culture with over 40,000 years of life on the continent.
Why is the work important?
Through this program, your child will have the extremely rare opportunity to pass through indigenous territories and learn directly from respected elders and community members. There are many prejudices and misconceptions about indigenous Australians (often called aborigines or first peoples) and by volunteering in this program they are aiding in the reconciliation effort to bridge the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people in Australia, who have been systematically killed, stripped of their land and marginalized since European settlement in the 18th century.
Today, there are over 500 different indigenous nations across Australia and over 150 indigenous languages spoken, though these are in grave danger of becoming extinct (prior to European settlement there were over 250 languages spoken). By participating in this program, your child is showing respect for the indigenous culture and way of life.
How do Elders and Traditional Owners feel about people coming onto their land? Will the group be intruding?
Our project is driven by our indigenous partners in the homelands of remote Australia. Our mission is to give indigenous people the help they need if they wish to welcome and open the hearts of young people to their country, culture and way of life. We only make our resources available if we’re asked to help. Traditional Owners are the ones that decide if people should come onto their land, not us.
Is rural Australia safe?
Yes, rural Australia is still safe – don’t believe everything you watch in Netflix documentaries!
On-site project staff are supported by the in-country office and have deep knowledge of the remote regions volunteers work in. To mitigate risk for volunteers and providing the most meaningful volunteer experiences and make the most impact, safety is one of most important concerns. We take a three-pronged approach: prepare, prevent and respond.
We prepare student volunteers through our multi-week comprehensive pre-departure training and continuous on-site trainings throughout the program. We prevent any incidents from occurring by anticipating potential situations in which safety could be compromised, and in the unlikely event an incident does occur we are equipped to respond appropriately given our extensive emergency protocol. On-the-ground staff are highly trained, prepared and qualified to deal with emergency situations in remote settings. All staff have a Remote First Aid qualification (HLTAID001, HLTAID003 and HLTAID005).
What can my student do in his or her free time?
When not working on the project, the students will get to experience traditional Aboriginal culture through the stories and dreaming places of the elders. Elders and Traditional Owners love teaching the young people about their culture – about its rich connection to the land and ongoing relevance to Aboriginal life. They want the leaders of tomorrow to experience Aboriginal culture and to know how important it is to their identity as indigenous people.
The Elders will share their culture with the students by visiting sacred places, telling old stories and welcoming them to the country with a traditional ceremony. The students might also read to younger students at the local primary school and organize sporting games with them. There will also be free time to allow the students to unwind with a football, frisbee or a game of cards. Every night, leaders will lead the group in a reflection session to build a narrative for the experience.
Will my student need extra spending money?
All necessities are covered on the trip except personal spending money. We recommend students bring $100-150 extra for souvenirs, but it’s important they only bring as much money as necessary.
Are there fundraising opportunities or scholarship offered by Greenheart Travel for this project?
All funds will have to be provided by you; however we do highly recommend fundraising! Read our guide for fundraising. Many past participants have had success using these resources, including Jaime who wrote a wonderful blog about her unique fundraising efforts. We also just published a 3-Part Fundraising Series and did a webinar about our favorite fundraising tips and published an accompanying blog post. Don’t forget to check out our scholarship page for available scholarships.
Are there group flights? Do I book my child’s flights or does Greenheart Travel?
No. All students fly individually to their destination, and you are responsible for flights. They are not included in the program fee. (We encourage parents and students to watch this webinar together.)
Will there be a language barrier?
There are over 150 indigenous languages spoken in Australia today. The majority of the Indigenous Australians your student will meet speak English and all on-site staff are native English speakers.
What is the climate like?
The upper northeastern peninsula of the country is a tropical climate with a wet and dry season. During our volunteer trip in July, they are in their winter, or dry season. The weather will be pleasant, with temperatures ranging 68-77°F and little rain and lower humidity than the wet season.
Can my child apply with a friend?
Absolutely! We are happy to accept friends and groups.
What vaccinations will I need?
When traveling to any destination, make sure your routine vaccines are up to date. Try to schedule an appointment with your doctor 4-6 weeks before your trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) also highly recommends the hepatitis A, typhoid, and up to date polio vaccinations due to potentially contaminated food or water.
Is the water safe to drink?
The onsite accommodation will provide you with safe and filtered drinking water.
What if I have an allergy/specific dietary requirement?
We can cater to vegetarian or vegan needs quite easily. Any other specific diets should be discussed with us to see if we can arrange to have your needs met. In some cases you may need to provide your own food.
Committing to a volunteer abroad program is an exciting time, and we are here every step of the way to make the application process as simple as possible. Below are the 4 steps you’ll need to take to be accepted on a Greenheart Travel program.
Once you begin your application, you have two weeks to finish.
1. Start Your Application Here (Approximately 5 Minutes): Greenheart Travel Application.
2. Sign the Terms & Conditions (Approximately 10 Minutes): After you complete Part 1 of your application, you (and your parent(s) if you’re under 18) will be asked to read through and sign our Terms and Conditions which outline the requirements and policies of the program.
4. Submit your deposit (Approximately 5 minutes): You will need to submit your $250 deposit at this point in the process. A deposit is required in order to reserve your spot on the program and is subtracted from your total program fee.
5. Secondary Application Form (Approximately 30 Minutes): This is the most in-depth part of the application process as it helps us get to know you better. You will need to provide detailed information about yourself, why you want to volunteer abroad, and what you hope to gain from your experience.
6. Acceptance: Once you’ve completed all the steps, Greenheart Travel will thoroughly review your application and will contact you within 2-3 business days about your acceptance the next steps.
As for the payments, you will be required to pay a $250 deposit when you submit your application, and then a second $500 placement deposit will be due after your acceptance. This is due no later than 8 weeks prior to your departure date. The final balance of the program is due 35 days before departure. We do not deviate from this schedule and you can pay online via credit card.
After Applying, Now What?
Greenheart Travel will thoroughly review your application and will contact you within 2-3 business days to confirm your acceptance. If we find something in your application that we have concerns about, we will let you know immediately. 95% of applicants are accepted on the program they apply for.
Your program manager will be in touch with you directly about your acceptance. You should expect to receive an orientation packet via email, which talks more about your program, as well as supplemental information about dealing with culture shock and our insurance program. We will also schedule a pre-departure orientation to answer any lingering questions you may have.
Schedule a Call
Have questions or want to talk to the program coordinator, Allison? Set up a time to have a phone call below.