Making a Difference: Volunteering in the Upper Blue Mountains

habitat for humanity volunteers in the blue mountains

Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. (Photo: Habitat for Humanity)

Story by Linda Moon

By strengthening our local community, we strengthen ourselves. And through taking action we build hope. Volunteering offers mutual benefits for the helper and those helped. Along with a sense of empowerment, purpose and contribution, it can give us skills for the workforce, new friends and social connection. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it offers a wide range of options for where to help out in our local community.

Volunteering opportunities by type


Key Points:

  • Volunteering has been experiencing a gradual long-term decline since 2010. It’s been particularly impacted by COVID-19.
  • Community needs are higher than ever, creating a crisis for the many non-profits and charitable groups that play a key role in supporting the needs of local communities
  • In the spirit of National Volunteering Week (20th – 26th May 2024), this comprehensive list shows where you can lend a helping hand in the upper Blue Mountains.

ANIMAL WELFARE

WIRES

Rescues and cares for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife from Penrith to Lithgow. Provides community wildlife information and education and engages in local activities to help protect and preserve wildlife and their habitat.

https://www.wires.org.au/branch/blue-mountains

wires volunteers in katoomba

WIRES volunteers Kevin Searle and Tracy Burgess. (Photo: Kylie Camilleri)

Action for Animals (Blue Mountains)

Promotes values and ways of living which are cruelty-free and fundraises to support animal rights and welfare. Committee meets monthly. Needs volunteers for advocacy and fundraising activities. Please contact them for more info.

https://www.facebook.com/actionforanimals.com.au

BMD (Blue Mountains & Districts) Cat Welfare Group

Rescues and rehabilitates abandoned, sick or injured cats and kittens and offers them for adoption. Advocates for cat welfare and runs the BMD Cat Welfare Charity Op Shop at Katoomba. Volunteers can foster a cat or help out in the shop.

https://www.bmdcatwelfare.com.au

Cat Defence Network

Specialises in assisting those with limited income to desex companion cats at discount prices. They also desex stray and colony cats. Profits from the Cat Defence Network Op Shop in Katoomba go towards these goals. Volunteers can help out in the shop, donate goods, help run raffles and more.

https://www.catdefencenetwork.org.au/cdn-katoomba-charity-shop

ANTI-VIOLENCE ADVOCACY

Coalition Against Violence and Abuse (CAVA)

Convened by Blue Mountains Women’s Health and Resource Centre, CAVA’s goal is to develop a collaborative and political response to violence against women and children. Participation is open to all supportive people, including men, women and community agencies. Activities include Reclaim the Night, Mayor White Ribbon Day events, International Human Rights Day Vigil, My Safe Space Children’s Week art exhibition and various domestic violence fundraising gigs. Monthly meetings at the Mountains Community Resource Network Meeting Room, Lawson.

https://www.mcrn.org.au/index.php/our-sector/coalition-against-violence-abuse

Mountains Men Against Violence (MMAV)

Initiated by (CAVA), MMAV aims to enable men to stand together with women to fight male violence and abuse. MMAV recognises that male violence against women is sustained by complex relationships between societal systems and personal attitudes about male and female roles in society. MMAV’s role is to engage men in learning, discussion and action that raises awareness of these drivers and increases the possibility of men choosing behaviours that result in safer, more equal communities for women (and for everyone).

https://www.belongbm.org.au/mmav

ARTS

Blue Mountains Cultural Centre (Katoomba)

Volunteers can assist with daily operation of the Centre in a wide variety of roles including front of house and gallery duties, public programs and special events. Volunteers need at least 4 hours a week to share customer service skills, a passion for the arts and local knowledge. The Centre is also on the lookout for veggie garden volunteers for their rooftop garden.

https://bluemountainsculturalcentre.com.au/be-involved/volunteers/

Varuna, the National Writers’ House (Katoomba)

Volunteers can help out with gardening and at events including the annual Writers Festival.

https://www.varuna.com.au/volunteering

BUSHFIRE RECOVERY & RESILIENCE

Habitat For Humanity Australia (International)

A global nonprofit housing organisation working in local communities in Australia and approximately 70 countries. Their vision is of a world where everyone has a decent place to call home. Volunteers work in partnership with their community to build or improve their home as well as raise their voice in support of decent and affordable housing. Volunteer tasks vary and are dependent on community need.

In the Blue Mountains volunteers are needed to assist with bushfire recovery and disaster resilience activities, landscaping, gardening, repairs and maintenance for disadvantaged community members.  

https://habitat.org.au

habitat for humanity volunteers

Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity helping out with bushfire resilience. (Photo: Habitat for Humanity)

CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES

Thrive Services (Katoomba)

Thrive supports families experiencing hardship and services the Blue Mountains and Lithgow area. Helps children and families thrive through practical help with food and bills, free parenting support, group programs, parenting groups, playgroups and other community activities. To enquire about volunteering, go to their site.

https://www.thriveservices.org.au

CIVIC GROUPS

Graffiti Removal

Help remove graffiti from private and commercial property and contribute to improving your local area. All new volunteers must undertake training prior to participating. To join a team, contact one of the co-ordinators below:

MID-MOUNTAINS

Greg Birtles: 0468 333 262. Email: gjbirtles@gmail.com

LOWER MOUNTAINS

John Oakey: 0428 093 077. Email: oakeysue@hotmail.com

Leura Village Association

A not-for-profit run totally by volunteers. Volunteer projects are run by various subcommittees and include helping out at Leura Village Fair, the Harvest Festival and Christmas in the Mall, website and social media development, content and maintenance, gardening to preserve the look of the town, and more.

https://www.leuravillage.com.au/become-a-volunteer

National Trust NSW – Blue Mountains branch

The National Trust advocates for the protection of New South Wales’ built, natural and cultural heritage to ensure its preservation for future generations. Volunteers are involved in events, provide guided tours of heritage properties, conserve our built and natural heritage by caring for properties and gardens, and support fundraising and membership efforts.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/volunteers-nsw

COMMUNITY NEIGHBOURHOOD CENTRES

Belong, Blue Mountains

Belong Blue Mountains is a locally-based, locally-run, community and neighbourhood services organisation that brings together the Lower Mountains, Mid Mountains and Katoomba Neighbourhood Centres. Services include disability, palliative and dementia support, free food programs, playgroups, after school care, toy libraries, home maintenance and other support for seniors, social groups and activities, and much more. They particularly need volunteers for their Aged Care Visitor and Bin Buddies programs. Training and ongoing support is provided for volunteers.

https://www.belongbm.org.au

Blackheath Area Neighbourhood Centre (BANC)

Requires a range of volunteers for all kinds of community help. Options include small tasks at the Neighbourhood Centre and community events, assisting with BANC Access group activities for people with disability, or becoming a volunteer tutor at the Cyber Shed. Shop, transport or cook for the neighbourhood or visit and chat. Become a HUFF (Heads Up For Fire) Facilitator in your neighbourhood.

https://banc.org.au

Volunteers for Bushcare.

Volunteers for Bushcare. (Photo: Blue Mountains City Council)

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

Bushcare, Swampcare, Streamwatch and more (Blue Mountains National Park)

Work with others to protect, regenerate and restore the bush and waterways of the Blue Mountains. Community volunteer groups conduct regular activities in significant bushland sites within the Blue Mountains LGA. Work may include helping monitor swamps and streams, trackcare, plant identification, fauna monitoring, creekline rehabilitation, weed control, seed collection. Landholders can also commit to the conservation of native plants, animals and bushland on their properties.

https://www.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/bushcare

https://www.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/envirovolunteers

Blue Mountains Conservation Society (Wentworth Falls)

Their mission is to help protect, conserve, and advocate for, the natural environment of the Greater Blue Mountains. Members can assist with campaigns and activities including Bushcare, plant studies and submissions to government. Current campaigns include helping protect the Gardens of Stone and opposing development such as aircraft noise that negatively affect the flora and fauna of the world heritage area. 

https://www.bluemountains.org.au

Blue Mountains World Heritage institute (Katoomba)

Conducts research, collaborates worldwide and engages with communities to develop innovative strategies for conservation and sustainability of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area. As a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Institute is part of a global community working to protect important natural areas around the world. Volunteers (depending on their skills) can get involved in citizen science ecological monitoring, operations, finance and administration, marketing and communication, environmental research or fundraising, outreach and events.

https://www.bmwhi.org

NSW Parks and Wildlife Service (Blue Mountains National Park)

Make a real difference to the future of our Australian animals, birds and plants. Join a local bush regeneration group, become a tour guide or campground host or join a threatened species project. Current projects in the Greater Blue Mountains Heritage area,  include bushcare and weed removal in the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, Valley of the Waters and Gardens of Stone areas and helping treat mange on wombats in Bents Basin.

https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/conservation-and-heritage/volunteer-programs

Blue Mountains Wildplant Rescue Service (Katoomba)

The non-profit rescues and promotes the growing of native wildplants by gardeners. Volunteers are needed to help out in the nursery, office, or with fundraising, promotion or wildplant rescue.

https://www.wildplantrescue.org.au/volunteers

Blue Mountains Parents for Climate

Action-oriented, locally connected parent groups who care about a safe climate. They organise family-friendly activities that engage communities and politicians in climate solutions, such as a quarterly Blue Mountains Childrens’ Toy and Clothes Swap.

https://www.parentsforclimate.org/blue_mountains

Clothing Swap at Planetary Health Day organised by Blue Mountains Parents for Climate

Clothing Swap at Planetary Health Day organised by Blue Mountains Parents for Climate (Photo: Linda Moon)

EVENTS

Clean Up Australia Day (National)

A day of removing rubbish from the bush, parks and waterway of registered sites across the Blue Mountains and Australia-wide. People can also organise their own sites. Clean Up Australia Day is on the first Sunday in March; schools Clean Up Day is held the preceding Friday.

www.cleanupaustraliaday.org.au

Leura Gardens Festival (Leura)

The Leura Gardens Festival is a registered charity managed and run by over 400 local volunteers. Funds raised on the day go towards the purchase of equipment for the Blue Mountains District Anzac Memorial Hospital and other local medical foundations.

Volunteers can assist by being a friendly face in one of the gardens, by selling entry tickets or helping visitors enjoy the Festival experience.

https://www.leuragardensfestival.com.au/volunteers/calling-for-volunteers

Winter Magic Festival (Katoomba)

Help out at the annual festival. The event celebrates the Winter Solstice with a variety of creative and performing art events held over one weekend in June.

https://wintermagic.org.au/volunteers

Blue Mountains Music Festival (Katoomba)

A celebration of Folk, Roots and Blues held every year over three days in March. Seven different undercover venues, all within a short walking distance of each other, come alive with talented musicians from our local community, Australia and all around the world. Volunteers can help with set up, clean up and much more. Proceeds from the market stalls go to Katoomba Public School.

https://www.bmff.org.au/volunteer

FOOD SECURITY

Junction 142 – Open Table Food Service (Katoomba)

Offers free meals (Open Table Food Service at 142 Katoomba Street) and food to locals. Volunteers can assist with food rescue (collecting van loads of food) and food preparation. Junction 142 is an activity of Leura Uniting Church and the community.

https://www.junction142.org.au

Blue Mountains Food Services (Lawson)

Prepares and delivers meals between Lapstone and Mount Victoria, runs community restaurants, offers social support (outings, shopping help, home visiting). Volunteers can help out with meal preparation or delivery, social support, office admin, warehouse/distribution, photography/video production and Board of Management roles.

https://www.bmfs.org.au/volunteer

Blue Mountains Food Coop (Katoomba)

Help staff in the shop. On a typical shift you may spend your time filling up teas and spices, welcoming and assisting customers, watering the garden, and helping keep the shop clean and tidy. Volunteer training nights occur once a month. These provide an orientation to working in the shop and what tasks you’ll be performing, an in-depth tour and health and safety info. In exchange for 4 hours work you get an extra 20% discount off $250 worth of shopping.

https://bmfoodcoop.org.au/about/volunteers

blackheath community farm

Many hands make lighter work. Blackheath Community Farm. (Photo: Lis Bastian)

GARDENING & PERMACULTURE

Farm It Forward (various Blue Mountains locations)

A not-for-profit urban farming social enterprise model connecting landowners and local young people who are passionate about growing food. FIF fosters youth and community mental health, develops skills, training and job opportunities, while tackling social isolation and increasing community wellbeing. Volunteer sessions are held on Monday afternoons from 2pm on a different plot each week announced on Facebook and Instagram. Volunteers get to pick veggies to take home, gain useful skills and experience growing food within an inclusive environment. Sites include the Food Co-op Market Garden in Katoomba and mid Mountains locations. 

https://www.farmitforward.com.au/faq

https://www.facebook.com/farmitforward5

Blackheath Community Farm (Blackheath)

Volunteers meet every Sunday, rain or shine, from 10am until 1pm (often longer!), share the day’s produce and warmly welcome all visitors. The Farm is on a block of land made available to the community by Mountains Christian College. Volunteering offers opportunities to learn more about permaculture and bush regeneration.

https://communitygarden.org.au/listing/blackheath-community-farm

https://www.facebook.com/connectiontoplace

Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens (Katoomba)

The garden applies permaculture principles. Volunteer at one of the regular working bees, participate in potluck dinners and more.

https://www.facebook.com/katoombacommunitygarden

Or locate a community garden near you at https://communitygarden.org.au/find-a-garden/

Campbell Rhododendron Garden (Blackheath)

Volunteers can help with gardening tasks, helping serve teas in the Lodge, helping sell merchandise in the Information Booth or with “Meet and Greet” during Spring Welcome Weeks. Special skills, such as photography, social media, first aid, landscaping and merchandising, are also sought.

https://www.rhodogarden.org.au/volunteer

Mid Mountains Community Garden (Lawson)

Has volunteering mornings every Saturday coordinated by a garden committee member. Volunteers assist with regular maintenance (eg. weeding, watering and mulching), composting, seasonal planting and harvesting, and construction of garden beds, compost bays and paths. The project is supported by Belong Blue Mountains.

https://communitygarden.org.au/listing/mid-mountains-community-garden

Cliff View Community Farm (Blackheath)

Located on the beautiful Shipley Plateau in an old apple orchard, the main focus of the farm is to grow food that is donated to Blackheath Area Neighbourhood Centre’s food relief program. Organic and regenerative agriculture principles are used. Currently, Cliff View Community Farm is open to the public (including volunteers) every Thursday morning from 9:00 am for weekly gardening sessions. People of all ages, including children, are welcome.

https://communitygarden.org.au/listing/cliff-view-community-farm

The Campbell Rhododendron Garden in spring. (Photo: Cameron Lees)

HEALTH

Cancer Wellness Support (Leura)

Servicing the Blue Mountains and Nepean-Hawkesbury regions, the non-profit provides holistic, person-centred care for cancer clients and their families. In 2022-2023, they delivered 5,060 complementary therapies to clients and carers as well as holistic education, wellness retreats and group programs. Volunteers can help out in the op shop, in client services administration and support, social media and marketing, content development, fundraising and events, trade help and more.

https://www.cancersupport.org.au/volunteer-opportunities

HOSPITALS

Blue Mountains Hospital Auxiliary

A volunteer organisation that raises funds for equipment for the Blue Mountains Hospital, Katoomba. It is a member of the United Hospital Auxiliaries of NSW.

https://www.leuravillage.com.au/community-organisations/blue-mountains-hospital-auxiliary

HOMELESSNESS

Junction 142

Offers free meals (Open Table Food Service) and food, free shower and laundry service, free clothing, blankets, toiletries, lockers and more. They run entirely on volunteers and need people to assist with food rescue (collecting van loads of food), food preparation and helping with their free services. Junction 142 is an activity of Leura Uniting Church and the community.

https://www.junction142.org.au

Volunteers help create a feast of generosity for Christmas at Junction 142.

Volunteers help create a feast of generosity for Christmas at Junction 142. (Photo: Junction 142)

MENTAL HEALTH

Blue Mountains Safe Space For Suicide Prevention (Katoomba)

An initiative of Roses in the Ocean. Community-led Safe Spaces are volunteer-run, non-clinical services where people experiencing suicidal distress can find compassionate and empathetic support. Volunteers must have a lived experience of suicide and undertake online training.

https://rosesintheocean.com.au/community-led-safe-spaces-volunteer-with-us

https://www.facebook.com/p/Blue-Mountains-Safe-Space-for-Suicide-Prevention-100084535907994

REFUGEES

Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group

Volunteer-run support group that offers friendship and practical support for refugees and people seeking asylum to help them thrive as they develop their own skills, activities and businesses.

https://bmrsg.org.au

ROTARY

Rotary is a global organisation committed to tackling various humanitarian issues across the world. Projects include fundraising and supporting community activities. To search for a Rotary club near you, click on the link: https://my.rotary.org/en/club-search

Upper Blue Mountains Sunrise (Leura)

Weekly breakfast meetings are held at the Robyn Yates Centre for Cancer Wellness Support at Leura and feature speakers on a range of topics.

https://bluemountainsrotary.org

Katoomba Rotary Club (Katoomba)

Currently meets first Monday of the month at 6pm at the Carrington Hotel.

www.katoombarotary.com

Central Blue Mountains Rotary Club (Wentworth Falls)

Currently meets twice monthly (Wednesdays) at the Grand View Hotel, Wentworth Falls from 6pm.

https://centralbluerotary.org

Blackheath Rotary Club (Blackheath)

Currently meets Thursdays at 6.45 pm at Blackheath Golf & Community Club.

https://www.rotaryclubofblackheath.com.au

RURAL FIRE BRIGADES

Over 2000 local brigades protect NSW from fires. Comprised solely of volunteers, their task is to protect life and property in the local area. Volunteers need to live in the area of their brigade in order to respond promptly to emergencies. To find a Rural Fire Brigade near you go to https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/about-us/our-districts/blue-mountains/brigade

SCHOOLS

Volunteer at your local school. Public schools particularly need support. Help out on sports days, excursions, with fundraising or in the classroom. Join the P&C. Go to the website of your local school.

STATE EMERGENCY SERVICES (SES)

A volunteer-based emergency and rescue service dedicated to providing emergency assistance to the community 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Volunteers assist with natural disasters and emergencies (such as floods and storms) in the local community.

https://www.ses.nsw.gov.au/get-involved/volunteer

ses volunteers at a Vertical Rescue Course

Vertical Rescue Course (Photo: NSW SES)

WOMEN’S GROUPS

Country Women’s Association (CWA) Leura and Blackheath

Members work to improve conditions for country women and children. Branch members meet once a month and participate in activities including fundraising handicrafts, cultural activities and debating current social or environmental issues.

https://www.facebook.com/CWALeuraEvening

https://www.facebook.com/p/CWA-Blackheath-Branch-100069712210412

Domestic Violence, Blue Mountains

Provides supported crisis accommodation, transitional housing, an After Hours service and outreach support for women and children in Blue Mountains affected by domestic violence. Services are provided by women. Volunteering generally requires specific skills. Email your resume with a cover letter outlining your skills and experience and what you’d like to offer.

https://www.dvwest.org.au/domestic-violence-blue-mountains

Older Women’s Network (OWN – Blue Mountains branch)

A self-help, state-wide association run by volunteers to advocate for change, empower women, encourage mutually supportive social connections and a positive approach to ageing. Members meet monthly at Wentworth Falls. A core focus is exploring solutions for creating eco-affordable housing for older single women and female low-income ‘creatives’ in the Greater Blue Mountains.

https://ownnsw.org.au/get-involved/join-group/blue-mountains

https://www.facebook.com/OWNbluemountains

Volunteers at Bunnings fundraising for the Older Women’s Network. Photo: Older Women’s Network (OWN). 

Zonta Club of the Blue Mountains

Zonta International is a leading global organisation of individuals working together to build a better world for women and girls. Zonta works locally to improve educational outcomes by providing local women with TAFE and high school scholarships and mentorship. Members also sew breast care cushions to aid local women’s recovery after breast surgery and they provide care packages including toiletries for a local women’s refuge. Zonta meets on the first Monday of the month at 6.30pm, alternating between Glenbrook Panthers and the Grand View Hotel in Wentworth Falls.

https://www.facebook.com/ZontaBlueMountains

https://zontadistrict24.org/d24-clubs/area-2/blue-mountains

YOUTH

Girl Guides

An Australia-wide organisation with hubs in the Blue Mountains, Girl Guides offers girls aged 5-17 years a safe, unique female-led space to experience a variety of fun activities and opportunities aimed at helping them to become confident young women. Guides work together in small groups while assisted by volunteer adult Leaders who encourage Guides to learn new skills and take on new challenges. Volunteers are sought as Girl Guide leaders, helpers, guest speakers, fundraisers, caterers and more.

https://www.girlguides.org.au/as-a-volunteer

Scouts NSW

Provides young Aussies aged 5 to 25 with fun and challenging opportunities to grow through adventure. Has hubs in Blackheath, Hazelbrook and beyond. Options for volunteering include as leaders, helpers and committee members. Training is provided.

https://www.scoutsnsw.com.au/info-for-volunteers

MYST – Mountains Youth Services Team (Katoomba)

MYST is dedicated to supporting young people through therapeutic intervention, skills training and personal development, and to creating cultures of care in which they can flourish. MYST works with individuals, groups, institutions and communities to help youth create the conditions in which they can shine. Myst is always looking for people to help with fundraising and other activities. Share your skills and experience to help increase the confidence, skills and resilience of local youth.

https://myst.com.au

Blue Mountains Youth Council

If you’re a young person aged between 12 and 17, volunteering for the Youth Council gives you a chance to have a say in creating a positive, youth-inclusive environment in the Blue Mountains. The Youth Council meets monthly and develops a program of actions to increase opportunities and improve services for young people, and also to share their opinions and ideas with Councillors and staff of Blue Mountains City Council. Recent actions have focused on the environment and climate change.

https://yoursay.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/youthcouncil

VOLUNTEERING WEBSITES

Volunteering websites are a wealth of even more opportunities. They’re particularly useful for finding local volunteering opportunities within state and national charities and for roles within the arts. And with their handy search tools, you can hone in on what interests you. Check out the sites below:

https://govolunteer.com.au

https://www.volunteer.com.au

https://makeadifference.volunteering.nsw.gov.au/volunteering/in-new-south-wales-nsw

https://www.volunteering.com.au

https://www.volunteeringaustralia.org

volunteering in katoomba

Photo: Volunteering can have huge impacts. Volunteer groups successfully brought attention to the plight of homeless dogs and cats after the closure of the Katoomba RSPCA Shelter. In March, RSPCA NSW, Blue Mountains City Council, and Trish Doyle MP announced the transfer of the shelters ownership to BMCC. (Photo: Michael Small via Blue Mountains Gazette)


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This story has been produced as part of a Bioregional Collaboration for Planetary Health and is supported by the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (DRRF). The DRRF is jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments.

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About Linda Moon

Linda Moon has lived in the upper Blue Mountains since childhood and is a freelance writer for Australian media. A qualified naturopath, permaculture designer, mother and former student of social work, her passion is building local community, gardening, mental, emotional, social, housing and environmental health – all of which are linked!

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