This page contains affiliate links. This means if you a follow a link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you, Humanitarian Careers will receive a commission. Thank you for supporting the site.
Australia is one of the world leaders in foreign aid. The country donates over 4.5 billion dollars a year in international humanitarian and development funding. There are a huge number of NGOs in Australia, from major household names to small community groups.
We’ve put together this guide for anyone who wants to learn more about working for an NGO in Australia. Its ideal for students and recent graduates planning their first moves into the Australian NGO sector, as well as those already embarked on their career who are thinking about transitioning to do NGO work in Australia.
Types of NGO Recruiting In The Australia
The first thing you need to understand before applying for an NGO job in Australia is the different types of NGOs that operate in the country. There are literally hundreds of NGOs in Australia. However, broadly, they can be broken into two main groups.
One type of Australian NGOs are known as domestic NGOs. These organisations work almost entirely in Australia helping people in need. They often work with people living in poverty or those affected by disaster such as wild fires. Their main focus is on helping Australian people at home.
A second type of NGO in Australia is what is known as international NGOs. These NGOs work overseas helping people living in extreme poverty or those affected by natural disasters or conflicts. Many of the big international NGOs in Australia are part of global networks of international NGOs working all over the world.
NGOs in Australia come in all different sizes. There are huge multi-million-dollar NGOs, often working globally. There are also big domestic NGOs that are usually household names. However, there are also small grassroots organizations working within Australia, or smaller organizations working overseas perhaps in just one country or on a specific issue.
Top Australian NGOs To Apply To
So, we know about the different types of NGOs in Australia, next we’ll look at some examples of the biggest and best known NGOs in the country and get an idea of the kind of work they do. Some of the top NGOs in Australia include:
- World Vision Australia
- WaterAid Australia
- Save the children Australia
- Oxfam Australia
- CARE Australia
- Child Fund Australia
- Plan International Australia
Now we’ll briefly go over each of these…
World Vision Australia
World Vision Australia is one of the best-known NGOs in the country. Part of the global World Vision network, the Christian NGO works in over 100 countries on areas including child protection, education, disaster management, health and nutrition, and water and sanitation.
WaterAid was founded in 1981 in the UK. The Australian NGO was started in 2004. WaterAid works around the world helping communities living in poverty to access clean and safe water.
Save the Children Australia
Save the Children is one of the largest NGOs in the world working with children and families living in poverty, or that have experienced conflicts or disasters. Save the Children Australia is a key member of the global Save the Children network. Save the Children Australia supports work in 118 countries in areas such as child protection, education, child nutrition, disaster response and child’s rights.
Oxfam Australia was founded in 1953. It is part of the global Oxfam network originally founded in Oxford, England, in 1942. Oxfam Australia supports projects in over 80 countries working on areas including food security, water and sanitation and women’s empowerment.
CARE Australia is one of the top NGOs in the country. Founded in 1987 and supporting work in over 100 countries, CARE Australia runs projects around the world in areas such as crisis response, gender equality, climate action, health, food security, nutrition and livelihoods.
Child Fund Australia
Child Fund Australia is an international development NGO that works to reduce poverty for children worldwide. With projects across 63 countries, Child Fund Australia is one of the best known, and well respected, NGOs in the country.
Plan International Australia
Plan International is a network of NGOs working to help children around the world living in poverty or affected by humanitarian crises. Plan International Australia was founded in 1999 and supports projects across 80 countries. The NGOs work includes programmes on education, child nutrition and children’s rights.
NGO Roles In Australia
In Australian NGOs there is essentially no limit to the different types of roles available. However, it is possible to divide most of the positions within the Australian NGO sector into a few different categories. These are:
- Management Job
- Programme Roles
- Support Roles
Let’s take a quick look at each of these in-turn…
Every NGO in Australia has a range of management positions that are responsible for ensuring the NGO works well. These positions can either manage a specific department, or can be cross-cutting and oversee a range of functions within the NGO ensuring they work effectively together. Managerial roles in Australian NGOs can either oversee technical programme departments, such as education, livelihoods or health, or be responsible for support functions such as finance or human resources.
Those wanting to work in a managerial role for an Australian NGO will need significant pervious experience in the NGO sector, likely including overseas deployments. Formal qualifications in the area the management positions overseas is also often sought by Australian NGOs. You will also need a theoretical understanding of how NGOs work, as well as a broad knowledge of management theories and practices.
Like in most NGOs around the world, in Australian NGOs, programme roles are responsible for coordinating the NGOs frontline work. This means they oversee the delivery of aid. Often the programmes department of an NGO is divided into technical areas focusing on the kind of work the NGO does. For example, within the broader programmes department there will be a health, mine action or livelihoods sub-departments.
If you want to work within the programmes department of an Australian NGO you likely need a technical background in one of the areas of the NGO works in. For example, to join the health programme department, a medical background is needed.
Another function within all NGOs, including in Australia, is support roles. These positions directly support the programme department in implementing the NGOs projects. Support departments in NGOs cover areas such as logistics and supply chains, human resource, finance, grant management and security.
Having a background in the support area you are applying for will help your application. However, most NGOs are looking for people with the skills and experience to deliver on the job, and so practical experience and applicable knowledge are most sought after by Australian NGOs recruiting support roles.
Australian NGOs often hire consultants to deliver set pieces of work, often utilising technical skills that the NGO doesn’t have in-house. Consultants will deliver their work within an agreed time period for a fee. They are not long-term NGO employees, but come on board only when the NGO requires their expertise.
In order to work as a consultant for an Australian NGO you will need extensive previous experience, often within a technical area of NGO work.
A great way to start your career in the Australian NGO sector is by taking an internship. Within Australian NGOs, interns either support a specific department, or work across departments providing a range of support.
Sadly, many Australian NGOs do not pay their interns. However most do provide a stipend to cover transportation and food. However, more NGOs in Australia are starting to move towards paying their interns, meaning more people can begin their NGO careers in Australia by doing an internship.
Qualification Needed To Work For An NGO In Australia
An important step to take if you want to work for an NGO in Australia is making sure you have the right qualifications. NGOs recruiting all over the world, including in Australia, look for staff that have both the hard and soft skills needed to do the job.
NGO jobs in Australia are competitive. Many people want a career that is not only dedicated to helping people in need, but also often gives them the chance to travel internationally and that pays a fair wage. NGO jobs are interesting and fulfilling, and as a result many people apply to open vacancies with NGOs.
In order to become qualified to work for an NGO in Australia you will almost certainly need a university degree. NGOs look for people who have degrees as it provides the level of education and knowledge often needed to perform well in NGO roles.
Most NGO positions in Australia will also require a masters degree. If you are serious about building a career in the NGO sector in Australia, or internationally, consider going to graduate school.
When choosing a bachelors or masters to study in order to get a job with an Australian NGO, there are a few things to consider. Firstly, if you want to work in a technical programmes role, such as overseeing health, shelter, protection, nutrition, education or livelihoods projects, you will need the formal qualifications needed to work in this area. If you want to work in a support function within an NGO, such as finance, logistics, HR, security and grant management, a degree or formal qualification in this area will also help.
It’s also possible to take more general degrees related to NGO work that can help you secure a position with an Australian NGO. Particular masters in areas such as humanitarian action, conflict response, disaster management or refugee and migration studies can provide a good theoretical background to NGO work.
Another step you should definitely consider before applying to NGO roles in Australia is taking some online short courses. There are many online courses that can be completed in a couple of weeks that provide fantastic information on key areas of the NGO sector. Adding these to you CV can really boost your application when applying to NGOs in Australia.
Taking online courses can also be a great way for people looking to transition into the NGO sector from the private or public sector and who want to better tailor their CV to NGO work.
NGO Online Courses
If you want to know more how to get a job with an NGO, we highly recommend the online course Introduction to NGO Management. It goes over how NGOs operate and introduces students to the unique aspects of the NGO sector. Follow the link for more information.
Another online course we highly recommend for those wanting to know more about NGOs is How To Design and Fund International Development NGO Projects. Anyone working for an NGO needs a basic understanding of how NGO projects are set-up, and how to input to funding proposals. Click the link to get more information on the course.
If you are looking to work for an NGO, we highly recommend the online course International Humanitarian and Development Careers. We think it provides one of the best overviews of the NGO sector and gives a clear breakdown of the skills needed to get an NGO job. It also provides valuable information on how to successfully apply for positions within NGOs. Click the link to be taken to the course’s page.
Applying To NGO Jobs In Australia
As we’ve said, NGO jobs in Australia are competitive. Here are some good tips to follow when applying to Australian NGOs.
You will almost certainly need to send a lot of applications to land a job with an NGO in Australia. This is especially true if you are early in your career. Sending a lot of applications will help you offset some of the competition simply by giving you more chances to be short-listed.
When sending applications to Australian NGOs, you should tailor each application to the job you are applying for. NGO recruiters look for candidates that not only have the relevant skills and experiences needed to do the job, but also that they are able to demonstrate this in their application. To do this, you will need to include specific points about each job in your CV and cover letter.
…because you need to send a lot of applications, and need to tailor each one, design a system so that you can quickly and easily update key parts of your cover letter and CV. Some parts will stay the same for each application, such as your education or trainings you have done. Other parts, such as the successes you’ve had in previous roles, need to be linked directly to the main parts of the job description you are applying too.
NGOs in Australia get a lot of applications for each role. This means dozens, or even sometimes hundreds, of CVs and cover letters for the recruiter to review. As a result, hiring managers in Australian NGOs only take a few seconds to look at each application. Therefore, you need to make your application standout.
A good tip to follow is to put some bullet-points at the top of your CV that clearly highlight that you have the skills and experience needed to do the job. This will help your application stand-out.
Another good tip is to include in your cover letter, perhaps at the end, a statement about how your values align with those of the NGO you are applying to. Check the NGOs website for their mission statement. Linking your principles to this will help you show you have not only researched the NGO, but also care about the work they do.
Where To Find NGO Vacancies In Australia
There is no one way to find NGOs recruiting jobs in Australia. However, some of the top websites to check for open recruitments include:
As well as these sites, make a list of the Australian NGOs you are most interested in working for. Be sure to check their job boards regularly to see what positions have become open. There are also many other general job advert websites for Australia. Make sure to be regularly checking a range of sources to see which Australian NGOs are hiring.
If you want to know more about how to get a job with an NGO, explore our page on the top NGO online courses here.