Volunteering for international development – voluntourism

Thesis title: “Volunteer Tourism: Knowing development to ‘do’ development”

Supervisors: Dr Katharine KcKinnon and Associate Professor Kate Lloyd

Completed: 2009


This thesis furthers our understanding on “how” volunteer tourism practice can improve the transformative, mutually beneficial and educational potential of volunteer tourism programs. The purpose of this study was to explore how education and training provided by sending organisations can play a major role in ensuring enthusiastic, well-intended and “unskilled” volunteers are capable and prepared to participate in development activities in ways that are ethical and long lasting.

This study brings together discourses of development, tourism and education, and combines them within an ethnographic based framework. Observation and in-depth face-to-face, and email interviews were used to understand volunteer tourism through the interpretations, perceptions and meanings participants attributed to their experiences of volunteering in Vanuatu with an Australia-based sending organisation.

The thesis argued, that if short-term placements are to foster meaningful participatory action based on solidarity, mutual learning and understanding, sending organisations need to adopt and maintain a long-term commitment to the process of volunteering abroad. Consequently, conclusions suggest, the educative methodology adopted by the sending organisation needs to occur throughout the volunteer process, while also bringing a pedagogical and developmental perspective to its practices. The author recommends that education needs to centre on facilitating critical and reflective engagement of volunteers‟ self, role, and impacts within a broad understanding of development issues and agendas. Volunteer tourism programs need to include a stronger educational component throughout pre and post project phases.

Hammersley, L.A. (2013). Volunteer tourism: building effective relationships of understanding. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, Special Issue, 22(6), 855-873.

Hammersley, L.A. (2016). A reply to the response by Mark Griffiths to the JOST Special Issue on Volunteer Tourism.  Journal of Sustainable Tourism. 24(2): 178-181