The survival of WA towns has been thrown into question as research reveals the volunteer groups that keep them running face a looming crisis.
The Economic Sustainability of WA’s Rural Workforce report showed more than 50 per cent of WA’s rural population were volunteers, providing essential services such as health care and firefighting, but a shortfall was almost inevitable.
Loss of population, an ageing population and burnout of volunteers presented the most serious risks to rural volunteering.
“Within a decade of the survey. . . 23 per cent of the volunteer workforce indicated they would move from their community,” the report said.
About 40 per cent of organisations surveyed already had volunteer shortages, with another 16 per cent expecting shortages within five years.
Association of Volunteer Bushfire Brigades executive officer Darren Brown said towns faced a “vicious cycle”, where the decline in volunteers contributed to people leaving.
Towns such as Norseman had only two to five volunteers in key services like St John Ambulance, sparking concerns about the capacity of those bearing the brunt of emergency calls.
Volunteering Minister Mick Murray said demographic shifts and busier lives were challenging volunteering.