Very important: Volunteers who handle bats must be vaccinated against Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV) with the rabies vaccine to the Australian standard, not the World Heath Organisation for protection against rabies. This is explained below. Please provide proof of vaccination status before they arrive so we can check this.

What we look for in a volunteer: We need self-motivated people who can learn quickly, genuinely care for the bats and work well in a team. This requires a certain type of person as well as a certain level of maturity. For this reason, persons under the age of 21 are less likely to be accepted as volunteers. We encourage all volunteers to exercise daily, whether it’s a run or just a short walk. This is especially so in the months where a lot of time is spent sitting and feeding the baby bats.

We appreciate volunteers with practical skills or those with a medical, veterinary, IT or environmental education background. However above all we look for those with a positive attitude to life and this volunteering opportunity.

When to come: Volunteers are needed all year but especially during tick paralysis season when hundreds of adults and orphans come into care. These are the months from October to February. We usually need 4 to 8 full-time people, as well as our dedicated group of local part-time volunteers.

We prefer a minimum stay of one month in busy season, and two weeks the rest of the year. Experienced flying fox carers can be an exception to this rule. Apply as early as you can to maximise the chances of coming at your preferred time.

Type of work: Work at the hospital in tick season is varied. Typically volunteers will help prepare large amounts of food for the adults and orphans; feed/clean/weigh/measure the orphans, clean cages, wash large amounts of bat and human laundry, participate in trips to the rainforest to search or release (depending on season); and help with miscellaneous projects around the hospital. We buy fruit in bulk (apples1000kg and bananas 350kgs) and these need to be unloaded into boxes for storage in fridge or food safe. We make large amounts of banana smoothie on particular days, and this is then stored in the freezer and brought out as required. Caring for sick or young animals is like caring for sick or young humans, many tasks are very repetitive but your love and respect for the animals will make it very rewarding. Some volunteers also help with visitor tours.

Outside of tick season the work is less varied and demanding as a lot fewer bats are in care.

Rabies Vaccination: Volunteers who work with bats must be vaccinated for Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV), the most closely related virus to rabies. ABLV is extremely rare in Australian bats but it is a condition of our permit that all bat handlers are vaccinated. You must be able to provide us with a copy of the vaccination certificate (and recent blood titre test if you have one) before you arrive.

The Australian standard for the prevention of Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV) is a series of 3 intramuscular injections of 1 ml rabies vaccine over 3-4 weeks. Experience has shown that the series is protective for both pre and post exposure. There is no experience or proof that other protocols as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for rabies prevention will suffice for ABLV. Australian Health authorities will therefore not accept a rabies titre from these other protocols as valid proof of protection against ABLV. These other protocols involve a shorter vaccination period and sometimes intradermal rather than intramuscular injections.

Liz and Jenny 2014 having fun time getting food ready in the big cage.

Working Hours: During tick paralysis season, volunteers typically work 7 days per week for an average of about 10 -15 hours a day. We try to have some volunteers working late, and others starting early. Early shift starts by 6am, and late shift ends about 11pm. We all work 10 -12 hours a day though at this busy time of the year, with breaks as often as possible.
November is always the busiest month as we can have up to 200 babies being hand-fed 4 times a day. Volunteers unable to commit to this pace are encouraged to live offsite and roster on as it suits. Every effort is made to give long-stay volunteers a break for a few days during the season. Please be aware of your own limits and let someone know if you need help or time off.

Outside of tick season we are far more flexible, and days off for excursions or a break can be easily accommodated.

Please remember: You are here to help, not holiday, though we do our best to include excursions. In return you have the unique privilege of working with bats in a wonderful environment.

Workplace Health and Safety: See our requirements on the Application page.

Accommodation: Volunteers are accommodated in several ways.

  1. The two-room self-contained apartment is the central base for all the volunteers. It contains a separate bedroom with 2-3 single beds; a living area with TV etc; compact kitchen, bathroom, and verandah area. The apartment provides well above the usual standard of volunteer accommodation.
  2. A single room in the Nursery building with bathroom next door.
  3. Large confortable gazebo tents that offer more private accommodation. There is power to the tents but all bathroom facilities are a short walk up to the Nursery building. This is usually the best option for couples as one for the tents has 2 rooms.
  4. Volunteers with cars are welcome to find accommodation in Atherton.

We always have to factor in accommodation when we take volunteer bookings. Please let us know as soon as possible if you want to change your dates of volunteering. For those with cars, it can help if you stay offsite especially in busy season. We’re happy to help you with this.

Meals: We eat very well at the Bat Hospital and cater for vegetarians and vegans. Each night we share a delicious healthy meal, but everyone caters for themselves during the day. All volunteers are expected to help with preparing evening meals or cleaning up afterward. We discuss with each volunteer when they arrive what they would like for breakfast and lunch, and provide ingredients. but everyone prepares (and cleans up) their own food during the day. Alcohol is tolerated at the hospital but consumption must be moderate. Smoking must be well away from living areas and bat facilities.

Communications: We have good wireless internet. Volunteers are encourageed to bring their own computers/tablets /smartphones etc. There is no mobile phone reception here but to pick up messages volunteers can put their phones into the car that goes to town every day, or get a lift into town.

Trips to Town: We do almost daily trips into town so it is no trouble for volunteers to access banking, groceries, healthcare etc

Every night we sit down to a lovely meal with lots of lovely volunteers.

We eat outside for much of the year unless there are too many insects or it’s too cold.

We try to make sure there is time to see some sights and get some exercise.

Getting here
The bat hospital is 7kms from Atherton. Although a relatively small town, it has all the necessary infrastructure for banking, health care etc It is about an 80 minute drive from Cairns, the nearest international and domestic airport.

Once you get to Cairns in far north Queensland, there is now only one way to get here by public transport. With the loss of international tourism other options have disappeared. Trans North Buses leave from Cairns Central to Atherton 3 times a day monday to friday, only once a day on weekends.Adult price is $26.10. You need to allow 1.5 hours to get from the airport to Cairns Central by airport shuttle bus ($15). It is only a 5 km trip but the bus might take 15 minutes to leave, and it drops people off at their accommodation on the way. Ask the Airport Shuttle to drop you under the Cairns Central Shopping Centre, platform 1 where the Trans North bus leaves from. We will meet you off the bus in Atherton.

Trans North Buses can deliver you back to Cairns straight to the airport for an extra $5. They are allowed to drop people off at the airport but not pick up. Analyse all this bus information if you have some control over your flight times and you will avoid long wait times for transfers to and from Atherton.

What to bring: This depends on the time of year. Atherton is known as the cool tropics as we are at an altitude of 800 metres. October to December is a warm dry season. For work in the colony, you need light clothing with long sleeves, long pants and closed boots. Around the hospital, wear shorts, tshirts and sandals. For looking after baby bats wear old long tshirts that can be pinned up to create a hammock for them to sleep in. Do not wear singlets for working or shirts with low necklines. Looking for a mother substitute, young pups want to be on you and sucking something, so you need to be well-covered with a minimum of bare skin. We provide all bed linen and towels, and have a lot of tshirts. Make sure you bring a headtorch, personal medications, hat etc

Costs: For the first full month all volunteers contribute AUD$50 per day to assist with accommodation, meals, laundry and internet access. It does not cover alcohol or snacks or special diet food. If staying for less than one month, this fee is higher but varies with length of stay. After one month, the daily rate reduces further. After 2 months the rate is negotaible. Volunteers wanting to undertake research projects need to negotiate a rate as there will be demands on the coordinator’s time. We offer a truly unique experience for bat enthusiasts in beautiful surroundings and excellent facilities.

Volunteers need to pay a non-refundable deposit of $350 when their application is accepted. We use the first week as a trial period and reserve the right to terminate your volunteering if necessary. This is a clause in our contract with you to allow for the very occasional volunteer (only 2 in the 10 year history of the project) with whom there are too many difficulties. Please go to the Donate button on our home page to make the payment, using Paypal or credit card. Our bank deatils are there too if you’d prefer to do a bank transfer, a good option if you have an Aussie bank account.

Length of Stay (weeks) Daily Rate $AUD Total $AUD
1 85 595
2 75 1050
3 65 1365
4 55 1540
Everyone pays a minimum of $55 a day for the first 4 weeks, then the daily rate reduces further.
5 50 1890
6 45 2170
7 40 2380
8 35 2520
Length of Stay (weeks) Daily Rate $AUD Total $AUD
1 80 560
2 70 980
3 60 1260
4 50 1400
Everyone pays a minimum of $50 a day for the first 4 weeks, then the daily rate reduces further.
5 45 1715
6 40 1995
7 35 2240
8 30 2450

You will be in the tropics in an area with much wildlife. Please respect them all, including spiders and snakes. We cannot expect people to respect and value bats if we cannot do it ourselves for other species. Just let us know if you encounter wildlife that you find difficult to deal with. Keep the screen doors of the volunteer room closed.

The bat hospital is home for Jenny and Ashleigh. Please take notice of and respect their ways of doing things. Living with a constant changeover of volunteers for 9 months of the year can be stressful. The Volunteer Manual is a good guide to how best to do this.

We weigh and measure orphans for growth weekly.

There is always maintenance to do somewhere…

… and always lots of laundry. We avoid using dryers.