Volunteering with AUSMAT – is it for me?

The AUSMAT experience isn't for everyone – living conditions on deployment can be very challenging. Please consider the questions below to ensure volunteering for AUSMAT is for you.

Living conditions

AUSMAT members may be required to deploy overseas. You will have to adjust to unfamiliar food, living conditions, pace of life and languages. You may or may not get on well with your AUSMAT companions.

  • Can you tolerate severe weather such as extreme heat and humidity?
  • Can you tolerate annoying insects?
  • Can you cope with 'toilet in a box' commode-system and limited hand-washing facilities?
  • Are you able to eat ration-packs or foods you are not used to eating?
  • Can you sleep on a stretcher bed in a unisex tent with limited privacy and leisure time?

Cross culture

Working in an unfamiliar culture usually involves challenges in communication and perceptions. People may have different expectations of acceptable dress, behaviour and respect for personal space. Being able to adapt your own behaviours to suit the culture of the deployment is very important when working in the field.

  • Can you live in a culture that is totally different from your own?
  • Are you open to accepting there is more than one way of doing things?
  • Do you enjoy the challenge of communicating with those from different cultural backgrounds to your own?
  • Can you adapt to a cultural environment where males are regarded as primary authority figures?

Command structure

AUSMAT teams have a defined command structure. This is necessary to ensure team safety, efficient tasking and maximum use of limited resources.

  • Can you follow orders without necessarily knowing all the facts or the rationale for decisions?

Personal and family

Deploying with AUSMAT WA means leaving your loved ones behind for a period of time. For some deployments, this could be up to several weeks.

  • Can you cope with keeping in touch on an infrequent basis?
  • Can your family and friends cope with that too?


Humanitarian work is often stressful, particularly in an emergency context. Several factors on deployment can contribute to stress for example strained relations with teammates, health problems and lack of communication with your friends and relatives back home.

  • Can you address problems as they rise?
  • Do people describe you as an easy listener?
  • Do you find ways to solve problems between colleagues and between friends?
  • Can you put aside personal issues in order to complete your work?
  • Can you cope with constantly changing plans?


While working in the field, you will be representing the WA Department of Health at all times, even during time off.

Safety regulations may restrict your freedom, movement or your ability to interact with local populations, even outside working hours. Each situation is different, but in most insecure environments it may be that you are under curfew and confined to the camp.

  • Can you cope with being confined to the same place for long periods?

We encourage you to give these issues some serious thought. This will give you an idea about working in the field and help you decide whether AUSMAT is for you.

Acknowledgement: The tool above has been adapted from the Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia – Self-assessment guide.

More information

For more information on the AUSMAT please send us an email.

Produced by

Disaster Preparedness and Management Unit