As the national peak body for volunteering, it is our ambition for volunteering to be inclusive of all members of the Australian community. Being First Nations people, Indigenous Australians are at the very heart of our society.
However, it is important to appreciate that many Indigenous people and communities perceive volunteering differently to non-Indigenous people. Volunteering is often more fluid, local and responsive to community needs, rather than structured, targeted and regular.
Indigenous Australians also face structural disadvantages that have an impact on their ability to participate in ‘formal’ volunteering (volunteering through an organisation). Mainstream volunteering programs are typically not tailored for specific needs and aspirations that Indigenous people might have.
Volunteering Australia and the State and Territory peak volunteering bodies are seeking to redress these barriers to volunteering through our policy and advocacy work and through working with volunteer involving organisations to support the adoption of volunteering practices that are culturally aware and safe for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
In the current redesign of the Volunteer Management Activity, we are working with the Australian Government to build the capacity of volunteer involving organisations to break down barriers for ‘priority groups’, which includes First Nations People.
Indigenous Skills and Employment Program
Volunteering Australia provided a submission to the consultation on the design of the Indigenous Skills and Employment Program. Volunteering – when understood as including cultural obligation and reciprocity – is embedded in the everyday cultural life of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The submission emphasises the need to recognise the social and economic value of indigenous forms of volunteering to the Australian economy, alongside efforts to inclusively integrate indigenous ‘volunteers’ within mainstream organisations. In communication with Indigenous members of the community, we propose a co-design process that is locally embedded and aligned with the principles of self-determination of the First Nations People.
Indigenous Voice consultation
Volunteering Australia provided a submission to the consultation on the Indigenous Voice proposals. We support the advancement of measures that can raise the voices of First Nations people in public policy development and enactment. We highlight that the proposals need to be seen in the context of the Uluru Statement from the Heart which calls for a Voice enshrined in the Australian Constitution. The Australian Government needs to honour its election commitment to a referendum on constitutional recognition.
Volunteering and Indigenous economic inclusion
Volunteering Australia provided a submission to the Pathways and Participation Opportunities for Indigenous Australians in Employment and Business inquiry. The submission highlights that given the breadth of barriers that Indigenous Australians face to economic inclusion, a multifaceted strategy is needed which includes addressing structural disadvantages.
Volunteering activity can provide a pathway to paid employment and has a role to play in progressing employment and economic inclusion. However, further effort is needed to open up more volunteering opportunities to Indigenous Australians.