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.
Currently, we are working on the redesign of the Volunteer Management Activity in collaboration with the Australian government, which includes a focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and a commitment to empowering their participation in volunteering.
As a part of this endeavour, Volunteering Australia as well as the state and territory peak bodies are in the process of developing Reconciliation Action Plans, in coordination with Reconciliation Australia, to examine existing barriers to Indigenous participation within their organisations and to develop a strategy for more inclusive engagement.
Our internal engagements and external advocacy will feed into the development of a National Strategy for Volunteering, which will retain a similar focus on the recognition and inclusion of Indigenous communities within the volunteering domain.
Indigenous Policy and Practice Working Group
Volunteering Australia has initiated an Indigenous Policy and Practice Working Group (IPPWG) which convenes every two months as a discussion platform to further policy engagements as well inclusive work practices with regard to the First Nations people. The objective of IPPWG is to centre the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People from metropolitan, regional, and remote Australia in our policy making, and to learn from their insights on economic participation within their communities.
Our last meeting hosted a discussion on the indigenous perspectives on volunteering with Ms. Nicole Brown – an Indigenous Engagement Specialist and a board member of Top End NAIDOC Committee, Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation and Ironbark Aboriginal Corporation.
If you are a member of the First Nations community and would like to offer your perspectives on the Indigenous volunteering economy and/or challenges encountered by the communities, please reach out via email.
Submission to the National Indigenous Australians Agency
Volunteering Australia provided a submission to the development of the Remote Engagement Program by the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA). The submission emphasises the value of situating the Indigenous volunteering landscape at the centre of the new program design. In the development of this new program, we recommend that the NIAA recognise the importance of volunteering as a pathway to employment – and in particular – the socio-economic value of Indigenous volunteering in remote Australia.
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.