Engaging and supporting volunteers from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds

A guide to better understanding volunteers from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, an opportunity for community radio stations.

In June 2016 the Cultural & Indigenous Research Centre Australia (CIRCA) released a report called: “Giving and volunteering in culturally and linguistically diverse and Indigenous communities”. The research sought to understand the varying factors that enable and limit volunteer contribution by these groups, and looked at how community organisations can work towards overcoming these challenges.

Community radio stations can often find it challenging engaging and retaining volunteers. In order to better connect with volunteers and potential volunteers it is best to understand their motivations and any challenges/barriers they face when giving their time.

CIRCA’s report looks at how these factors manifest specifically in CALD communities and how community groups can work with this research to better support them.

We have compiled a simple overview for community stations who may operate within a CALD community, already engage with members of CALD communities or wish to better incorporate volunteers from a CALD background.

Motivating factors for volunteering for members of CALD communities
  • Cultural maintenance: to maintain cultural and linguistic traditions and to pass on knowledge to the next generation and other Australian communities.
  • Religious and social ethics: volunteering can often be intrinsically tied to religious, social or political ethics, or “for the common good’.
  • Community wellbeing and connection: to improve the settlement experience for others settling in Australia.
  • Meaning and personal satisfaction: provides life meaning and self-esteem for volunteers.
  • Employment opportunities: a way for volunteers to update or acquire new skills, particularly if they have found it difficult to find work in Australia.
Challenges faced by members of CALD communities
  • Lack of time: often there are more immediate needs like caring for family which can inhibit volunteering
  • Burnout: due to a high level of demand on volunteers, leading to a withdrawal from volunteer activities
  • Lack of English: often seen as a barrier to volunteering outside one’s own CALD community
  • Community vulnerability: financial demands on newly arrived migrants and refugees can be a barrier to giving
Enablers of volunteering and giving in CALD communities
  • Partnering between CALD community groups and broader Australian organisations
  • Greater flexibility in volunteering options (e.g. less rigid timeslots)
  • More systematic approaches to collecting and distributing funds, and
  • Opportunities for work experience and skills development
What can community stations do to further support these volunteers?

The research found that most CALD community members, like Indigenous community members, would prefer to volunteer for organisations where they felt comfortable and where staff and other volunteers were culturally sensitive. Community stations looking to develop their engagement with CALD groups can focus on building the cultural competency of their organisation and volunteers.

Ways to address this and other barriers include:
  • Appreciating and acknowledging CALD volunteers through, for example, the awarding of certificates or through formal announcements
  • Supporting partnerships and collaborations that promote better understanding, communication, relationship-building and culturally sensitive approaches amongst your organisation and CALD communities
  • CALD-lead community development projects that have the potential to build relationships particularly with young people, enhancing social cohesion and strengthening community wellbeing
  • Implementing cultural competency training for staff and volunteers. This would enable stations to work more effectively with CALD groups, retain volunteers and develop culturally respectful partnerships and projects
  • Training and additional resources for CALD groups to increase their participation. This could be achieved through volunteer recruitment, effective communication and marketing and networking.
  • Promotion of the benefits of volunteering in relation to skill development and employment pathways to encourage more volunteers, particularly young people and those from new and emerging communities.

You can also read the complete report compiled by CIRCA or our resource summarising their findings on giving and volunteering in Indigenous communities.