Increasing Indigenous Voices and supporting Indigenous volunteers

Increasing Indigenous Voices

This resource, Radio Nation - Increasing Indigenous Voices on the Airways, provides non-Indigenous stations with tips on engaging Indigenous people in broadcast opportunities. It was produced by Fingerprint Productions for the Community Broadcasting Foundation.

A guide to better understanding volunteers from Indigenous 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 Indigenous communities and how community groups can work with this research to better support them.

We have compiled a simple overview for community stations that may operate within an Indigenous community, already engage with members of Indigenous communities or wish to better involve volunteers from an Indigenous background.

Motivating factors for volunteering for members of Indigenous communities
  • Responsibility for community wellbeing: participants noted that there is often a high level of need in Indigenous communities and it is therefore important to volunteer. However many were not interested in giving outside of their community as their own communities can struggle to survive on a daily basis.
  • Cultural maintenance and survival: sharing, giving and helping others is vital in maintaining Indigenous culture.
  • Making a difference: this is seen as an important way to ‘give back’ to the community and those that have helped in the past.
Challenges faced by members of Indigenous communities
  • Lack of time: often there are more immediate needs like caring for family and employment, which can inhibit volunteering. Time is particularly an issue for those aged over 50 or for families with small children.
  • Burnout: many Indigenous community members volunteer in multiple ways while still holding down a full-time job. Indigenous Elders are at particular risk of burnout.
  • Potential for discrimination and racism: participants were wary of institutions where they may feel uncomfortable because of racism, discrimination or lack of cultural awareness.
Enablers of volunteering and giving in Indigenous communities
  • Public acknowledgement and respect
  • Partnership projects that benefit Indigenous communities
  • Involving non-Indigenous people in Indigenous events (e.g. Sorry Day)
  • Offering opportunities for employment and skills development of Indigenous community members.
What can community stations do to further support these volunteers?

The research found that most Indigenous community members, like CALD 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 Indigenous volunteers can focus on building the cultural competency of their organisation and volunteers.

Ways to address this and other barriers include:
  • Appreciating and acknowledging Indigenous 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 Indigenous communities
  • Indigenous-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 Indigenous people, retain volunteers and develop culturally respectful partnerships and projects
  • Training and additional resources for Indigenous 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 CALD communities.