Indigenous community volunteers demonstrate reconciliation in action through shared projects
Posted on 12 May, 2017
One Indigenous community was surprisingly seeking a taxidermist; another in remote Western Australia wanted help to build a ranger station.
Meanwhile, a school on the outskirts of Sydney needed advice on a bush tucker garden design.
And a tiny community in the Northern Territory sent out a call for mechanics to teach vehicle maintenance.
All requests were met and the projects accomplished through Indigenous Community Volunteers (ICV), a Canberra-based, not-for-profit organisation.
In 2014-15 about 170 Indigenous communities across Australia have identified projects aimed at improving health, social or economic wellbeing.
ICV has linked them with volunteers willing to work in the communities, sharing their skills, while experiencing Indigenous life and culture.
CEO Stephanie Harvey said Indigenous people were intelligent and resourceful and understood what issues should to be addressed in their communities.
"We know the answers, we just need support to move it into a better space," Ms Harvey said.
"And that really is where ICV comes in."
Ms Harvey admitted to being almost stumped by the request for a taxidermist volunteer asked to teach a community how to preserve native animals for their cultural centre.
"But because it is community driven, our volunteers have such a breadth of skills," Ms Harvey said.
Volunteers — who provided more than 3,000 days of service last year alone — have included youth workers, teachers, doctors, dentists, archaeologists and artists.
Volunteers program proving its worth in indigenous communities
KPMG Australia recently endorsed the work of ICV after investigating two projects — the refurbishment of a derelict community centre in the West Australian town of Pinjarra, and an education campaign on the connection between dog and human health at Ali Curung in the Northern Territory.
The audit found both projects had "the potential to contribute to ongoing economic and social impacts within the community" through such outcomes as improved nutrition, reduction in illness, community resilience and wellbeing.
Karrie-Anne Kearing-Salmon from the Murray District Community Association in Pinjarra, said the local Noongar people wanted to restore the community centre to provide a hub for youth programs.
ICV volunteers were involved in building a new roof, installing kitchen and toilet facilities and developing a community garden.
The refurbished centre is now used for homework, health and nutrition classes and to provide breakfast and lunch for schoolchildren.
"We thought [it] best to go with youth so they can go home and teach their parents, rather than teach the parents [to] teach the youth," Ms Kearing-Salmon said.
The project led to ongoing friendships being developed between the volunteers and community members.
"We put on barbeques for each volunteer and they sit and have dinner with us and all our family," Ms Kearing-Salmon said.
"And yeah, they love it, sometimes [they] don't want to leave, or they'll come back on a visit every now and again."
CEO Stephanie Harvey said ICV strived to build genuine relationships with the community members.
"We work on people-based issues, economic development, governance, jobs — you name it," she said.
"Yes we proudly name ourselves as a community development organisation, but really it's reconciliation in action.
"It's all of us working together."