Media Release by The Hon Mal Brough MP

Australian senior citizens enlisted to help Indigenous communities

Joint Media Release with:

  • Everald Compton, Chairman National Seniors Association

The Australian Government and National Seniors Association today joined forces to encourage Australia’s senior citizens to volunteer their time, skills and experience to work with remote Indigenous communities.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough launched the initiative, Senior Volunteers for Indigenous Communities, at the National Seniors conference on the Gold Coast today.

"We want to build on the success of the Indigenous Community Volunteers program and provide opportunities for senior Australians to use their significant expertise, skills and life experiences to provide practical assistance to remote Indigenous communities," Mr Brough said.

"Senior Australians have a lot to offer and remote Indigenous communities have been isolated for too long from interaction with mainstream Australia. They are starved of information and they need access to skilled people.

"The projects to be undertaken through this partnership will provide an opportunity for senior Australians to work hand-in-hand with Indigenous people and to build long-term, lasting relationships.

National Seniors Association chairman, Everald Compton, said the initiative demonstrated the willingness of senior Australians to continue to contribute to society.

"Seniors are actively involved in volunteer work across the country. The Senior Volunteers for Indigenous Communities presents an exciting opportunity for members to contribute to practical change in Indigenous communities," Mr Compton said.

"I believe it will also open the way for non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians to establish personal relationships, leading to greater understanding within the broader community.

"This is a powerful message for the whole community about working together to deal with one of our nation’s great challenges.

The Australian Government has committed $300,000 to the initiative, which will start in 2007.

"This will provide for two-way relationships where both parties benefit from the experience. It is about practical reconciliation," Mr Brough said.

"Volunteers will be able to learn from Indigenous people. Language training and cross-cultural induction will be part of the package and I congratulate the National Seniors Association for their enthusiasm and support.

Any senior Australians interested in volunteering should contact Olivia Molaei at the National Seniors Association.

Senior Volunteers for Indigenous Communities

Questions and Answers

When is the initiative expected to start?
Our aim is to start preparing volunteers in February or March 2007.

How will the volunteers be selected for projects?
Volunteers will be matched against identified projects based on their skills, experiences and preferences for when and where they will be available.

All volunteers will have to have a police check before being considered for a placement.

Where will they be working and what will they be doing?
The volunteers will be working with local elders on projects identified by local communities and the National Seniors Association, in consultation with the Government.

The actual projects to be undertaken will be determined by a combination of the skills the volunteer/s have and identified areas of need in the community.

What type of projects do you see them undertaking?
The type of projects they could be working on range from helping communities develop business plans, supporting teachers and teacher’s aides in literacy work and teaching trade skills, i.e. building, plumbing and electrical.

How long will the volunteers be expected to stay in a community?
The length of any assignment will vary according to the individual project being undertaken.

Senior volunteers will build up long-term relationships with local elders. This will mean that they remain in regular contact after their first visit and make regular return visits to a community

Will the volunteers be given cultural awareness training before being sent to a community?
Yes. This will be arranged by the National Seniors Association and will be tailored to the needs of the location.

Who will pay for the costs associated with volunteering?
Not all the details for the scheme have been finalised. The training and information needed to volunteer will be provided through National Seniors Association. The Australian Government has contributed funding to establish the initiative. There may be some costs associated with travel and living expenses, but volunteers will be fully informed prior to formally committing.

Where will volunteers stay?
Accommodation for volunteers is yet to be determined, but will depend upon the community. In some communities suitable accommodation will be provided, but other communities may be more suitable for people who can provide their own accommodation (caravan or camping facilities).

How do I get involved?
Interested members should contact Olivia Molaei from the National Seniors Association on (07) 3233 9131.