Harnessing the skills of these volunteers enables the program to provide critical services to remote communities whilst simultaneously providing opportunities for the personal and professional development of Australian youth more broadly. Furthermore the program utilises an innovative and cost effective model that can be easily implemented across a range of different locations.nitiative which aims to deliversport, recreation and youth services to remote Indigenous communities through the implementation of a student volunteer program. These services are aimed at minimising the impact of “at risk” behaviours and social issues for young people and their communities, focusing on prevention, diversion, education and development.
Why is it needed?
Remote Indigenous communities have limited access to a full range of services and particularly those aimed at young people. During key school holiday periods this is further compounded as the few local services including childcare, women’s centre, local council and school shut down with many of the staff leaving the community for extended holidays. This creates a significant gap whereby Indigenous youth have very little to do and so are more inclined to engage in petty crime and other “at risk” behaviours.
Research conducted over the last few years suggest that the incidence rates of vandalism, malicious damage, petrol sniffing, suicidal threats and domestic violence amongst young people all suffer a significant spike without the existence of adequate sport and recreation programs. This not only has a detrimental effect on the young people involved but also impacts upon their communities and has flow on effects into areas such as health and education.
Utilising a student volunteer program to meet this need is seen as an ideal solution. University student breaks follow the same timeline as school making them an ideal solution for the short-term periods of increased need. The program provides a full range of training to enable these student volunteers to facilitate sport and recreation programs while also providing unique opportunities for their own development.
How does it work?
The Linkz Odyssey program aims to bring a range of different elements and activities together to form a single, cohesive program designed to achieve greater impact than the sum of its parts. The concept of sport and recreation programs or volunteer programs are, in of themselves not new, however the way in which they have been designed to complement each other is. Utilising university students as a short-term workforce to meet the needs of remote communities is an innovative approach. The fluctuating levels of need associated with sport and recreation services are extremely difficult for remote communities to address and many lack the resources to develop suitable solutions. This program allows Linkz to work with communities to support and grow their young people while at the same time providing opportunities for the development of volunteers.
Many existing volunteer programs aim to engage individuals that have a specific skill and often struggle to identify suitably qualified personnel. The Linkz Odyssey Program works in the reverse by identifying a group of people who are available and willing to volunteer and then working with these individuals to build the skills needed.
In addition the benefits of the program are further capitalised by encouraging program volunteers to share their experiences with others. In a practical sense program volunteers are encouraged and supported to take their newly acquired skills into workplaces and organisations across the country. At the same time the program also aims to develop advocacy skills with volunteers being encouraged to talk about and share their experiences. Their first-hand experience allows them to develop a genuine understanding of Indigenous culture and breaks down many of the negative myths surrounding our Indigenous people. In this way the volunteers themselves become a powerful tool for education and change, capable of challenging the attitudes and perceptions of those around them.
Linkz Odyssey Program Beneficiaries
- Indigenous Youth (particularly those from regional and remote areas) – we deliver much needed sport, recreation and youth services to remote Indigenous communities and provide opportunities for education, training and development
- Their communities – we work with communities to help identify local solutions, build skills and improve community well-being
- Young Australian volunteers – we harness the skills of Australian youth and provide them with opportunities for personal and professional development
- Their communities (ie. broader Australian society) – We promote the strength, value and diversity of Indigenous culture for all Australians.