Volunteers a Voice for Diaspora Communities

Written by: Bethany Keats
Courtesy of: ABC's Australia Plus Posted 4 December 2014


Migrating to a new country can be a scary experience but a team of volunteer radio presenters hopes to make people feel like they belong. 

In the regional city of Geelong in Victoria, local community radio station 94.7 The Pulse broadcasts in over 18 different languages. Their team of dedicated presenters volunteer their time to help their communities to feel more connected and to raise awareness about Geelong's cultural and linguistic diversity. 

To celebrate International Volunteer Day on December 5th 2014, we meet some of the people whose voices help others to feel at home.

"I hope more and more volunteers would join us and to serve our multicultural society with passion" – Sophia Shen, Chinese

Sophia Shen, Chinese
Sophia (standing) and Doris help keep the Chinese program on air.

Sophia Shen from Hunan Province, China came to Australia in 1989 and joined the Chinese radio program last year. 

"After the retirement from the previous host, there were no replacements for the program," she explains. "In order to keep this program going, five of Chinese background volunteers had joined in the radio broadcasting training program."

Sophia says more and more Chinese-speaking migrants are calling Geelong home and the Chinese program helps to make people feel a part of the community. 

"It doesn't matter how far you are away from your home country, you can still hear the familiar music, your mother tongue, and hear the news around the world," she says.  "The program can provide information about the social and cultural activities happening in Geelong, and to provide supportive information for new arrivals."

As well as presenting the Chinese program she also volunteers at a number of local community organisations ranging from writers groups to social justice and cultural groups.  

Sophia says the best thing about being a volunteer is the opportunity to help people in need and the invaluable contribution it makes to the community: "Money cannot measure it," she says. 


"A vital cog in the Macedonian community" – Cvetko Pacoski, Macedonian

Cvetko Pacoski, Macedonian

Cvetko and Venta have been presenting the Macedonian program for 25 years.

Husband and wife team Cvetko and Venta Pacoski celebrated 25 years of broadcasting this year and are the longest-running language program on 94.7 The Pulse. 

They moved to Australia in 1970 and to Geelong in 1975 where they became active members of the local Macedonian community, establishing language classes and dance and youth groups as well as participating in fundraising to build a community church.

"The program is a good way to present our culture, music and traditions not only to Macedonians, but also to the wider community," Cvetko says. "It is now the number one communication tool for the Macedonian community in Geelong and surrounding community."

Venta and Cvetko say they enjoy working together and have separate roles on the program. 

"Cvetko has a bigger role in the news part of the show and providing relevant current affairs direct from Macedonia," Venta says. "I enjoy being in the studio and presenting the show, and providing more cultural aspects of the program."

Cvetko says the best thing about volunteering is knowing that you're supporting the community and doing things that are appreciated by others. 

"Knowing that the Macedonia community is represented and is an active part in Geelong, is a good feeling and something we are very proud of," Venta adds. "The program is a legacy we leave behind for the community that hopefully someone will carry on, once we are unable to continue running the program."

"A window of opportunity for native Indonesians and their children/grandchildren to share our culture" – Emma Bottomley, Indonesian

Emma Bottomley, Indonesian

Emma with guests Edward and Daniel on the Thursday night Indonesian language program.

Emma Bottomley was born in Jakarta, Indonesia and came to Geelong in 1984. Following work experience at the local community radio station, she was asked to start their first Indonesian program and has been presenting it since 1993.

"This program is extremely important for the Indonesian community in Geelong," she says. "It provides relevant news and information [and] entertainment."

The program also provides a resource to local school teachers who are teaching Bahasa Indonesia in their classrooms.

"We can involve the school children to participate in organising a program whilst learning more about the language and culture," she says. "Our program acts as a compass for local and international listeners." 

Emma also volunteers as a representative for the Indonesian Association of Geelong at the Geelong Ethnic Communities Council meetings.

"The best thing about volunteering is meeting interesting people who share the same passion and learning from each other the importance of community support," she says. 

"Volunteering is great gift, you help people and they help you as well" – Thalual Marwang, Nuer (South Sudan)

Thalual Marwang, Nuer (South Sudan)
Thalual sees radio as a way to help his community.

Thalual Marwang from Maiwut, South Sudan came to Australia in 2003 and has been presenting the South Sudanese program with Thuok Ruei for over a year. They broadcast in the Nuer language. 

"I have a passion for radio, and I also like to be involved in an activity that promotes community as whole," Thalual says. "The aim of the show is to promote our community and be the voice for those who have no access to radio or TV in our own language."

He says the program helps to promote cultural awareness and is important for those who otherwise don't have the opportunity to express themselves. 

"This program gives many South Sudanese the satisfaction of belonging to the Geelong community," he says. 

Thalual also volunteers at a community centre where he teaches Nuer,  helps others with their English and serves as treasurer for the local Maiwut community. 

"The community did so much for you from young age, and they make you who you are today," he says. "So I am happy to do whatever I can to help the community and those who can't  have that chance." 

"I enjoy sharing my skills doing things that mean a lot to me" – Christine Pinard, French

Christine Pinard, French
Christine (left) and Marjorie celebrate the diversity of the French-speaking world.

Marjorie Pascal-Pretre and Christine Pinard co-host the French language program which caters for Geelong's Francophone community. 

Marjorie arrived in Australia from Strasbourg, France 14 years ago and Christine arrived from Quebec, Canada in January 2013. 

Coming from different backgrounds but with a shared mother-tongue, Christine and Marjorie love the opportunity the radio program gives them to meet French speakers from around the world. 

"I can share my love for the French language and my culture as a Quebecoise," says Christine. 

"It does bring the French community together," Marjorie adds. 

But it's not only about the local French community. As a teacher Christine knows that some of her students also tune in each week. 

"It gives a great opportunity to Australian people learning French to practice listening to genuine French conversation," Christine says.

"To be a good leader and continue to support my community to become a great Australian citizen is my dream" – Moo Thar, Karen

Moo Thar, Karen
Moo Thar prides himself on being a youth leader in his local Karen community.

27-year-old Moo Thar was born in Burma (Myanmar) but grew up in a refugee camp in Thailand. He came to Australia with his parents in 2009.

Moo started volunteering on the Karen radio program in 2010 out of a desire to help his local community, and in particular those who have difficulty understanding English news programs.

"Our Karen radio program [has] given them a great opportunity to know about the local news and world news," he says. "It also beneficial for our Karen youth to participate in the program and many of them have been involved in this program."

On top of his day job at a local nursery and volunteering at the Pulse, Moo also teaches Karen at a community school. 

"I had so much fun working as a volunteer because I know that so many people in my community need me," he says. "To be a good leader and continue to support my community to become a great Australian citizen is my dream."

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