June Duffy loves sitting with Aboriginal women at the Otherway Centre and hearing the stories that shape their lives.

So much so, the retired TAFE lecturer decided to volunteer at the centre, in return for their wisdom and trust.

She says her deepening understanding of Aboriginal culture and spirituality has allowed her to give the women a voice.

“I think I am more outspoken now,’’ June says.

“I have more knowledge and confidence in talking about the issues Aboriginal people face.’’

June first visited the Otherway Centre at Stepney about four years ago. She volunteered sporadically before making a more permanent weekly commitment a year ago, in retirement.

In addition to providing administration support and writing and collating the centre’s newsletter, June prepares the Sunday Mass sheets and occasionally cooks lunch for the friendly faces who take part in weekly activities, such as line dancing and jewellery making.

She also joins in yarning, an important process within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, which has enabled June to learn from the collective group, and to preserve and pass on cultural knowledge.

“I couldn’t get over how welcoming people were, how friendly and warm; they were inclusive straight off the jump,’’ she says.

“I like the relaxed way the day unfolds here. There’s no pressure. People are very kind and patient. You hear some amazing stories over cups of tea.

“The other thing that’s bowled me over is there is no bitterness. I think people have the absolute right to be very bitter but I haven’t experienced any bitterness – they’re just beautiful people who work and come to the centre, and that’s why I keep coming back.’’

June says volunteering at the Otherway Centre has helped her to recognise the “deep similarities between Aboriginal spirituality and Christianity’’.

“I started coming to mass here every Sunday; it would have to be the friendliest mass you could ever wish to go to. That really warmed me to the community here as well.’’

Her advice to others pondering volunteering is simple: go for it.

“Go to the organisation and find someone who works there and talk to them,’’ she says. “Be honest; tell them you want to learn more and ask if there’s anything you can do.

“Sometimes it can be a bit of a challenge because there might not be a job or a role for you but don’t give up.’’

*June’s role is being highlighted as part of National Volunteer Week, an annual celebration to acknowledge the generous contribution of our nation’s volunteers. The theme for this year is `making a world of difference’. For more information, visit Volunteering Australia. For more information about volunteering at Centacare, visit our website or phone Vicki Giacomin on 8252 2311.