YarnUp 1: Timothy Gray
March 17th, 2023
The Centre for Volunteering, in partnership with Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation is delighted to announce the first chapter of its YarnUp storytelling series.
We are delighted to kickstart this ongoing partnership by sharing an interview with Gumbayngirr/Wiradjuri/Bidjigal man, Timothy Gray. From his involvement with Barayagal Choir at Redfern Community Centre, music teaching, volunteering at AA to current post at Koori Radio, Timothy is a man of many hats and talents. During this chat, he discusses the breadth of his volunteering journey and experience, including how volunteering strengthened his connection to Community and culture.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers and listeners are advised, this series contains stories of a sensitive nature and images, voices or names of people who may have died.
Facilitated by Tribal Warrior Talent
On my mother’s side I’m Gumbayngirr, my father is Wiradjuri, and through my great grandmother I have connections to Bidjigal and Dharawal. I’m also Irish, Scottish and English with a bit of Romanian apparently. I was born in Macksville and brought to the Block as a baby in Redfern. At 8 months old I was fostered out to a non-Indigenous family. Then at 14, I was re-introduced to my Aboriginal family after my foster mother had passed away and I ran away from home.
Because I was fostered, I didn’t live as an Aboriginal. It wasn’t until I came to live with my biological family that I learned what it was like to be an Aboriginal person in both the contemporary and traditional context. When I started learning about my lineage and discovering my identity, I was immediately interested in all kinds of politics and social initiatives. I’m a lot more connected now to my culture particularly living in Redfern as it has been such a political centre for Aboriginal people over the decades.
I’ve volunteered at lots of different community organisations all my life, from Redfern Community Centre singing group, to teaching music and volunteering at AA. Nowadays, I mainly volunteer at Koori Radio in Redfern. Even though I volunteer at an Indigenous organisation, I try to create a worldview and we’ll talk about anything from the war in Ukraine to music festivals or major events.
I host a community radio broadcast show called Social Change on Koori Radio on Saturday evenings. It’s an opportunity to create a safe space where we can talk about local and global affairs. We talk about volunteering on the show a lot too. We highlight the achievements of volunteers everywhere in the world. There’s such a multitude of people of different backgrounds who make the world go around. There’s no skin colour, no religion, just people working toward the common good.
Part of my self-discovery journey has been very focussed on politics, Redfern has been a political centre for Aboriginal people over the decades and remains so today. It’s amazing to have access to a radio station like Koori Radio where I’m able to yarn and talk about things. All sorts of positive aspects of life. I share my story, whether it’s my recovery from addiction or something else. I get to talk about it in a positive light and hopefully it reaches someone.
We see small groups coming down from Eora TAFE to lend their time as well as professionals and some musicians. I’ve volunteered with all kinds of people from those with rough backgrounds to millionaires from Point Piper. It’s about collaborating, jamming, and launching opportunities. They just want you to come, participate and have fun. It’s a safe space for anyone who’s got something going on their life they are struggling with.
It was part of my discovery to connecting with my culture and community. I hold a 9-5pm job, I’m blessed to have a job that encompasses culture 5 hrs a day and then get to participate in culture by volunteering and connecting with culture at Koori Radio. It was also later pivotal in my journey to becoming sober. At AA, even once we’re sober, we need to pass help on to the next person. If we all left once we were sober, there’d be no-one left to keep it going and get the next person clean. I do it because I want to give back, I was never expecting anything from it but if I can help one person, then that is rewarding enough.
I learnt from my community and my mentors around me (many of them volunteers themselves), how to give back and participate in community. I used to go down to the Redfern Community Centre to join the singing group and later began volunteering as a piano teacher.
It’s never been about making money. It’s a way for me to participate in culture, tell my story and connect with my community. Eventually I was even able to launch my music career with my volunteering efforts.
If you want to volunteer, there’s no better thing to do than volunteering. Get started, connect, give what you can and give it a go. Find something that’s relatable to you. Or find a friend or family member and give it a go for one day. If you don’t like it find something else. Stay kind and generous to yourself as well. Just like you would at work, take a holiday when you need to.
To learn more about this project and partnership, visit our website.
Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation website (Tribal Warrior) is a non-profit organisation founded and directed by Aboriginal peoples, with Elders from various NSW Aboriginal nations at its helm. For more information on their range of programs, cultural tours and experiences, visit the Tribal Warrior website.
To learn more about this First Nation’s radio station and Timothy’s broadcast show, Social Change, visit the Koori Radio website.
To learn more about this community centre, including Timothy’s singing group, events and programs, visit the Redfern Community Centre website.