Naidoc Week: Kessie Smith

Today, as part of our NAIDOC Week series, we interview Kessie Smith, the supporter relationships trainee officer at Indigenous Community Volunteers (ICV) in Canberra.

Putting her stamp on things: Kessie Smith works on a recent direct marketing appeal.

Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in Canberra. My family on my mum’s side comes from the Warumungu group in the Northern Territory. I also love to paint: my speciality is intricate dot paintings.

What attracted you to ICV and working in fundraising?

I was looking for my first serious job out of college, and when I saw the post at ICV as a supporter relationships trainee come up, I jumped at the opportunity. I enjoy volunteering and working with people, and the way the organisation worked impressed me. Another big plus is that I’m able to continue studying.

Tell us what your work entails as a supporter relationships trainee officer?

I process and receipt all the donations that come into the office. Other things that I do on a daily basis include responding to emails that come to our inbox, answering the phones, speaking with donors, banking and other data integrity tasks.

What fundraisers have you been working on?

I’m involved in the direct mail appeals and the EDMs (email appeals), giving feedback on the wording and format.

Have you been able to go out and see some of the wonderful projects that volunteers work on together with Indigenous communities?

I have not yet had the opportunity to go out on community, but it’s definitely something I would like to do in the future. It has been a topic of conversation with my manager.

What have you found most rewarding about working at ICV?

Making a difference in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and families. I’m excited about working towards a common goal with like-minded people.

What are the joys and challenges of your work?

The joys are working with a dedicated team and making a positive change. One of the challenges is when I receive negative feedback when answering phone calls from supporters who may not understand the work of ICV.

We think fundraising in Australia (and other countries) needs to be more diverse and inclusive in practice. How do you think we can attract more Indigenous people to the fundraising sector?

By offering traineeship programs and work experience in all aspects of fundraising. 

Do you get a sense of accomplishment from being involved in ICV’s vision whereby volunteers are invited in by Indigenous communities to work in partnership?

I get a sense of accomplishment knowing that communities, together with volunteers, are reaching their goals and dreams.

You obtained your Certificate III at TAFE in January. Has this been helpful in your work? What’s next on the education front for you?

My Certificate III in Business has been beneficial to my work. I hadn’t used the application Microsoft Access Database, and now I use this weekly for my data integrity tasks.

I’m currently working towards a Certificate IV in Leadership and Management, and I plan to complete this qualification early next year.  

What would you say to people thinking about volunteering with ICV?

It’s a wonderful opportunity to work alongside Indigenous communities at the grassroots level and create a relationship with the amazing people we work with. 

When you’re not at ICV, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to go to events around Canberra, such as seeing a new exhibition at the gallery, going to the local markets and the movie theatre. I volunteer at my local op shop most Saturdays with my mum and sister. Other things I like to do include baking and cooking for my family.

Many Indigenous communities across Australia are working towards building a brighter future for their people. Indigenous Community Volunteers provides access to resources and skilled volunteers to work in partnership with communities to help them meet their goals. More information about ICV at