A trades program delivered to the Yolngu people in the Northern Territory is creating jobs and helping the local Indigenous people shape the future of their own communities.
Swinburne University of Technology has partnered with the Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA), the largest Indigenous employer in Australia, to deliver trade skills training in remote communities in the Northern Territory (NT).
The pilot program called Doors 2 Jobswaslaunched in 2014 and focused on repairs to windows and doors as well as the safe operation of tools and equipment.
“We had 27 students take part in the pilot program, of which 19 have been working between eight and 32 hours per week, one of the best results we’ve had for a remote area training program,” program convenor Terry McEvoy from Swinburne’s Department of Trades & Engineering Technology said.
“The idea was to equip local indigenous people with the skills needed for employment with local labour hire companies.”
The training is offered to locals who live on the remote islands of Millingimbi and Ramingining, nestled in the Crocodile Islands approximately 500 kilometres east of Darwin.
“In these communities, there is very little industry and very little employment.
“The day-to-day maintenance issues for public buildings and housing have been neglected due to the costs associated with flying in skilled people to do basic repairs.
“Our plan was to create maintenance people who can report on the condition of specific properties, create maintenance programs and carry out the actual maintenance where required.”
As part of the hand and power tools training, students were required to make basic coffee tables and drawer sets.
“One of the students asked to make a bed for his pregnant wife. And as the first bed came together, many others thought they would like one as well so they made beds for themselves and eventually, orders came from other people in the community.”
These projects have not only enabled the students to be employed while learning new skills, they are filling a community need of affordable furniture and maintenance work.
“The key to the program’s success is the community is driving the learning. They tell us what they want and need and we’re there to meet that need.
“We have very dedicated and capable staff who stay in communities for 10 to 12 weeks at a time to ensure continuity in training and the community respects our commitment to their growth and success.”
The Doors 2 Jobs program is now in its first year of operation after the success of the pilot program last year.
Mr McEvoy and his staff have identified another need. This month, they will be running a new program called Cementing their Futures. This program will teach students how to box and prepare concrete, and how to test concrete strength before pouring it.
“Working on these programs has got to be one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my career, something I’m very proud to be part of,” Mr McEvoy said.