A bigger role for local Aboriginal work crews

Aboriginal Work Crew members on the job at Erambie Mission.
Aboriginal Work Crew members on the job at Erambie Mission.

Aboriginal work crews will play a bigger role in local land management within the Cowra region, after eight Aboriginal people completed training to start a career in the horticulture industry.

The training program was a collaboration between Skillset, Cowra Aboriginal Lands Council, Training Services, Central Tablelands Local Land Services and TAFE NSW - Cowra.

The week long training program gave students the opportunity to complete a Statement of Attainment in Materials Handling and Applying WHS.

After impressing the trainers, all students were offered casual employment as a part of a Skillset Land Works Indigenous Crew.

The first project the Land Works Crew will be working on is the Environment Protection Authority's (the EPA) Aboriginal Land Clean Up and Prevention Program.

The grant program aims to reduce the impacts of illegal dumping on Aboriginal land, install deterrence measures to help manage and reduce reoccurrence of illegal dumping and incorporate activities that engage local people to care for Country, engage in knowledge sharing and gain skills in land management.

EPA Senior Project Officer, James O'Keefe said some of the grant money will be used to remove existing illegal dumping piles and prevent future illegal dumping on the Cowra Local Aboriginal Council land.

Waste is being regularly dumped around Cowra LALC houses, along vegetation reserves and down the corridor towards the Lachlan River.

"Illegal dumping is an ongoing problem for communities. It can have significant impacts on the natural environment, a decrease in community pride and an increase in human health risks with potential exposure to decaying or contaminated materials," Mr O'Keefe said.

"I attended the Land Works training course at TAFE NSW and have now been employed to work on clean up and environmental projects at Erambie mission.

"I'm looking forward to working to tidy up the mission and make it a better place for the community" said successful Land Works participant, Russell Tighe.

TAFE NSW Head Teacher Construction, Peter Schupfer, said full credit should go to the students who embraced the training, putting in lots of effort to learn hands-on skills to be able to work on the EPA's Aboriginal Land Clean Up and Prevention Program.

"The training provided to the students is just one example of Australia's largest training provider tailoring its training to meet the unique, individual needs of local industry and business."

Skillset General Manager, Jane McWilliam says the program has been successful across the Central West and has already had a positive impact in the Cowra region.

"This partnership is providing local Aboriginal people with real boots on the ground project experience and an opportunity to gain employment in the horticulture industry, while assisting the local community with revegetation projects," Ms McWilliam said.

Erambie community member Betty Doolan said: "community members are very happy to see local people employed to complete clean up and environmental rehabilitation works on LALC owned lands in Cowra. We feel that it is important that the employment opportunities remain within the Cowra community and are happy to work in partnership with Skillset, TAFE NSW and the EPA to engage, train and employ young people for delivery of this excellent project.".

The Cowra Aboriginal Land Works team are looking for further projects to gain practical experience.

Organisations are encouraged to make contact with Graham Stirling, Land Works Operations Manager on 1300 853 525 to discuss partnership opportunities for the completion of environmental projects in the Cowra region.