RDANI Project Officer, Kim-Trieste Hastings; CEO of the Narrabri Local Aboriginal Lands Council, Lynn Trindall; Assistant Youth Worker in Wee Waa with the Narrabri and District Community Aid Service Inc. Noel Gibbs; and Senior Manager of Client Service Operations with Challenge Disability Services, Chris Norris
Recent Aboriginal Jobs & Business forums across northern inland NSW brought together Aboriginal organisations, community representatives, employment and training providers and employers, with all the participants having applauded this initiative. Forums began in Armidale on Monday 19th October, then (on consecutive days) were in Tenterfield, Moree, Narrabri and Gunnedah. They were facilitated by Regional Development Australia Northern Inland (RDANI), with TAFE New England Institute providing the venues.
Despite common themes and issues, each forum was unique. Key stakeholders were brought face-to-face and communication, such as talks between representatives from Local Aboriginal Land Councils and Chambers of Commerce assisted in the building and strengthening of bridges. Following preliminary post-road show analysis by RDANI facilitators, the Narrabri forum has been described as a strong example of a community uniting to achieve improved levels of Aboriginal employment and economic participation.
Senior Manager of Client Service Operations with Challenge Disability Services, Chris Norris said the Narrabri forum was very constructive. “I think there should be more forums like this, to bring groups within the community together to look at issues and hopefully come up with solutions to solve those issues,” he said.
“I was able to announce at the forum that Challenge currently has three positions available here in Narrabri,” Mr. Norris said, adding that he was busily exchanging business cards with employment service providers after the forum.
The Narrabri-based Cotton Catchment Communities CRC (Co-operative Research Centre) told the forum of its Aboriginal employment progress. “As part of our Aboriginal Employment Strategy, we offer up to four traineeships. School students are paid to come and work one day a week (or more often during their holidays) at the Narrabri office or the research centre. We’re currently conducting interviews with students at Narrabri and Wee Waa High Schools,” Cotton CRC Community Officer, Kate Schwager said. “The trial has opened our eyes and we’d like to encourage other organisations and businesses to give young Aboriginal people a go, through a similar program.”
CEO of the Narrabri Local Aboriginal Lands Council, Lynn Trindall gave a presentation at the forum. “This forum was worthwhile. We needed it, to open the eyes of the wider community about Aboriginal employment issues. These included a lack of Aboriginals employed in the main street by private businesses and education, especially where you see training without outcomes,” she said.
Inspiring personal insights of how people can turn their lives around and the role employment plays were conveyed to the forum. Local Aboriginal, Noel Gibbs spoke to the forum of his troubled life, how he went off the rails. Noel said that there was little support and even less to do "as a young fella growing up in the Wee Waa and Narrabri communities".
Now 25 years-old and driven by his own troubled youth, Noel is back on track and passionate about mentoring Aboriginal youth and helping them to make the right decisions. He started a new job the day of the forum. He commenced work on a casual basis as an Assistant Youth Worker in Wee Waa with the Narrabri and District Community Aid Service Inc. This position comes under the supervision and coordination of the Aboriginal Community Development Project, as part of their broader Community Development Team.
"It means a lot to me to have a job. Working with youth was a long-term goal of mine. I reckon Aboriginal people can get a job if they put their mind to something. It is all about the way you present yourself to an employer,
respect for yourself and others. You've got to work hard for what you want. It is a waste of time doing something half-heartedly. Nobody can help you, unless you're prepared to help yourself - that's the main advice I can give to jobseekers out there," he said. Noel hopes his life experiences will help others towards employment.
Regional Development Australia Northern Inland Project Officer, Kim-Trieste Hastings said the forums yielded tangible outcomes, with actual Aboriginal jobs tabled in Narrabri. “Long-term community driven progress was also seen across the region. We provided the pathway, but it was the organisations and individuals in attendance who made real inroads. They engaged in dialogue that will have holistic community benefits.”
Partners in the forums included Indigenous Business Australia (IBA), NewTRAIN, TAFE New England Institute, Aboriginal Affairs NSW Department of Human Services, North West Office, New England North West Business Enterprise Centre, Jobs Australia, the Office of Fair Trading and the Australian Electoral Commission.