‘I knew I’d get somewhere in life’: Workplace training gets results in Kununurra – ABC Message Stick

‘I knew I’d get somewhere in life’: Workplace training gets results in Kununurra – ABC Message Stick

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A tailored approach to job training is helping young Indigenous kids find their confidence and develop the skills they need to enter the workforce.

Unemployment rates in northern Australia are among the highest in the nation, and have been linked to low rates of education and mental wellbeing of young Indigenous people.

Key points:

  • A new program in the east Kimberley is achieving success in preparing young Indigenous people for employment
  • Small businesses are providing experience in basic workplace skills
  • High rates of unemployment in Northern Australia has been linked to low levels of education and mental wellbeing

But a program in Kununurra, located 3,000 kilometres from Perth, is achieving success by bringing small businesses and young Indigenous people together to help them learn basic workplace skills.

It was a challenging experience for Billie Evans, 18 — she did not complete high school and had not been previously employed.

"I was doubting myself," she said.

"Like I wouldn’t have the skills to talk, but I pushed myself to get through it, to talk, greet people, I got to know people who came in often.

"I was so keen, getting up early and knowing I had a job, learning new things in life."

Donita Hill and Billie Evans were regularly introduced to other business owners in Kununurra, leading to their first job offer.(Supplied: Cally Bugg)

A rewarding opportunity

Funded by East Kimberley Job Pathways, the hands-on educational program is designed to prepare the girls for work, and open different paths for them to take.

Local art gallery owner Cally Bugg took on Ms Evans and another young Indigenous woman, Donita Hill, for 12 weeks.

"The kids in this town are beautiful, and I just wanted to let them know what it was like to get into a routine," Ms Bugg said.

Ms Bugg said the program had its challenges, but it was rewarding to watch the girls grow as they gained experience.

"It was difficult to start with, because it’s about gaining trust," she said.

Billie Evans with Artopia gallery owner Cally Bugg.(Supplied: Cally Bugg)

"These girls were just so beautiful to work with, and there were moments of just pure joy at seeing them light up with pride at things they were able to accomplish.

"One hundred per cent they changed — their confidence with the general public, other business owners, they could communicate with anyone, they didn’t need to be shy."

Different paths

Kununurra photographer Landi Bradshaw also spent a day with the young women to expand on the different career paths they could take, and taught them the basics of photography.

Donita Hill and Billie Evans spent a day working with Kununurra photographer Landi Bradshaw.(Supplied: Landi Bradshaw)

"We started with the camera basics, we sat down and looked at the camera and went through what each button did," she said.

"Then we took it to the computer, and they could really understand that just changing someone’s direction can completely change the photo."

Ms Bradshaw said teaching the girls her knowledge and skills was something she really enjoyed.

"It’s a great opportunity to work with some young girls and help teach them some skills that I have," she said.

East Kimberley Job Pathways hopes to see this module replicated throughout the region.(Supplied: Landi Bradshaw)

Future potential

Miss Evans has just been offered a hospitality job at the World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park.

She hopes other young Indigenous people can have the same success she has enjoyed.

"I was doubting myself, but I had that courage inside myself, I knew I would get somewhere in life." she said.

"I would be so happy to see my sisters, brothers, and friends get a job, and come from a long way of struggling to get somewhere."

Walking Together is taking a look at our nation’s reconciliation journey and where we’ve been and asks the question — where do we go next?

Join us as we listen, learn and share stories from across the country that unpack the truth-telling of our history and embrace the rich culture and language of Australia’s First People.

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June 25, 2020 at 01:58PM

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