06 February 2013

Environmental training programme starts sowing opportunities for local Aboriginal community

Pictured: back left to right, Coal & Allied's Cate Sims, participants Vicki Miller and Jason Braneley, Coal & Allied's Jessica Blair-Saxton and NovaSkill's Sandra Vlacci. Front left to right, participants Stuart Berends and Harold Leedie.

A group of Aboriginal Upper Hunter Valley residents have started sowing the seeds towards future careers in environmental and land management thanks to a new partnership between Coal & Allied and NovaSkill.

They are the first participants in the Conserving Country Training Programme, which was launched last year to initially provide up to 24 local Aboriginal people with the opportunity to each undertake 200 hours of paid work experience on Coal & Allied-owned land.

Since October last year, the participants have completed a range of inductions and have supported Coal & Allied's environmental team by mixing, processing and planting a range of native seeds on rehabilitation land at Coal & Allied's Hunter Valley Operations and Mount Thorley Warkworth mine sites. They will continue to support this work throughout the year as well as be considered for other land management activities around Coal & Allied's operations in the Hunter Valley.

Branxton participant Jason Braneley said: "I used to work in construction at the Greta Train Support Facility but when I saw this position I took it. I've lived locally for the past 30 years and I think this programme can really open up opportunities for the local Aboriginal community so I'm keen to support it. It's helping to pave the way so that more Aboriginal people have a chance at increasing their skills and employability."

Greta participant Vicki Miller said: "I moved to the Hunter Valley about five years ago to be with my family. I heard about the programme and thought it presented a great learning opportunity as I like being outdoors and performing practical work. The programme is developing my confidence because I'm learning new skills and refreshing old skills."

The programme was developed in response to suggestions and feedback from Upper Hunter Aboriginal communities.  

Coal & Allied Aboriginal Relations Specialist Cate Sims said: "Aboriginal stakeholders in the Upper Hunter expressed a strong desire to get more involved in work that would contribute to retaining or rehabilitating the cultural and environmental values of the land.

"This innovative programme is enabling us to work in partnership with NovaSkill to deliver a training and development programme that will support the community in achieving these goals. It is an extension of our wider work to support initiatives that demonstrate strong potential to assist Aboriginal people to take full advantage of economic and social opportunities across the Hunter Valley. It is also our goal that the programme will deliver a pool of suitably experienced Aboriginal people for locally-owned and operated Aboriginal businesses and land management and environmental consultancies. In the process we hope to better equip the Aboriginal community and small businesses to take up land and property management and sub-contracting work beyond that offered by Coal & Allied."

NovaSkill's National Projects Manager John Liddicoat said: "We want to enrich the lives of local Aboriginal people by helping them achieve their full potential through sustainable skills development so that they can make a significant contribution to their family and their community.

"This programme is effectively providing work experience, mentoring, formal training, and increasing the employability of Aboriginal members of our local communities."

Once the participants have each successfully completed 200 hours of paid work experience, they will be considered for further opportunities in the programme and be well placed to find employment in this field in the future.

Ms Sims said: "In this phase, they will undertake nationally-recognised and relevant competencies, which will enable them to transition to further training or ongoing employment in this field of work."

For more information about the programme, please contact NovaSkill Project Coordinator Sandra Vlacci on 02 6575 3703 or email sandrav@novaskill.com.au.

Pictured: Participants Stuart Berends and Vicki Miller sorting and weighing the seeds.


Media enquiries:

Coal & Allied - Naomi Jamieson (07) 3625 4159 / 0457 824 672
NovaSkill - Sandra Vlacci (02) 6575 3703 / 0434 235 112

Media release - Environmental training programme starts sowing opportunities for local Aboriginal community [PDF: 76 KB]