22 January 2023

Creating Indigenous employment opportunities 'On-Country'

| Chris Roe
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Two men from On-Country pathways

On-Country Pathways program manager Darren Moffitt and general manager Jebb Hutchison. Photo: Supplied.

‘On-Country Pathways’ is a homegrown Southern Riverina employment initiative that is looking to build on its success in Albury connecting First Nations youth with jobs.

“We’re going into the communities around the Riverina Murray region to identify barriers to employment and then asking for input from local people in the communities around there,” explains program manager Darren Moffitt.

“We’ll then address those barriers using ideas and input from the community around local solutions.”

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While On-Country Pathways has now received funding from National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) to run the community consultation process, Darren explains that they already have the runs on the board.

“It’s an idea that was developed by a Wiradjuri man called Jebb Hutchison,” he says.

“He actually started his own construction business, TVN, about five years ago based in Albury-Wodonga working predominantly in the Commonwealth space.

“He was providing opportunities for local Indigenous youth in Albury-Wodonga through that business but saw the need to create more opportunities.”

From Jebb’s initial vision, TVN On-Country was born and has been expanding on the tried and proven approach developed within the construction business.

“We started back in March and we’ve run around 22 work experience programs. We’ve run a few traineeship programs and we’ve got our first cadet starting this year,” says Darren.

“We have a lot of links in the community in different sectors and we’re able to leverage those relationships to find other opportunities.

“For example, we had a young Year 10 student who wanted to do forensics in one of our local high schools but the career advisor told us they’d been trying for 11 years to get work experience programs happening in the police station.

“We made some phone calls and it happened in December.”

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Darren says that while there are some common barriers to Indigenous employment, it was important to hear firsthand from each community.

“We found in Albury-Wodonga when we started talking to young people early last year, one of the biggest issues was a driver’s licence,” he explains.

“We found that there was no program that would suit our community, so we were able to get four cars donated to us, and we’re running our own driver mentor program.

“We’ve just employed our third driver mentor on a casual basis and we’re helping young people get in the cars and get their hours up and get their licence, which for most of them is a prerequisite for any job.”

The team is looking forward to hitting the road throughout February and connecting with communities across the region.

“We are on the lookout for community champions and key community contacts who will work with us on this co-design process,” Darren says.

“Community consultation is the first step of a bigger project to improve economic prosperity for all Indigenous people in the Riverina Murray region.”

You can get involved or find more information here.

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