By JULIUS DENNIS
“There is a huge need for training in rural industry,” says Russel Young, of Charles Darwin University, who has teamed up with the NT Cattlemen’s Association to provide pre-employment training for the Indigenous Real Jobs Program that will see 16 young people placed on cattle stations this year.
“They’re a really good group. Very quick — they’re eager to learn. I think anyone who doesn’t have any prior experience in the pastoral industry that wants to do it, generally finds it very appealing.”
The group is currently coming to the end of their two week pre-employment period in Alice Springs, where they are doing a crash course start to a Certificate 2 in Rural Operations which they will complete throughout the two years of on the job placements across the Territory.
After eight years of working in the industry as a cattle musterer and at an export yard, Program Coordinator Casey Ellis is in her first year in the role.
Ms Ellis says that even though she is new to the job, she has already seen the great outcomes the Real Jobs Program can have.
“I’ve seen two fellas graduate at the end of last year, obviously that’s a great achievement. And they are staying at the stations as an employee, and then they’ll become a great mentor for the ones who go on to that station [this year].”
Ms Ellis is part of an all woman leadership team currently in charge at the NTCA, and says that “overall industry is seeing more women coming on board”.
It didn’t surprise her too much that more young women than men are taking part in the program this year.
For seventeen-year-old Kayla Costello, it was a pleasant surprise, one that made her feel “comfortable,” straight away.
Not that Ms Costello is new to the cattle industry: Her childhood was spent on a large station where her father worked. Ms Costello says she would “always follow him around and trucks and all that and give it a go.”
Growing up in that environment helped cement her want to work in the industry, something she has known she’s wanted to do since she was “twelve or thirteen,” but it also opened her up to the dangers of the industry.
“A couple of years back I was terrified of cattle, you know, I thought their instinct was to like charge you.
“I’ve seen the mad ones out where my pop is.”
Now that she’s had a little training, her fears have quelled.
“There are techniques, which I was taught yesterday and today, which can make it so much easier.”
Things like “just being quiet and moving around slowly, and not being too loud.
“If you’re calm, the cattle are calm.
“I knew I wanted it, so I just had to push through it and all that. I had to push through my fear.”
The young people involved in the program come from all over the Territory. Kendrick James, who has worked on cattle stations before, and grew up in the Katherine, found out about the initiative on Facebook.
“I saw it on Facebook and thought it would be pretty good to do something like that.”
At the time, Mr James was working in the tourism industry but was not enjoying the work.
“So I had to like think to myself, I need to really go. So I had to think twice.”
The program is a natural fit for Mr James, who has a strong love for working with horses and cattle and has big goals for himself in the industry. He wants to be a head stockman and eventually have his own piece of land to work.
For now, he’s just enjoying learning techniques and skills like Ms Costello.
‘I love working with cattle. Sorting them out into different yards, that’s the biggest challenge.”
Most of all, Mr James wants to follow his family’s history in the cattle industry and set an example for his siblings.
“I’m trying to be a role model for my little brothers.
“At the moment I’m following my grandfather’s footsteps.
“When I go back to Katherine, I’ll probably be telling my little brothers to follow in my footsteps.”
PHOTOS: Kendrick Williams and Kayla Costello in the yards at the Arid Lands Research Centre in Alice before heading out to their assigned stations • A partial cohort of the Real Jobs participants, along with a few tagalongs from the Industry Development Program.