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Building industry mentor proud of Indigenous achievements

Les Tobler implemented the Koori Job Ready Course to help young, unemployed Indigenous men gain basic skills and qualifications, and jobs in the building industry reports Andrew Collis in the South Sydney Herald of September 2007.

The idea took hold back in the 1990s when Tobler was working with the unions on Sydney’s Olympics sites. He saw opportunities to challenge misconceptions and prejudices in respect of young Indigenous workers, and went on to explore possibilities for training and apprenticeships with Col Warne at Lidcombe TAFE. “Col was enthusiastic right away,” says Les. “I received wonderful support from Lidcombe – the head teachers and all the staff.”

Tobler developed a partnership with TAFE NSW to help fund and deliver the course. “They took some convincing,” Les recalls. “But I knew it could work. I’d be there as a mentor I told them, and I’d bring in specialists – carpenters, concreters, steel fixers, fork-lift instructors.

“The very first class, we had 20 young men, and 18 of them were

later employed. 16 have stayed employed. The results have been amazing. Baseline Constructions, Multiplex, Bovis Lend Lease as well as small contractors – lots of people getting involved.”

Tobler was also instrumental in setting up a drug and alcohol program for the building industry in the 1980s to provide education and rehabilitation services to workers. “I remember sitting down with Pat Carr, the workers’ compensation union officer, and thinking that we had to do something,” says Les. “We found someone to co-ordinate the program, Trevor Sharp, who does a great job. We have a rehab facility in Rozelle, and we’ve made an educational video, too.” The program is now national and has not only helped thousands of building workers with drug and alcohol problems, but also created a cultural shift in the industry which has saved countless lives.

More recently Tobler helped to achieve an agreement with the NSW Government and the Redfern-Waterloo Authority to continue the basic skills and qualifications training and to ensure a minimum number of Indigenous workers are employed on all the projects undertaken in the area. Les feels proud of what’s been achieved. “It’s been a hell of a lot of work,” he says, “but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

TAFE NSW Chullora and the Redfern-Waterloo Authority are offering a Koori Job Ready Course in Construction with a real chance to be placed in construction jobs in the Redfern-Waterloo Area.

This course is for 8 weeks full time 8am–2.30pm. Subjects include: General OH&S (Induction Card), Carpentry, Basic Formwork, Gyprock Plastering, Use Of Safety Harness, Plumbing, Concreting,

Bricklaying, and Senior First Aid.

Course starts 15th Oct 2007 –completion 7th Dec 2007

Must be registered with job network agency

Information Session

Tuesday 25th September 2007 10am – 255 Wilson St Darlington Yaama Training Centre

For enquiries about the information session contact:

Terry Kelly – 9202 9100 / 0423 414 643 Rohan Tobler – 9749 0400 / 0414 137 816

Photo: Tim Vollmer - Andrew Ferguson, Les Tobler, wife Kathleen and son Rohan

Source South Sydney Herald September 2007 -