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Broad support for Indigenous construction course

Local heavies were out in force at the recent graduation ceremony for the Koori Job Ready Course (training for Indigenous people seeking a career in the construction industry) reports Ben Falkenmire in the South Sydney Herald of October 2007.

South Sydney Leagues Club co-owner Peter Holmes a Court, Labor State MP Carmel Tebutt and the Redfern Waterloo Authority’s own Robert Domm were on hand to congratulate the eight students graduating.

Originating in 2004 the course has been officially backed by the RWA for the last two years. Attending students are taught a plethora of construction skills including general carpentry, concrete work, basic scaffolding, plumbing, brick laying and plastering as well as basic first aid, occupational health and safety and fork lift driving. On exit, the graduates seek apprenticeships in a given trade with the help of teachers, the RWA and the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union.

This was the second graduation ceremony for the six to eight week program. As a significant step in their working lives, Holmes a Court drew an allegory for the boys from his experience with the Rabbitohs, particularly David Kidwell’s fight to rehabilitate himself and get back on the field.

“You’ve got to believe in yourself,” Holmes a Court told audience. “The support is around you. State and local government believe in you guys because the area here is too good, there is too much history and too much potential.”

Holmes a Court used the forum to announce the Federal Government’s commitment of $2.4 million to ‘Souths Cares,’ the charity and community wing of the football club that sponsors activities such as the Babana Men’s Group.

“You have reached step one on the ladder to full employment,” head teacher Col Warne told the boys with a CFMEU representative also in attendance.

An award for the most outstanding student on criteria of reliability, punctuality and things over and above academia, was handed to graduate Chris Davies of Penrith.

Course teacher Kevin Meredith said the RWA support was making a difference. “They are in control of a lot of construction development and without [them] we’d probably struggle more in getting placement for the guys,” Meredith said.

The RWA’s Robert Domm reminded the SSH that the training site next to the CarriageWorks was the location for large upcoming developments. The west end of the industrial site will be prepared for around 1,100 residential dwellings, according to Domm, while the east end will house commercial buildings. Domm expects hundreds, if not thousands, of construction jobs to become available for the two projects.

Graduate profile

Name? Chris Davies (winner of the most outstanding recipient award for the Koori Job Ready course in September).

Where do you live? I used to live here in Redfern, then I moved to Campbelltown and now I’m out at Penrith living by myself.

Are your parents in Sydney? Mum lives in Lismore and Dad lives out at Broken Hill. I’ve been waiting for this course to finish so I can go up and see my Mum.

How did you find out about the construction course? A Careers Day in some hall at Mount Druitt.

What kind of work were you doing beforehand? I’d get casual work on and off, nothing permanent.

What’s your focus now? I want to get an apprenticeship. I understand a fair bit about construction now. I will keep in touch with organisations like Gateway and Campbell Page. They’ll probably ring us up with some work. I’ll go anywhere. I don’t care where the job is.

How long is an apprenticeship and which field are you interested in? Four years. I want to get a job in plumbing. I like that [trade] the best.

Source: South Sydney Herald October 2007