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Cooking up Dreams

DARLINGTON'S Yaama Dhiyaan Hospitality Training College is dishing up a potent mix of cooking and confidence-building that is helping local indigenous people find work in hospitality reports Inga Ting in Central of 7 May 2008.

Founded in 2006 by Aboriginal elder and caterer, Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo and Aboriginal chef, Mathew Cribb, the facility faces a unique set of challenges in training people from one of Australia's most disadvantaged communities.

Yet 18 months after opening its doors, 65 students have graduated and 70 per cent have found full-time work within a few weeks of graduating.

"It's a different method of teaching because of the students' low literacy and numeracy skills," Aunty Beryl said.

"We often have to sit with them on a one-to-one basis. You don't get that sort of flexibility in TAFE or school."

Mr Cribb said the course included interview techniques as most participants had never had a job or an interview before.

Unemployment among the Redfern-Waterloo indigenous population is 31 per cent, according to 2007 government statistics. This stands in contrast to the area's overall unemployment average of 16.6 per cent and the NSW unemployment rate of 4.5 per cent.

Initiatives like Yaama Dhiyaan play a role in closing the gap between white and black Australia. "Breaking patterns of unemployment - at the individual level at least - is as much about gaining confidence as about skills," Mr Cribb said.

"It's about building up self-esteem, teaching them that they are a person who can go out and do these things."

Aunty Beryl dreamed of setting up a training centre 20 years ago and said only recently, with the changing political climate, was it able to go ahead.

"My goal has always been to get educated and take the education back to the community but the timing wasn't right. Now, people are taking notice of us - politically and socially," she said. "If we want to do anything as indigenous people and go out there and showcase it, the time is now."

James Hatch, 19, graduated in December 2007 and now works at the Shangri-La Hotel in The Rocks.

"I wasn't really interested in finding a job before going to Yaama but after, I was eager," he said.

According to Mathew and Aunty Beryl, this is just the beginning. "We're talking small steps in the right direction," Aunty Beryl said.

"The best part is seeing students come back and say, 'Aunty, I got my first pay packet' or 'I'm still working and this is what I'm doing now'."

Picture: Phil Rogers - A Students gaining kitchen experience at the Yaama Dhiyaan Hospitality Training College in Darlington.

Source: Central 7 May 2008