Great story by ABC News - Kristy O'Brien
Former Australian Rules footballer Nathan Djerrkura and his brother Damien were sick of seeing too many of their own Yolngu people in North East Arnhem land get into the welfare trap. So they decided to start an employment program last year in their home town of Gove, 900 kilometres from Darwin. The program is now up and running, helping previously unemployed people into paid work and creating an Indigenous labour pool for large companies to access. It also aims to help workers overcome barriers to work, such as social issues like overcrowded housing and substance abuse.
Nathan Djerrkura, who retired from the AFL at the age of 24 and played 21 games for the Western Bulldogs, said they had grown from six participants to 14 in the last three weeks.
"So I guess we keep trying to grow those numbers," he said.
"It's such a great opportunity for our participants and what can happen for them and their future."
Benefits for all parties
By partnering up with the Miwatj Corporation, the brothers were able to choose the most promising young people from its Work for the Dole program and take them into their fold. Using funding from Aboriginal Workforce Grants, they then focus on getting the participants' skills and confidence up to a level that will allow them to transition from welfare into a full-time job.
The main employer of these new trainees is YBE — an Indigenous-owned civil works company that has been running in Gove for the past 50 years. Workers can be engaged at the base level just doing maintenance or, if more advanced in skills, receive a placement with the company as an operational worker.
Jeremey Kee from the Miwatj Corporation said the program was an example of two Yolngu organisations "working together to pool resources, funding and expertise and achieving things together".
Nathan Djerrkura said it was key their program gave people the "right support that they need within a workplace".
"We try [to] tread carefully around that. Not push them too hard, but give them the right encouragement," he said.
Damien Djerrkura said the initiative seemed to be working for all parties.
"I think these little initiatives that we are starting to do to develop pathways, I think these things will only help the organisation be able to provide more opportunities in the future," he said.
Indigenous labour pool at the ready
In addition to providing targeted job pathways they have also formed an Indigenous labour pool, which can be hired by corporate companies around Gove. Often there is an obligation on big companies to use a percentage of Indigenous people in their workforce.
"It just gives the employer the opportunity to have a look at these guys through the labour hire process," Damien Djerrkura said.
"It could be a week, it could be two weeks, it could be two months before either party make a commitment."
The YBE employment program said it took the strong Yolngu culture into consideration and as a result was seeing high retention rates.