There is a large employment gap between Indigenous and other Australians. In 2008, the employment rate of Indigenous men of working age was 59%, compared with 85% for all Australian men. For Indigenous females, the employment rate was 42% compared with 69% for all Australian women.[i]
At the end of last year I worked with the Indigenous Lands Corporation to capture the stories of the individuals that participated in last years inspirational and life transforming training to employment program at the Merriman Shearing School.
The students all graduated with a certificate in horticulture and an industry benchmark of shearing 80 sheep a day. Over the past 12 months, around 20 out of the 30 graduates have found full time employment.
The Training to Employment program is funded by the Indigenous Lands Corporation and is producing some amazing results by transforming lives and opening up new possible futures for our nations indigenous youth.
“Boof” from out the back of Bourke in New South Wales is probably not aware of these precise numbers, however this indigenous sheep shearer of some 40 years is probably doing more to reverse these numbers than most.
Not one to mince words Boof believes in the power of truth, hard work and giving the kids a go. For the past 3 years Boof has been putting indigenous young men and women through their paces running a shearing school at Merriman in the interior of New South Wales, some 400 km from the nearest town.
“The first thing that you gotta teach these kids is how to get out bed and go to work. When the kids first get here – they don’t look at ya and by the time they leave here they’ve learnt to stand up and say that I’m here to work and I’m proud of what I am – and when they have done that, I know that I have won those kids for the rest of their lives”.
[i] Increasing Indigenous employment rates, Issues paper no. 3 produced for the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse - Matthew Gray, Boyd Hunter and Shaun Lohoar, March 2012 http://www.aihw.gov.au/uploadedFiles/ClosingTheGap/Content/Publications/2012/ctg-ip03.pdf