Eleven learners were engaged in a training course (Civil Construction Plant Operations Certificate III) in Tjuwanpa Outstation Resource Centre, and are putting finishing touches to their first major project, the completion of the new rubbish tip for the community.

The tip is 2043 cubic metres and is located just outside the boundaries of Tjuwanpa Outstation Resource Centre. Rubbish to fill the tip will be collected from Tjuwanpa and Ntaria by CDEP work crews. Approximately four smaller outstations nearby will also bring in their rubbish. Next to the tip, separate bays have been created to sort and store steel, plastics, car batteries, recyclable items, etc. The life-span of the tip is estimated at over ten years, and dirt will be used to cover up the layers of rubbish and ward of the flies.

Trainer Ian Chamberlain of Advance Training Services has been sub-contracted to run this course for CAT and has been working with learners over this three-month period. Before, this area was a heap of sand-dunes and the perimeter was all fenced off. “When we started here, it was all fenced off, so the men pulled the fence up. We couldn’t drive a truck up here as it was all soft sand. We’ve had to gravel that to get up here. Casey was up on the loader. Jeffrey was on the 10m truck up there. They carted all that gravel here. Casey would tip the loads out and spread it out. We had to gravel it as we went; otherwise we were getting bogged down. The young men, used to go up on the fire-truck and water all this to make it wet, to get around it. It’s been a learning curve, to work on top of a sand dune. To make it work, we learned how to use water”, he says. “Sometimes, as they dug down, they’d find gravel and all kinds of stuff, maybe diamond. You’d think that maybe we carting off a fortune”, he jokes.

Perhaps the real diamonds of this project are the successes for CAT, our sub-contractor and the trainees. One aspect of this has been high attendance by learners, which is hard to gain in courses run out in communities. “We have 11 trainees registered on the course. On most days we’ve been running on ten people per day. The attendance has been good with them.” One of the learners shared how, “everyone keeps coming back every day to learn. We’ve had men here who’ve never used to come, and they’re here all the time now and had really good attendance. Not all the young men had been on machines before we started; now they all know how to use excavators.” Geoffrey, a learner, is an older operator while Casey, Gavin and Kelvin are also operators that are younger and keen to learn. For Geoffrey, because he had experience, this course has been more for fine-tuning learning on his grader. A key aspect of the approach to training is the guidance and mentoring given by the trainer. “If these men come to work, and you don’t guide them, it doesn’t mean much to them. But if you can guide them and keep them interested, you’re battle is over”, says Ian. Overall, this has been a big project for trainees. “When you’ve got trainees who’ve never done earthworks before, I know from experience that it’s confusing but we’ve done one tip now so if we had to build another one, we’d know exactly from experience how to do it,” he says. The group of learners range from young men to older more experienced operators. Ian says, “because we’re trainees, we want a super job done here and that’s what is being produced”.

While many remote construction courses happen, often there is little progress towards an employment pathway for course graduates. However, this course is again, on track to opening up some further possibilities. CAT trainer, Bill Baird shares how, “ we’re talking with the shires about this group of learners and the tip building project they’ve completed, and are looking at waste management with remote communities. We’re also negotiating with the shires, local government and the NT Department of Health to develop a Waste Management Training Program which will include the construction of new refuse facilities, decommissioning of old tips and ongoing training which will lead to sustainable employment in waste management for local people in their community.” Another outcome for Tjuwanpa is how these skilled-up and further qualified operators/employees are now able to better maintain infrastructure and undertake  civil construction projects at Tjuwanpa Outstation Resource Centre, associated RJCP communities and homelands. For Eric Fly, one of the learners, his advice to other Aboriginal people living out there on communities, is to give training courses like this a go and try it out. As he stands proudly, surveying the tip and the earthworks he helped build, his advice to “ any young fellas out there, coming to work with us is good fun. We’re learning how to work with machines. You should come out here and work in this job, because it’s pretty good, learning how to use machines around here is good,” he smiles.