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Driving forward to a new life

New skills, new project, new jobs for NRT students

“I’m the happiest guy here,” says Paul Ejai. “I’m involved in an exciting project, I’m on the best course I have ever been through and I have even got my driver’s licence back!”

Paul is one of the North Regional TAFE students being trained as part of the Thunderbird Construction Work Ready Program run through the Winun Ngari Aboriginal Corporation, Derby. As well as first aid, money management and licencing, Paul is also working towards a Certificate II in Construction Pathways.

As part of his additional training, he is also undertaking The Leader in Me course fostering his potential leadership skills. Trainees have been living at an Aboriginal Short Stay Centre in Derby uniting as a group with their mentor following on from their initial “My River Camp” 70 kms away from the town. Here they were mentored by an elder facilitation program working on culture, self-esteem and teamwork they could carry through into their workplace.

Now 46 years old, Paul worked in the mines at Fitzroy Crossing when he was younger, but was disappointed that as an Indigenous man, he received no proper training and eventually he left to come back to Derby and his own people.

“I watched the newspaper stories about the Thunderbird Project and decided it was something I wanted to be involved with,” he said “and I was lucky enough to be chosen and to be in the batch being trained by North Regional TAFE. These are the best lecturers I have had since my school days in Perth. They encourage initiative. I have learned to use a computer, I have an email account, a bank account and my driver’s licence. I can see a real future for myself at last. There are lots of opportunities here for people that work hard,” he said.

“My aim is to be one of those chosen for the cadetship and have a full-time paid position. As one of the older blokes here, the young ones look to me for an example. I want to teach them the respect of being a working man. I tell them about the honour of being one of the first involved in this mineral sands mining. It’s a new thing and it’s something to be proud of.”

The separated father of eight, Paul feels the financial strain of supporting his children as much as he can, especially with two of them in college in Perth, but he is also enthusiastic about his new found ability to be able to set a stronger, more educated example for them. He is hopeful that, with a projected 42 year mine life ahead, Thunderbird will be a potential employer for them too.

Another enthusiastic NRT trainee is Bayden Rivers, a 28 year old father of five striving to build a new and exciting future for his children. With poor language, literacy and numeracy skills, Bayden had struggled to provide a consistent income, but through family and friends he heard about the opportunities at Thunderbird and set his mind to becoming one of the team.

“The TAFE lecturers have been a really big help teaching me the basic skills I never had,” Bayden said. “I can read and write better and work out things with numbers. I’m making new friends and I’m learning a lot!”

Bayden lists his highlights of the course being in the construction area. He also enjoys working with the forklifts and other machinery with DWA Industrial, while welding and grinding are skills he feels will not only get him a job, but are creative and stimulating. Currently involved with building a deck for the Mary Island Fishing Club, Derby and working on the area around it, Bayden is proud to be creating a structure that will last into the future and which he can show his son.

Previously, Bayden was a CDP- WfD participant and worked at the Pandanus Park community maintaining the gardens and other horticulture projects, but now, as the only one from his community involved in the course, Bayden said he wanted to show the others what could be achieved by trying something new, while also increasing his education.

With a new baby due this month, Bayden is anxious to ensure his hard work gets him ongoing employment with the project’s construction phase and, with ongoing mentoring and support of trainees during that time, a progression into a full-time operational role in the future.

“This is the beginning of a new life for me,” Bayden said. “Thanks to Thunderbird and the lecturers at the TAFE, I will never look back.”

The proposed Thunderbird project, midway between Derby and Broome on the Dampier Peninsula, promises local long-term jobs and a boost to the local economy. A large-scale, long-life mineral sands mining and processing project of Sheffield Resources, it is proposing to undertake mineral sands mining from the Thunderbird deposit and on-site processing and to transport product to both Derby and Broome for export through their respective ports, planned for 2019.

The ‘Pledge to the Kimberley Community’ was detailed by Managing Director Bruce McFadzean and includes:

  • 220 project jobs increasing to 280 by 2024 for the life of the mine
  • A locally-based DIDO operational workforce, over 42 years
  • Local content, jobs, training and business contracts
  • An estimated $100 million in royalties to Traditional Owners over the life of the mine
  • Building to 40 percent Aboriginal employment within the first 8 years of operations

Training is being delivered through both Winun Ngari and Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Corporations, of Derby and Broome respectively.

large_NRT lecturer Basil Lawford with students Craig Buckle, Tahne Brolga and Bayden Rivers.JPGlarge_Working on the pre-starts of all vehicles at the DWA site are Angus Butt, Sam Patera from DWA and Bayden Rivers..JPGlarge_IMG_8094.JPG

Page last updated November 20, 2017