Four young Indigenous men from the remote communities of Yarralin and Timber Creek have ventured to the Barkly Tablelands as part of the NTCA Real Jobs Program (RJP), which is proudly supported by the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation.
They have grown up playing AFL against each other and were fortunate enough to securing fulltime employment on Brunette Downs Station as Real Jobs Program trainees together, continuing their lifelong friendship into their chosen careers in the pastoral industry.
Lane Smiler, Bradley Hector, Draylen Long and Aqib Williams, all had very limited experience before they joined the Real jobs Program and they come from very different backgrounds to most of the new station hands at Brunette.
They have definitely been making their mark on the Barkly though, teaching some of the other station hands about their culture and bush tucker. While on camp, these young men cooked a bush turkey and a goanna in traditional methods that have been passed down to them by their elders for the rest of the camp.
The Brunette RJP participants have all had different inspirations that lead them to seek work on a cattle station, but for Draylen it has been a long-term dream. Feeling it in his blood Draylen unequivocally said that he wants to ‘be a ringer like my dad’. It is this drive that the NTCA is hoping to foster, helping a new generation of Indigenous stockmen follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, many of whom have played an important role in the development of the Northern Pastoral Industry.
Assistant manager Jack Littler said the young Indigenous men in his stock camps were “slotting in really well and enjoying the work”.
“Their competitive nature means they’re constantly striving to master each new skill, as none of them want to be left behind,” he said.
Lane, Bradley, Draylen and Aqib are already having a large impact back in their communities with many of their “friends want[ing] to find a station job just like [them]”.
These young trainees definitely have a long way to go but with clear goal posts in sight, they Barkly AFL ‘team’ won’t be dropping the ball anytime soon.
By Jimmy Gourley, NTCA RJP Coordinator