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A group of jobseekers have completed a five-week pastoral skills course in Western Australia’s remote East Kimberley.

The men, from Nauiyu have been getting hands-on with quad biking, horseriding, fence building and other station skills at El Questro, near Kununurra.

Ironbark Aboriginal Corporation coordinated the course in conjunction with East Kimberley CDEP Inc, Salerno Pastoral and Outback Advance.

John Vos from East Kimberley CDEP said a lot of the older men were already accomplished stockmen and had acted as mentors for the younger members in the group. “If I was out mustering next week there’s three or four guys out here who would be in a saddle and out working, they are really good,” he said.

“They’re good horsemen, they’re good workers, they’re nice to get on with in the camp; they’re just all-round nice guys.”

The course, which is funded by the Federal Government’s Community Development Program, is designed to equip attendees with the skills needed to work in a variety of roles in the pastoral industry.

Mr Vos said once the men returned home there was a good chance they would find pastoral work near their communities if they desired.

“On the whole it’s been a really good experience. Everybody would rather employ local people and these guys are fantastic to employ,” he said. “They really like the work, the seasonality of it fits in with their lifestyles [and] they can go back to community. Sometimes they’re lucky enough to be working on their own country; it’s just a really good match.”

Mabel Latzer from Ironbark Aboriginal Corporation, said the course was designed in consultation with employers. “Whilst it’s really tailored towards the pastoral industry, it’s not just about that,” she said. “For example, the experience they’re learning on the quad bikes also lends itself to a lot of land management practises and weed control contracts.

One of the participant, Paul Minggun, said learning pastoral skills was a positive experience which had been enjoyed by all the men on the course. “Out here I’ve learnt how to saddle my own horse, put the bridle on and it was a great experience,’ he said.

Mr Minggun said horseriding, quad biking and fencing were among the highlights. “I wanted a lifetime experience, because you don’t get much of this back at home, courses like these,” he said. “Luckily they’ve still got courses like this in Western Australia.”

He said he would recommend it to others and if given the chance he would go into station work back home.
“There are some stations out Daly River way. They might say they want some workers out there. I’ll put my hand up and go from there.”