Traineeships demonstrate reconciliation in action

Article image - Traineeships demonstrate reconciliation in action Lismore City Councilís Partnering and Aboriginal Community Engagement Officer Jodi Sampson (Back) with Parks & Reserves trainees, Kurnai Gunai man Malcolm Saunderson, 19 (left), and Bundjalung man David Moore, 21.

Malcolm Saunderson is a 19-year-old Kurnai Gunai man from Victoria who says his three-year traineeship with Lismore City Council has set him up for life.

Lismore City Council recently announced nine new traineeships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as part of its Aboriginal Employment Strategy, a central component of the organisation’s Reconciliation Action Plan.

The aim of the strategy is to increase Aboriginal employment at Lismore City Council to six percent by 2017, a figure that reflects the proportion of Lismore’s workforce that is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

Malcolm, who’s worked in the Parks & Reserves department for three years, said his traineeship has given him future job prospects and a confidence he did not possess when he first joined Council.

“When I first came here I could never look people in the eye or talk to them.

“It’s good having a job and some money in the bank account, and it keeps me
out of trouble.

“I don’t think I ever would have got a job if I didn’t come here.

“I would have just done what my mates did and sat around on Centrelink.”

At the initial information day for the new traineeships, Council was overwhelmed by the response, with more than 100 Aboriginal
people attending.

The group heard from senior staff as well as trainees such as Malcolm, who shared stories of how Council employment has changed their lives for the better and what is expected of them in their roles.

Fred Welch, the Parks & Reserves Team Leader, has been mentoring Malcolm and fellow trainee David Moore, a 21-year-old Bundjalung man, since their first day.

He believes the traineeships are giving the boys a good ‘kick start’ in life.
“It’s been great watching these boys come out of their shell.

“They learn something new every day, they get used to working, getting up early, having a routine and working with people.

“A traineeship like this gives them life skills, knowledge and networks.

“That’s all good for their future.”

In 2013 Lismore City Council became the first Northern Rivers council to adopt a Reconciliation Action Plan, endorsed by Reconciliation Australia.

As well as the Aboriginal Employment Strategy, the Reconciliation Action Plan contains several key actions to increase equality for Aboriginal people.

This includes establishing an Aboriginal Advisory Group to make recommendations on Council business affecting local Aboriginal communities, cultural awareness training for staff and developing a Supplier Diversity Policy to ensure Aboriginal businesses are considered in procurement processes.

Council is currently in the process of selected the nine new trainees, who will begin working in the waste, water, roads and parks departments this year.