An NRL jointly-funded program educating Indigenous youth about the legal consequences of social issues such as texting and social networking, alcohol use, violence and vehicle accidents, is being used to help improve the retention of trainees and apprentices at one of Australia’s largest mines.

Putting Youth in the Picture is an educational progam specifically developed to educate young people about how the choices they make today can affect their dreams and plans for the future. An additional resource, Putting Indigenous Youth in the Picture, has also been developed.

Funding from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), National Rugby League (NRL) and Indigenous Employment Alliance allowed the program to be made available to more than 280 schools, community groups and organisations in Queensland.

Recognising its value, MMG Century mine, Australia’s largest zinc mine, provided additional funding for some of its experienced local Indigenous employees to be trained up to deliver the course to the operation’s 80 trainees and apprentices.

Co-founder of Putting Youth in the Picture Adair Donaldson said that Century had chosen to train up its own employees to deliver the course as it recognised the importance of mentoring and strong local Indigenous mentors.

“Mentoring has long been considered one of the best ways to support young Indigenous people to develop and prosper in the workplace and is one of the foundations of Century’s successful pre-employment course,” said Donaldson.

“By training its own Indigenous employees to deliver Putting Indigenous Youth in the Picture, Century is building the skills of its mentors and giving them additional tools to support its new recruits.”

Acting Community Relations Manager Shane Yanner said since his team was continuing to receive positive feedback from the employees it had trained to deliver Putting Indigenous Youth in the Picture as well as a number of its trainees and apprentices who had participated in the program.

“We know that taking on Indigenous trainees and apprentices isn’t just about helping them gain the technical skills and knowledge necessary to achieve a qualification.

For many, it’s about giving encouragement, helping build confidence and persevering as they enhance their social and emotional skills.

“Part of this journey involves educating them about the pitfalls and consequences of issues that young people confront everyday.  It’s about giving them tools to make the right choices about texting and social network use, relationships, alcohol, drugs, violence and other issues.

“Some of the best feedback we received was from our existing employees who we trained up to deliver the course – while Century has one of the highest rates of local Indigenous employment in the industry, we know there’s still a long way to go.

Paul Heptonstall, the NRL’s Education and Welfare Manager, is not surprised by MMG’s success.

“This essentially replicates the NRL model where the value of current and ex peers or in our case, NRL players, in delivering education can never be underestimated,” he said.

“In the past 12 months the NRL and ARL have co-ordinated over 4000 talented young rugby league players to do the same program using players such as Roy Asotasi, Matt Ballin and Ben Creagh as facilitators.

“With over 11% of the current NRL players of Indigenous background, the NRL is proud of its part in making the program available for the wider community.”

Mr Donaldson said that other resource companies supporting Indigenous employment could benefit from teaching their own apprentices and trainees about the legal consequences of everyday decisions.

“I believe that the NRL and Century are developing a blueprint for other organisations to follow. Whether it’s through Putting Indigenous Youth in the Picture or other programs, I believe that focusing on building the social and emotional skills of young people is key to their long-term success.”�

Catherine O’Sullivan, State Manager of DEEWR, is delighted with the success of the program and is hopeful that other organisations throughout the nation will follow MMG Century Mines’ lead.�

“The workplace is the perfect setting to address social skills.  It is also proven, that by using mentors to deliver training, it boosts the chance of retaining workers and as a result increases the efficiency of the organisation”.�

Putting Indigenous Youth in the Picture is a specialised educational resource ensuring that young Indigenous people gain the social skills, knowledge and resilience they need to make positive decisions in their lives.

Century operates under the unique Gulf Communities Agreement (GCA), a unique Native Tile Agreement between the mine, Queensland Government and four Native Title groups.

The operation has a number of programs in place to support Indigenous employment and has one highest rates of Indigenous employment at any Australian mine with about 25% of Century’s more than 1000 strong workforce identifying as from local Indigenous communities.