Landcare graduate plants seeds for success
Landcare trainee Craig Burnham is just starting out but already he is mentoring a new group of Indigenous young people as they learn how to make a living from protecting the natural environment.
Craig, 24, is a star of the WA youth charity Fairbridge's Conservation and Land Management program, which teaches skills including horticulture, mine site rehabilitation and bushland maintenance.
The non-profit registered training organisation and youth charity, which is located in a heritage-listed village on the South Dandalup River about an hour from Perth, runs the course with backing from mining giant Alcoa, which also employs some of its trainees upon graduation.
Craig has completed the course to Certificate 3 level in less than a year instead of the usual two years. His achievement is even more remarkable because before he started at Fairbridge Craig says his future looked grim.
"I came from a bit of a rough run before I started up at Fairbridge and if it wasn't for Fairbridge I'd still be pretty much the same," Craig said.
"I loved to drink and I ended up getting myself in trouble. But then I rang up Fairbridge and looked at the course and knew I definitely wanted to take it on. Since then everything has changed."
Craig, who was born in Port Hedland, says the key to his turnaround has been the excellent mentoring and guidance that he has received since starting the Fairbridge program.
"The people out here they make you feel good about yourself," he said. "Now I wouldn't mind taking on a supervisor's role myself. With the support from here, it's looking pretty good for me and I could even work for Fairbridge."
Craig says his life experience means he is ideally placed to offer the same mentoring to young people that he has received himself over the past year.
"You get a lot of other people on the course that have had a bit of a rough run and they need a bit of guidance and support and me being around the same age it definitely helps them out a lot too. So I'd like to play a bit of a role in that," Craig said. "Because I'm the only Certificate 3 they're already starting to get me to do a bit of training."
Katrina Hill is one of the trainers at Fairbridge who has made such a difference to Craig and the other trainees. Craig says she has helped him in a number of ways.
"Katrina has helped me a lot and has done up my whole portfolio for me - the best resume I've ever done," Craig said. "I've also been out in the field working with her and she's definitely right on top of things."
In the three years she has been with Fairbridge, Katrina has trained about 150 people including many people from Indigenous backgrounds.
Katrina said she came to Fairbridge from Alcoa because she supported their philosophy of promoting sustainable change in people.
"Employability is the name of the game – it's our greatest success," Katrina said.
"Along the way there is the social skills, frustration management, working in a team. It's very satisfying, challenging and rewarding," she said.
"My biggest thrill is to the have the industry recognise what we're doing and the quality training we're providing and the high quality of graduating trainee that we're presenting to employers."
For his part, Craig has nothing but praise for the staff at Fairbridge who have helped him set a path for the future.
"They're brilliant. They're a valuable resource to have here. Once you finish up you've got certificates, you've got all your cards, and you've been through the mines with Alcoa as trainees."
"It definitely plays a good role in giving you direction for the future."