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Fresh qualifications empower trailblazers

Four men from remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia have become the first people to complete a unique new national apprenticeship with WA electricity provider Horizon Power to improve outcomes in remote communities.

Keith Hunter, of Bidyadanga, Clinton (Minty) Sahanna, who covers the Dampier Peninsula communities of Beagle Bay, Lombadina/Djarindjin and Ardyaloon; Robert Hassett, of Kalumburu; and Brendan Walters, of Yungngora are Australia’s first Remote Community Utilities Workers (RCUWs).

They live and work in their communities, maintaining electrical networks and, in Kalumburu and Yungngora, maintain the power stations.

The four men are pioneers in the field and played a role in developing the training program, which was in development from 2008.

They were this month awarded trade certificates and statements of attainment in the Certificate III Electricity Supply Industry (ESI) Remote Community Utilities Worker (RCUW) qualification, marking the end to their apprenticeships.

“It benefits Indigenous people who live in their community to have a sense of pride and achievement,” Mr Sahanna said.

“It’s great that the team and I are recognised for the time and effort we all put in with a nationally registered qualification.”

Before the apprenticeship program began, it could take a day for crews based in Kununurra to get to towns like Kalumburu if there was a power outage — and even longer during the wet season.

Horizon Power managing director Frank Tudor said the trade qualification was unique to WA and he was very proud of the first four graduates for achieving their significant goals and of the business for establishing the program.

He said the RCUW trade qualification was designed to improve the reliability of power supplies in remote Aboriginal communities and reduce the duration of outages but also to create jobs and boost the economic development and sustainability of regional communities.

While planning for the program started back in 2007, the training did not begin until 2009 and the four team members had to brush up their maths skills to undertake the trade qualification, which is similar to that of an electrical distribution lineworker.

The National Certificate III Remote Community Utilities Worker trade qualification was registered as a Class A Apprenticeship in September 2016 by the State Training Board on behalf of the WA Government.

In 2009, the-then Aboriginal Communities Training program, from which the qualification evolved, was awarded two WA Premier’s Award for ‘Improving Government’ and ‘Innovation’ and an Australian Business Award for ‘Community Contribution’.

Three years later in 2012, it achieved national trade recognition which means it can be adopted by other electricity utilities and companies throughout Australia who operate in remote communities.

Mr Tudor said Horizon Power provided a regulated electricity service to more than 40 remote and town-based Aboriginal communities throughout the Kimberley, Pilbara and Mid West regions.

“We are working closely with the State Government in the hope we will be able to improve the maintenance and quality of electrical infrastructure in more Aboriginal communities in regional WA and to work with communities to provide further training and employment opportunities where possible,” Mr Tudor said.

“We would love to build on this important work and provide more job opportunities for Aboriginal people in communities to ensure a sustainable future.”

WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt congratulated the four men. He said the positions would be significant for their communities.

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