Albany students care for land in Aboriginal traineeship program

Sarah MakseAlbany Advertiser
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South Coast NRM Aboriginal school-based trainees, Tyler Roberts and Ashleigh Woods, both 17.
Camera IconSouth Coast NRM Aboriginal school-based trainees, Tyler Roberts and Ashleigh Woods, both 17. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

A new generation of Noongar conservationists have started their careers through a school-based traineeship program aiming to help young leaders find employment in the environmental sector.

Albany high school students Ashleigh Woods and Tyler Roberts, both 17, have joined the South Coast NRM team as part of their Aboriginal school-based traineeship program.

The pair will gain two years of experience in conservation, with Ms Woods working towards a certificate in business and Mr Roberts a certificate in conservation and land management before they graduate school.

As Australia celebrates NAIDOC Week, people are asked to reflect on this year’s theme of Heal Country, a call to protect land, water, sacred sites and cultural heritage from exploitation and destruction.

A Wirlomin-NoongarYear 11 student, Mr Roberts, said his interest in conservation grew from spending time on country with his grandparents and elders.

When he graduates, he said he might use his training to protect the land as a ranger or champion his culture through his passion for acting and the media.

South Coast NRM Aboriginal school-based trainees, Tyler Roberts and Ashleigh Woods, both 17.
Camera IconSouth Coast NRM Aboriginal school-based trainees, Tyler Roberts and Ashleigh Woods, both 17. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

“We have to learn about it and conserve it because it is our land, it is where we came from and I think we need to protect it,” he said.

“I think heal country means heal the people, heal the land and come together as one.”

Ms Woods, who was recently awarded North Albany Senior High School’s NAIDOC academic achievement award, has been working with South Coast NRM for more than three years.

She has grown into a bright leader for younger Aboriginal people through the organisation’s Strong and Proud program and is on her way to earning her Certificate III in business before she graduates.

Each week she travels to Tambellup to engage youth in cultural and environmental activities that connect them to family, culture and country.

“Being in the Strong and Proud program encouraged me so much and I have encouraged many others younger than me by being their mentor, teaching them and learning new culture,” she said.

Ms Woods said she was inspired by her Nan, who taught her family Menang language before she died.

“She used to speak in her language and that was really inspiring,” she said. “We wish she was still here with us to teach the rest of our Noongar people more of our language so we can share it with everyone else.”

Ms Woods said NAIDOC Week this year meant the next generation building a better connection with the land and each other.

“I think everyone should heal the land so that everyone is safe and we don’t destroy our connection with it,” she said.

This program is supported by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and Lotterywest and is open to Year 11 and 12 students who are schooled in the Great Southern.

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