When Jacinta Dennison was preparing pulled pork burgers and arancini balls as part of her Australian Army-funded hospitality course in Toomelah, she had no clue it would lead to her dream job in aged care.
Her new employer at Goondiwindi’s Kaloma Home for the Aged was not expecting it either.
The local lands council said tackling unemployment was hard due to social issues and a lack of work ethic.
Major Venz said AACAP has offered the chance for change.
“It’s very hard to motivate today’s primary school kids because up until this last 12 months there was little to look forward to in education,” said the chair of the local lands council, Carl McGrady.
“They thought ‘well why bother, you don’t need the higher school certificate to get the dole,” he said.
TAFE inspired by enthusiasm
With the army leaving town it is back to the old normal for most course recipients, where access to further education is difficult.
The closest TAFE is at nearby Boggabilla, but there is no public transport and the courses offered do not meet the needs of the newly-enthusiastic students.
That too is about to change.
NSW Assistant Minister for Skills, Adam Marshall, said renewed community demand for courses has meant that Boggabilla TAFE, which has operated sporadically in recent years, will open full-time in 2018 offering courses in Aboriginal languages, fitness, business administration, early childhood and fashion.
“I want to see that TAFE campus really firing on all cylinders. We’ll have extra staff there, more courses,” Mr Marshall said.
The Army was not only building new lives, it was delivering on vital infrastructure projects including a brand new multipurpose hall designed to be the hub of the small community.
It will eventually house the offices of local service providers and offer space for community events.
“The colloquial name for it here is ‘the opera house’ and it is awesome,” said the lands council’s Mr McGrady.
The structure is the most visible legacy of the six-month visit by the Australian Army, but not the most lasting, he said.
“I think part of their legacy is the motivation they’ve created in some of our younger people, with the training programs, which they’ve done in the last six months,” he said.
“It’s given the community a new lease on life I think, and personally I think the last 12 months are one of the last-ditch chances our community’s got to get back on track and make a future for our kids.”
In another month, the Army will complete the finishing touches on the multipurpose centre and the last of its personnel will pull out.