Katherine students are flying into new careers this week and tasting life in the RAAF.
The program is a first for Tindal RAAF base seen as an opportunity to close the gap in Indigenous employment in defence.
The Air Force Indigenous Youth Program provides students aged between 16 and 24 the chance to see if military life suits them.
Squadron leader Skye Smith is hoping the exposure on base is enough to recruit the high school students.
“What we’re offering is a look into different pathways to get into defence, we are setting the seed and showing these students that once they are in the pipeline they will have 100 per cent support to reach their goals,” squadron leader Smith said.
“Defence has a one point five per cent indigenous employment rate right now, and the government has set a two point seven per cent target,” she said.
“These three days are all about getting them out of their comfort zone and seeing that a career in the Air Force is a really great opportunity,” she said.
Over three days the students experience an interactive program including air traffic control, flight line operations, aircraft maintenance, military working dogs, ground defence training and other specialised aviation work areas.
And they are learning first hand that life on base is no walk in the park, with early starts, fitness tests and strict schedules.
“Already I know I will have to work on my fitness if I want to join up, and I’m a pretty sporty person,” Katherine High School student Lasharn Dean said.
“This has been a really great opportunity for me, I moved to Katherine from Darwin by myself because I had no support up there, and I feel even more positive knowing that if I choose this path I will have guidance all the way,” she said.
Ms Dean, an avid touch player, is already looking forward to the many sporting possibilities on offer as part of the RAAF.
The students visited 75th Squadron this morning, after an intense PT session, where they got to talk to mentors in the fields they want to get into and get an up close look at FA/18 Hornets.
For another student, Ayesha, sitting in the cockpit of a military jet which travels faster than the speed of sound was a highlight.
“I was pretty set on being an engineer because it is something different and not many girls are in that field, but now I have seen the security dogs and handlers, I might change my mind, they are really cute,” she said.
“I have found out that being in (RAAF) is not as hard as people think, you still need to do your job, but it seems that everyone we have spoken to loves their job and there seems to be a lot of support,” she said.
Wing Commander Andrew Tatnell said the program provided Indigenous youth from the local community with the unique opportunity to experience life in the Air Force.
“This is the first time RAAF Base Tindal has hosted the Air Force Indigenous Youth Program.
“Air Force acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the traditional custodians and is committed to increasing the opportunities for Indigenous Australians,” he said.
Participants also have the chance to talk with serving Air Force Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mentors.
Success story, Brodie Mcintyre, a graduate from the program, is now a dog handler who is about to extend his stint at Tindal for the second time.
“I 100 per cent believe that without the support I received through the program, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he said.
“It has been rewarding to be a mentor to these young kids, and if they have a clear goal they want to achieve and they keep trying, it will happen.”
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