Ti Tree table grape industry strengthened by CDU 


The table grape industry of Ti Tree is to benefit from a specialised training package developed by Charles Darwin University (CDU) to be introduced early next year.

The local Anmatjere Government Community Council and NT Department of Primary Industry, Fisheries and Mines (DPIFM) approached CDU in early September to develop a training package that met the needs of industry.

CDU’s tailored course is expected to enter a final planning phase February 2007.

CDU horticultural lecturer Bruce Toohill says the program will eventually cover the complete cycle of vineyard operations: site selection, harvesting, planting, irrigation, operations, bunch thinning and trimming, and pesticide use will be covered.

‘We aim to give existing employees and new workers a solid educational outcome in an industry that is always looking for quality staff,’ he said.

An initial occupational health and safety (OH&S) course has just been delivered with a strong turnout of 18 mostly Indigenous students. Horticulture lecturer, Jade Kukrenko, said the local community is eager to gain employment at the local farms.

‘Feedback from Anmatjere, industry and government indicated that local communities are wary of courses that provide ‘mickey mouse’ certification and don’t offer a channel of job opportunities,’ she said. ‘We are eager to work closely with local industry and build solid relationships to deliver qualified staff.’

The DPIFM Ti Tree Research Farm is used as a training facility and is the base for CDU’s training and once qualified, the students can move into positions on local farms.

DPIFM Indigenous economic development officer Geoff Kenna said Ti Tree table grape growers traditionally employed contract labour for pruning and picking.

‘Many growers have indicated they would much prefer to employ locals and ‘skill them up’,’ he said.

Initial work placements of local Indigenous people have already proven a success.  Kahl Table Grapes manager Bill Coburn employed ten local Indigenous men for various jobs earlier in the year with promising results.

‘I’d have these blokes back any day. They did exceptionally well,’ Bill said.

CDU’s Jade Kukrenko said she looks forward to teaching trainees at the research farm next year.

‘Local Anmatjere people are already proving their work ethic and enthusiasm and with the right mix of skills delivery they can be a real asset to local industry,’ she said.