Force for change in the tropics 


When people in the Top End do technical training, the effect on their belief in themselves and the bigger view of the world it gives them may be more important than the new trade they learn.

And according to PhD researcher, John Guenther, who has been looking at tropical savanna communities across the Northern Territory for the past two years, the positive impact can flow back to the communities where they live.

“Almost as a by-product people developed stronger self-awareness, they were more confident and active back in their own communities and had a much wider view of the world and what they could achieve in it,” he said.

The research looked at VET (Vocational Education and Training) training across several industries, from mining camps, Norforce training, work on the Alice Springs-Darwin railway, to tourism operations and hospitals.

“There are all kinds of trade skills involved but what looks to be far more important is the personal confidence and sense of identity for those who take part,” Mr Guenther said.

The Charles Darwin University PhD student said the results held anywhere but were much more important in remote tropical savannas, where people had fewer outside influences on their lives.

“When Indigenous and non-Indigenous people were brought in for technical training to build the railway, for example, they did learn some very specific trade skills.

“But more importantly, when the railway work finished, those guys had new confidence to look around for more work to try and new skills to learn.

“They moved on to work on the gas pipeline project and the Alcan expansion,” he said.

“The research supports VET’s traditional employment role, but it also shows that it can help in addressing skills shortages, developing policy around Indigenous communities and play a part in enterprise development,” he said.