Refugees, business welcome horticulture program 


A pre-employment program assisting refugees and new immigrants into work is also addressing labour shortages in the horticulture industry in the Top End.

Students from Ethiopia, Somalia, Burma, Afghanistan, Congo and Malaysia have enrolled in Charles Darwin University’s Certificate I Horticulture with the aim of securing continuing work in the NT horticulture industry.

CDU horticulture and aquaculture team leader Scott McDonald said the university had secured a government equity-training grant that allowed for two groups of 10 refugees to undertake the course.

“Many students have well developed skills and qualifications from their own countries,” he said.

“Others have spent their lives in villages and regions affected by war and conflict, surviving on subsistence farming, cooking and selling food, growing and selling vegetables, making and selling clothing.”

With the first intake of students due to receive their certificates of completion this week, Mr McDonald said the course was the perfect introduction to both VET training and the horticulture industry, for students from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

Before implementing the program, Mr McDonald said he had discussed the concept with Nursery and Garden Industry Northern Territory and individual businesses to gauge their interest in employing its graduates.

“The support was strong, and so 50 per cent of the program involves the placement of students with employers who are in a position to offer some form of ongoing employment or references that will carry a lot of weight within our industry,” he said.

“The program is focused on plant nursery operations and landscape maintenance, which are industry sectors that have existing employment opportunities and are close to the main urban centres of the Top End.”

A presentation ceremony will be held for the graduating cohort on Thursday, 21 July at 10.30am, building Pink 3 CDU’s Casuarina campus.