Ralpa program motivates students to build skill sets 


Matthew Yunupingu puts the finishing touches to his art carving on the lid of his tucker box

The new Ralpa training program at Charles Darwin University’s Nhulunbuy campus is living up to its name.

Lecturer John Crocker said Ralpa is a Yolngu word for “be motivated” and that is exactly how the students have responded.

“Attendance has been excellent, student feedback encouraging and the greatest difficulty is getting them to pack up the workshop at the end of the training day and head off to their work sites for the afternoon,” he said.

Fifteen employees of Marrngarr and Bunuwal organisations signed up for the eight-week pilot program, which focuses on workplace expectations and skills.

“This first course has a construction theme that mixes classroom theory, teamwork, leadership and a high level of workshop activity,” he said.

“Many have shown a high degree of skill and aptitude for working with wood.

“The tuckerbox project has allowed students to show their ability at hand carving, which is just fantastic,” he said.

Other students are building a cubby house for the local childcare centre or making shovels for the four-wheel drive kits. Once training is completed, graduates will work within their community organisations on projects such as house and school construction, including an upgrade to facilities at the Garma Festival site.

Ralpa, an extension of the already existing ALERT Program, is an initiative of Pacific Aluminium’s Gove Operations and Yolngu traditional owners, with practical training provided by Charles Darwin University.

The focus is to ensure Yolnyu youth have a meaningful pathway to employment.

Embedded into the community-driven program, which was designed and financed by Pacific Aluminium’s Gove Operations, are regular meetings and discussions with Yolngu elders and mentors, health workers and the Pacific Aluminium Gove Operations team.

Mr Crocker said: “We have been encouraged to hear that there have been enquiries from potential future students almost on a daily basis.

“We are hoping that some of the students from this first group may come alongside future students as mentors.

“We are still ironing out the minor details but it looks like we’ve got a winning formula with Ralpa.”