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One of these was to develop a holistic Gas Operator Training Program for a group of Aboriginal jobseekers in Tennant Creek and Mt Isa with the aim of offering two apprenticeships in Gas Operations for its 622km $800m Northern Gas Pipeline project. Jemena engaged local Aboriginal organisation Saltbush Social Enterprises (Saltbush) to facilitate the project.

Fast forward to today, and Saltbush in a multi-year sponsorship agreement with Jemena and partnering with Karen Sheldon Training is putting the finishing touches to a unique qualification to submit to ASQA for national accreditation under the Pipeline to Success project.

This program will qualify local Aboriginal mentors to work with employers in their own communities as part of the movement towards social change and economic parity in the Territory. It will include a six-month training program currently being developed through action-based research and drawing on the life-long learnings of local Aboriginal participants in the Future Stars Programs.


Saltbush was developed by the Karen Sheldon Group with the long-held belief that a person with a job is a person with a future, working in very practical ways with one person at a time, one family at a time, one community at a time, in moving away from intergenerational welfare toward a future of their own making.

Saltbush in now a stand-alone not for profit organisation with full DGR status and a majority Aboriginal Board and membership.

“Working with major employers such as Jemena gives us the capacity to prepare and train local Indigenous jobseekers for the many employment, career and business opportunities that are emerging in the NT – particularly in the resource sector. The follow through and commitment to local employment shown by Jemena has been exemplary.

Working with them in the first Gas Operator Training Program, we were not only able to facilitate two of the successful graduates into apprenticeships, but we were also able to place the other graduates into local jobs because of the employability skills they had gained in the program,”

Mrs Sheldon said. “The original two apprentices are now nearing the end of their training and still enjoying their work – and the career opportunities that have opened up for them.”

“Saltbush, as the Territory Vocational Training and Employment Provider (VTEC) with NIAA worked with Jemena to develop the project, then provided intensive mentoring and pastoral care during this significant pilot project. This included supervising the accommodation at the Julalikari Youth Accommodation, organising evening and after-hours recreation, lifeskills and selfcare training as well as liaising with the training organisation, and providing six months intensive mentoring into employment, post the training.

This holistic wrap around service ensured that twelve of the original thirteen trainees received their Skillset Certificates and graduated with greatly enhanced employability skills.

Stevie Greenwood, one of the original founders of Saltbush is now Special Projects Manager with Saltbush and is overseeing the new Jemena Pipeline to Success Project. She said that as with all Saltbush and Karen Sheldon projects, the success lay in the holistic, wrap around approach that works with each jobseeker to firstly re-build their self-esteem and inner ability to realise their own dreams of a better future for themselves and their families.

“We kept the group on track, we helped them stick to their original participation plan, and we organised evening and weekend social activities, and assisted them to deal with daily challenges so they remained focused,” she said.

“Everyone in Jemena took an interest in what we were doing – from Managing Director Frank Tudor, down to the amazing and dedicated local field officers in Tennant Creek,” Mrs Sheldon said. “Jemena had an office in Tennant Creek and all of the managers

and staff who worked on the NGP were genuinely interested in what was happening, what the outcomes were and went over and above to help. For instance, during the course local Jemena staff took the trainees on outings to Mary Ann Lake and paid for a weekend trip to Mt Isa for some to alleviate homesickness.”


“When Jemena first came into Tennant Creek and they wanted to hire locals but found this much more difficult that they first imagined.

They witnessed what was possible through the approach by Saltbush and the Karen Sheldon Group and the current project partnership named Pipeline to Success was born.”

Mrs Greenwood said Jemena’s offer of ongoing assistance meant that both Saltbush and Karen Sheldon Training could collaborate to realise another long-held vision to develop a recognised mentor training course.

“Jemena saw what could be achieved and we discussed the key role of intensive mentoring to the success of the project, and our vision for this to be provided by locally trained Mentors” she said. “We wanted to develop a recognised qualification, but we had never previously had the means to achieve this until Jemena saw the value and they said – let’s get this off the ground.”

The partnership between Karen Sheldon Group, who are a Registered Training Organisation (RTO), and Saltbush has just received development approval from the Australian Skills Qualification Authority (ASQA) for the course in Mentoring for Aboriginal Workforce Mentors.

The five-unit course covers:

• Apply mentoring to empower Aboriginal workers new to the work experience.

• Facilitate effective mentoring relationships.

• Collaborate with the stakeholders of mentoring relationships.

• Work with diverse people

• Reflect on and improve own professional practice.

“We developed the training with the RTO and then we had to go back through ASQA to gain the certification,” Mrs Greenwood said.

“To gain that certification we had to demonstrate a real community need. So, we embarked on intensive industry consultation across the whole of the Northern Territory asking many different stakeholders – if a training course looked like this would it be helpful? Jemena backed the whole process along the way.”

From their many decades of Territory experience, both Saltbush and Karen Sheldon Group teams understand that having mentors who can identify with their local community, are in tune with fledgling new local employees and can liaise between them and the company to identify pitfalls and overcome challenges is a key to success.

The Mentor Course will consolidate the fundamentals of a long term stable and non-judgemental approach that is the essence of all Future Stars programs.

“With what is about to happen in the upcoming Territory resource boom, ensuring that local First Australians can participate fully in the economic opportunities is vital”, Mrs Sheldon said. “Everyone understands this, but sometimes there is less understanding of the intensive and practical grassroots approach that is required to make this happen.

We are very grateful that Jemena does understand and continues to work with us towards a more equitable Territory society.”