Boosting employment opportunities for Indigenous people in the Kimberley

Community stories eNews: 28 February 2024

Saltwater Country, an Indigenous-led voluntary organisation, embarked on a mission to establish the Saltwater Academy and create a sustainable business model to provide training and employment opportunities for Indigenous people in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The organisation is dedicated to breaking the cycle of intergenerational trauma and altering the life trajectories of at-risk Indigenous youth. Leveraging the enduring strength and resilience of Aboriginal stockmen and women, the Saltwater Academy will offer a culturally relevant and region-specific program encompassing education, training, therapy and employment prospects for disadvantaged Indigenous youth facing complex challenges in the Kimberley.

With the support of a $25,000 grant from The Yugilbar Foundation, the Saltwater Country team started the development of the Academy. This grant facilitated the creation of a financial modelling tool and an outcomes measurement framework. The newly established economic model equips the team to adapt and refine their approach as data evolves. This information informed a business case that will serve as a crucial resource for hopefully securing government and philanthropic investments, ensuring the continuity and sustainability of the program in the long term.

Notably, the development of the financial modelling tool enabled the team to extend its impact by offering financial literacy training to the broader Kimberley community, answering a growing demand for these essential skills.

The next stage of development for the Saltwater Country team is deeply rooted in the region’s cultural and economic landscape. Many Indigenous people in the Kimberley have strong ties to the pastoral industry and maintain a living while remaining connected to Country and culture. The rodeo and campdrafting activities run by Saltwater Country provide opportunities for positive socialising, providing entertainment, social connection, fitness and improved wellbeing. 

The Saltwater Academy’s year-round program will be experiential, engaging and creative, tailored to meet the unique cultural and regional needs, explicitly designed for the people of the Kimberley and celebrating the heritage of the Kimberley Aboriginal pastoral industry. It will encompass riding clinics, rural pathways, equine therapy partnerships, creative industry training (including photography, media, marketing and film), event management, and direct employment delivered in remote, regional and rural communities.

And the anticipated outcomes? Creating sustainable pathways into rural and regional businesses and industries can support people to achieve success. These pathways are instrumental in helping people to achieve success and fostering community regeneration. This will lead to happy, healthy, well-adjusted workers and community members who stay in remote, rural and regional areas and invest in their communities.

Ultimately, the Saltwater Academy aims to establish itself as a rite of passage for Aboriginal people in Northern Australia, empowering young Aboriginal people with opportunities to build resilience and strength. This will enable them to reengage and contribute to their communities.