A native-plant nursery in Western Australia’s Pilbara region is bringing hope and opportunity for young people in a mostly indigenous community on the outskirts of Roebourne.
The manager of the Pilbara Indigenous nursery Beth Smith says nine people aged in their teens to early 20s are currently in training.
“I’ve been really taken aback by the young people who’ve come because I didn’t think they’d be interested,” she said.
“They really enjoy planting the seeds, watering and watching the plants grow; they seem to get a real kick out of it.”
“Young people that really hadn’t been doing anything much before and for me that’s been really exciting to see.”
The Mingullatharndo (Five Mile) community set up the nursery which has the capacity to produce up to 750,000 Pilbara seedlings each year.
The idea behind it is to give local youth training, setting them up for future employment opportunities.
Roebourne Shire President Nicole Lockwood believes it will encourage self esteem.
“It’s positive to see this initiative targeting specific members of the community to be actively engaged in employment and to find purpose in themselves,” she says.
Mrs Lockwood says the nursery is an example of the hope and opportunity that exists in the often-troubled community.
“There’s a fantastic group of people in town who are actively involved lobbying for issues in Roebourne so I think people are really ready to see a change,” she says.
Mrs Smith says it hasn’t been an easy road for those showing up.
“It’s so hard. We as white people take for granted that we have birth certificates and tax file numbers but these kids have nothing at all,” she said.
“I’m finding they can barely read or write and can’t find their name.”
“One of them hasn’t been to school for at least four years and another boy attends school once a fortnight,”
She says since the nursery was set up, the young people have shown a real enthusiasm and zest for the project.
“These kids have been out to the nursery every day for the last three weeks.”
The business, which sells seeds collected from the area, aims to generate enough income to pay people from the area to work there.
Mrs Smith says she’s waiting for more interest from buyers before starting full scale production and hiring locals for the job.
“Even though we want it to be a sustainability project, it’s also a lot about the training as well so we have to balance that and say yes, we do want to make money but we also want to train people at the same time,” she said.
Mrs Lockwood says the nursery will provide opportunities.
“Obviously the Indigenous nursery is a large piece of infrastructure and investment with specific employment initiatives.
“I think there’s a lot of positive pursuits going on both with the assistance of the Shire and others to see some significant changes in Roebourne,” she says.
Mrs Smith believes there’s a promising future for both the business and locals.
“The Pilbara seedlings are great because they belong in this environment and with a little love and care they look magnificent in the garden,” she says.
“Not only is it a great business venture, it’s helping our little community.”
The set up of the nursery has been supported by Woodside.