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30 January 2007
MELINDA JAMES: Here at Mount Borradaile in north western Arnhem Land tourists from around the world are being treated to a sunset cruise through Aboriginal land.
MAX DAVIDSON: Well ladies and gentleman, you're doing a cruise on Cooper Creek, for those of you who haven't been out here
MELINDA JAMES: Max Davidson first came to this part of the country in the 1960s as a buffalo shooter.
About 20 years ago he negotiated a lease with the traditional owners to run tours of the pristine wilderness around Mount Borradaile.
He's been involved in tourism training courses for years but he wants to see more young Aboriginal people working in tourism on their own land.
MAX DAVIDSON: It's been one of my pets for many, many years getting Aboriginal people back working on their own land or land they came from and explain to guests what the land's all about.
MELINDA JAMES: Seven Indigenous trainees are doing a five week course devised by a Darwin-based training company - ICAE - and funded by the department of employment, education and training and job network agencies.
SEAN MAHONEY: We had an interest in trying to develop a program that was going to suit industry and to suit the participants who come on the program. It's an entry level course for these participants and the objective of the course is to get them into employment
MELINDA JAMES: Max Davidson says tailoring the course to suit the trainees' background and experience has paid off.
MAX DAVIDSON: A change in the way that they became more confident, you know before they were very shy. We kept it very low key because that's how we conduct it anyhow, we don't do a high pressure thing where large numbers of people, small numbers of people where there's more contact and that's what we thought would be good for local people to learn from, the guides how to communicate with small numbers of people and it's been achieved.
MELINDA JAMES: For many of the trainees, this is their first real experience of having a job.
They come from Katherine, Maningrida, Croker Island and the Tiwi Islands.
The course is designed to give them a taste of how the tourism business works - from cooking and cleaning for guests to guiding tours.
Lachlan Raymond is from Katherine and is enjoying the course so much he now wants to be a tour guide.
LACHLAN RAYMOND: Learning tourism job, meeting people from all over the world, coming round here, picking them up at the airport, greeting them, picking their luggage up, bit different to back home.
MELINDA JAMES: What do you do back home?
LACHLAN RAYMOND: Just normally sit around and do nothing been a bit different, a challenge, better than sitting around and doing nothing
MELINDA JAMES: The students already have some knowledge of bush tucker and bush craft .
They're being taught how to pass that knowledge on to tourists.
Jay Jay Woodroffe is originally from this area but now lives in Katherine.
He's impressed Max Davidson during the course and he's been offered a job.
But the past five weeks have given Jay Jay Woodroffe more than just employment.
JAY JAY WOODROFFE: I was a little boy, we moved to Queensland so I don't remember much. That's why I'm back here to find out about my culture and that, Aboriginal stuff.
It's good for my spirit and make me stronger, just like I always wanted to be out here, out in the bush, to work.
MELINDA JAMES: Jim Cooper has also been offered work as a tour guide.
He lives on Croker Island but his family is connected to this country.
He's enjoyed learning more about the famous rock art here that tells the stories of his people.
Jim Cooper has family commitments at home but he'll fly to Mount Borradaile whenever Max Davidson needs him to work.
JIMMY COOPER: Do you enjoy working with tourists? Yeah I do. Why do you enjoy it? So we can get information from them and we give them information and they go back, they feel all right so they can spread it round the world
MELINDA JAMES: At the end of the course, the seven Indigenous trainees were given their certificate one in tourism and Indigenous culture.
For a few the course has led to a job.
For some of the others just completing the course has been a massive achievement and is at least a first step towards meaningful employment.
The Territory Government has indicated to the training company ICAE that it will fund future courses.
SEAN MAHONEY: I think it's been extremely successful, the retention rate on the program is 70% so 70% of the participants who started completed, they've undertaken five weeks of training out here in Mount Borrodaile, they haven't been away from Mount Borrodaile so that's a big deal for these participants, they're away from their family, they're away from their friends, they're away from their home and to be out in a remote location in relatively strange surroundings is a big deal for them and to get through the program has been an enormous challenge so from that point alone it's been extremely successful.