Alekarenge students are getting job-ready without having to leave their community, thanks to an innovative horticulture work experience trial.

The Alekarenge work experience pilot program is a partnership between Alekarenge Horticulture Pty Ltd and Centrefarm.

It helps middle and senior school students in the community south of Tennant Creek to gain valuable industry experience.

The students learn to grow crops such as garlic, pumpkins, cabbages, zucchini and watermelons alongside adult workers on the Aboriginal-owned farm near the community and also study horticulture at school.

Economic stimulus funding from the Aboriginals Benefit Account, administered by the Central Land Council, has allowed the project to expand its farm.

The project is using the $1,619,000 grant to buy equipment, build infrastructure and pay wages.

It has seen the first 10 trainees from the community graduate with a Certificate 1 in Agrifood Operations last year.

It has also sold fresh produce to Aboriginal-owned supermarkets in Tennant Creek, Alice Springs and Alekarenge’s Mirnirri Store.

The students also sold the store zucchini chocolate muffins and zucchini fritters they made.

“The funding will go a long way towards providing training and employment opportunities,” Centrefarm’s Joe Clarke said.

The work experience trial aims to offer fulltime work for six to 10 students, or a higher number of parttime placements, before it concludes in 2024.

The CLC’s economic stimulus funding has assisted 14 Aboriginal businesses and organisations with a combined total of more than $17 million in approved grants in 2021.

The money is helping to set up new ranger groups out bush, fund an Aboriginal economic development forum in Alice Springs, support another horticulture business near Ti Tree and kick-start or expand several social enterprises.

One of them has created some competition for Central Australia’s only funeral service.

Desert Funerals, a joint venture between Ngurratjuta and Centrecorp, aims to bring down the high costs of farewelling loved ones.

“Desert Funerals brings new competition to the market whilst committing to culturally appropriate and affordable funerals,” Centrecorp chief executive, Randle Walker, said.

The plan for a not-for-profit, culturally sensitive funeral service for remote communities and town was hatched in late 2018 and the service moved into an office near the Alice Springs cemetery last October.

Almost $400,000 in economic stimulus funding has helped the social enterprise get started, with the business holding its first funeral service in February.

Mr Walker said the funds were “instrumental in assisting Desert Funerals to become a credible alternative funeral provider through funding for hearses, building alterations and funeral equipment”.

Tennant Creek is not missing out on stimulus funding either.

When the Julalikari Council’s Jajjikari Café re-opened at the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre in early 2020, after it had been closed for five years, the CLC’s stimulus funding allowed it to branch out into street food.

The Jajjikari Café smoko truck is literally a vehicle to train two Aboriginal workers in hospitality and customer service.

“The smoko truck drives around to businesses and the community living areas, serving home made fresh treats,” Julalikari’s Jacqulin Pereira said.

The $190,000 grant also paid for equipment for outdoor film nights and music events, a stage and a jumping castle for the school holidays.

The project goes some way towards meeting the demand for Aboriginal tourism experiences and quality catering services in the town.

The CLC’s economic stimulus project was made possible by an injection of $36.7 million from the Aboriginals Benefit Account in November 2020. For more information email aba.stimulus@clc.org.au, call (08) 8951 0667 or, or go to https://www.clc.org.au/aba-economic-stimulus-package/