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Bright futures ahead for latest Koomba Birdal graduates

21 September 2023

Midland campus was filled with excitement on Thursday with two cohorts of students from our Koomba Birdal Program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students graduating with a formal qualification and with their career prospects looking bright. 

Twenty weeks of hard work paid off for the students with four graduating with a Certificate II in Conservation and Ecosystem Management (Caring for Country) and another four achieving a Certificate II in Mechanical Fitting, which acts as a Pre-Apprenticeship for Mechanical Fitting and Machining. 

In a great reflection on the training, most of the students have already secured work or apprenticeships opportunities following the course. 

The Koomba Birdal Program, which commenced in 2022, is a free, supported training pathway and is designed to inspire participants to pursue further study and gain employment.  

The program was developed in response to North Metropolitan TAFE’s (NMTAFE) Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2021-2023 which strengthens the college’s commitment to providing every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student with a quality training program delivered with cultural integrity and professional commitment. 

Students were supported throughout their journey by our Koolark Centre for Aboriginal Students, the Jobs and Skills Centre’s Enhanced Aboriginal Engagement Team and the Industry Liaison Team. The Koolark team provided mentoring, study support and career guidance services. 

Mechanical Fitting graduate Willis Jenkins, who is now trialling for a Light Automotive apprenticeship, spoke on behalf of his peers. 

"I want to thank everyone who helped us get through the course and to where we are today, the Koolark team and all the legends who helped us," he said. 

"I came into this without much direction; I just got out of school, it wasn't my place, and a staff member at my school, Miss Elaine told me about this course and now I've graduated and am looking to get my apprenticeship." 

Mature-aged Caring for Country graduate Murray Collard who had been without regular work for 10 years shared Willis' sentiment, stating that the course had changed the direction of his life. 

"I had no direction earlier this year, I didn't want to go backwards, I wanted to go forward," he said. 

"I doubted myself early in the course but everyone in the course and the staff helped me through and encouraged me to push myself. 

"I'm very happy with myself, I know what it is like to struggle, and this has given me some direction, I can't thank everyone enough. 

"Koolark, Koomba Birdal, I love these organisations, I can't encourage people enough that if you need assistance, these are the people." 

Chad Sullivan, an inaugural Koomba Birdal Program graduate, returned to share his achievements since graduating with a Certificate II in Engineering in 2022. 

"Koolark and the Koomba Birdal Program changed my life," he said. "If it wasn't around, I swear to you that my life would have been a lot different." 

"It's a big step in life [leaving school], without the program I wouldn't have been prepared for it. It helped me with all the life skills I have now, and I probably wouldn't have a job now without it. 

"The pre-apprenticeship helped me get my apprenticeship with Kardam Construction, an Aboriginal company that has helped a lot of Aboriginal kids. 

"Even the finance parts of the course, I wouldn't be saving my money now." 

"A lot of people don't get this experience, so we are all very lucky." 

Caring For Country lecturer Robyn Morris wished the students well in their future endeavours. 

"We've had some great experiences along the way, and it's been great seeing them all grow," she said. 

The program wouldn’t be possible without the ongoing support of the NMTAFE’s senior management team and their commitment to “Closing the Gap”. By covering the full cost of tuition, resources fees and micro credentials such as White Card and First Aid, the financial barrier to gaining skills, education and employment is removed, allowing students to start their journey toward reaching their goals. 

In addition to the ongoing financial commitment provided by NMTAFE, additional sponsorship from the industry generously covered the cost of PPE, padlocks, Tool Kits, Chemical Application Tickets and Hose Assembly training. The sponsorship for these valuable additions was provided by the following companies. Hoseright, Natural Area, Iron Merge, Strata Green, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Perth Airport (who has been a major sponsor for the past two years). 

The Koomba Birdal Program will commence four new programs in 2024 which includes Certificate II Light Vehicle Servicing, Certificate II Rail Infrastructure, Certificate III Business Administration (traineeship) and a dual qualification comprising of Certificate II Salon Assistant and Certificate II Retail Cosmetics.   

To register your interest for future programs please click on the link below and complete our Expression of Interest Form(opens in a new tab) .


  1. Caring For Country graduates Sian Butler, Glen Whitby, Evelyn Gould and Murray Collard. 

  1. Mechanical Fitting graduates Ryan Wright, Preston Patrick, Willis Jenkins and Dennis Eglington. 

  1. 2022 Koomba Birdal graduate Chad Sullivan addresses the new graduates.