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Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association

Young Territorians start careers in Pastoral Industry

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Katherine woman Kayla Costello was only a teenager when she decided she wanted to work in the cattle industry – and a local employment program that engages and trains young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for employment in the NT pastoral industry is now helping her to make her dream come true.

Ms Costello is one of ten Indigenous men and women from across the Northern Territory who will be travelling to Alice Springs next week to begin their pastoral industry training as part of the progressive and innovative Pastoral Real Jobs (RJP) Program which is operated by the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association in partnership with the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation.

The 17-year-old, who was raised at Alexandria Station, said she couldn’t wait to learn more about the job she was “born into”.

“My pop is a truck driver at Alexandria and when I was twelve or 13, I got to help him chase a few cattle up the ramp to be loaded on the truck. It was so exciting, and it made me realise that I wanted to make a career in this line of work.”

Ms Costello said after completing a Certificate II in Rural Operation via CDU through Katherine High School's Vet program, she was hoping to enrol in her Certificate III as part of the RJP Program.

“I want to learn lots, and I am hoping to get a good placement,” she said.

“I love being out bush, working with animals, doing something worthwhile from sunrise to sundown. I don’t mind being away from towns – out on station you get to form real friendships, we’re all family there, and I enjoy getting dirty and working hard with good mates in a profession I love.”

Ms Costello said her career choice had been influenced by a sincere love for the land and role models within her family.
“My pop is nearly 80 and he has worked at Alexandria Station for over 50 years. My other pop and my dad work there too. I could easily go there and be dad's wingman, but I want to make a name for myself in the industry. I want to learn as much as I can while I'm on the program, and one day I want to run my own stock camp. One day, when I’ve made my own name in the industry, I’ll go back to Alexandria Station. I’ll hire my mum to be the cook in my stock camp.”

The determined young woman said her family members were happy she was going to work in a job she loved and was passionate about.

In the new RJP intake Ms Costello will be joined by young Indigenous people from across the NT, including 18-year-old Thomas Braun and Alice Springs-born Lenita Nellie Pepperill Turner, 18.

Ms Turner said a Vet course at school that involved horse work inspired her to seek out career opportunities within the pastoral industry.
“I’ve taken a great interest in station work, and I want to gain more knowledge and work on stations to see how they operate,” she said. “I hope the RJP program will give me all the skills I need to make a career for myself within the cattle industry.”
For Mr Braun it was family connections to the land that made him take a closer look at agriculture.
“My uncles and pops grew up on cattle stations, and I’d love to try the job for myself.”

The young Katherine man said he’d always been interested in a career in the pastoral industry, and he was excited about the opportunity to join the RJP Program to learn new skills that will “open doors”.

In a meet and great with new RJP participants in Katherine last week, Kununurra-born Alec Bidwee, who graduated from the program in December 2020, said he would recommend RJP to every young Indigenous person.

“I started in July 2018 and I wasn't sure about station work, but I gave it a good shot as I had nothing else to do in my life. My placement was at Brunette Downs Station and it was a life-changer.”

The 23-year-old said for the first month he struggled with the new environment, the unfamiliar work and a lack of confidence, but in the second month the "wow factor" set in.

“I made new friends, I became more confident, and then you suddenly realise you’ve found your place and you know what you're doing. Suddenly you don't need someone to give you hand anymore.”

Nineteen-year-old Dwayne Campion, who also graduated from the RJP Program last month said he fell in love with the NT cattle industry during the program.

“Thanks to RJP I have gained employment in the industry and I will continue to work on stations. Every day you learn new things and get to do something new – it is very exciting and fulfilling,” the young man, who grew up in Bulman, said.

Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association RJP Program Coordinator Casey Ellis said she was proud to present certificates to recent graduates from the last intake of young Indigenous people who “have come out of their shells, become confident, grown into knowledgeable and skilled stockmen and women, and have become great leaders for the next generation”.

“The RJP program provides a pathway into a genuine and rewarding career for our participants,” Ms Ellis said. “Seeing those men and women make themselves and their families proud and go into full-time employment in a profession they love, is fantastic and rewarding for everyone involved.”

The new RJP intake is starting a pre-employment course in Alice Springs on January 29, including intensive and multi-faceted learning comprising industry-recognised accredited training, along with workplace and cultural guidance.

Anyone interested in the RJP Program can contact NTCA Program Coordinator Casey Ellis (08) 891 5976 or via email to


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