Australia’s First Indigenous Women in Construction Program launches

Nyirrunggulung-Rise, the Community Development Program established in Central Arnhem Land to boost employment and training, has identified a new niche area for the employment of Indigenous women – the construction industry. 

With billions of dollars worth of projects flagged over the next 10 years by the Northern Territory Governments’ Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics, Nyirringgulung-Rise installed Jenna White to front the first Indigenous Women in Construction Program in Australia. 

A qualified plumber and drainer, Jenna White was the first Indigenous woman to win the LPG NGA Gas Fitting Apprentice of the Year in 2019. Since launching the program earlier this year, 33 women across five Indigenous communities in Central Arnhem Land have elected to sign up. Given this number coincides with the traditional number worn by Territorian AFL, and with the devoted following AFL has in the territory, the program has been nicknamed the 33ers.

The 33ers is a structured 12-month program* aimed at getting participants ready for the civil and construction industries. There is a focus on safety, effective use of hand tools, nutrition, and courses that potential employers look for.

Once completed, participants will have the skills and knowledge to gain an apprenticeship, or go directly into the workforce as operators, traffic control personnel, water cart operators, labourers, and more. 

“There is no reason women, and especially Indigenous women, shouldn’t work in construction,” explains White. “This is such an exciting industry and I believe that when other women in community see themselves represented in these roles, they will feel empowered to do the same.”

Nyirrunggulung-Rise has been delighted by the success of the 33ers program and the support that is being shown by local business and Traditional Owners alike.

* Covid-19 means the program will resume once face-to-face contact is allowed.