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Indigenous TAFE students become the nation's newest deckhands

Phoebe Blogg -

Ten Indigenous students have become Australia's newest deckhands after graduating TAFE NSW's maritime program.

Striving to provide students an opportunity to develop hands-on experience and job-ready skills, TAFE NSW's Get Into Maritime program enabled students to demonstrate their newfound skills on Sydney Harbour.

The program provides a holistic immersive approach to Indigenous education and employment to create social and economic change for Indigenous Australians in the maritime industry.

It's a culmination of three years of work between the Sea Heritage Foundation, the TAFE NSW Indigenous Engagement team and Prince's Trust Australia.

With hands-on training from expert mariner Adam Parkinson – who started his 30-year career after completing the same course he's now training the next generation in – selected students received an educational learning experience from one of the industry's best.

TAFE NSW Teacher Adam Parkinson with students Alannah Walker and Loren Lazarevic. (Image: supplied)

For 22-year-old student Loren Lazarevic, joining the Australian Navy has been a lifelong dream since the early age of six.

Now equipped with the skills, confidence and qualificantions to apply for next year's intake, Lazarevic is thrilled to have the opportunity to work on a near coastal vessel as a deckhand across the country.

"Ever since I stepped foot on HMAS Newcastle on a tour when I was a boy, I've loved all things maritime," TAFE student Loren Lazarevic said.

"The experiences I've had through Get Into Maritime have given me a much better understanding of the roles of the crew and helped me develop life-saving skills like sea survival, firefighting and CPR.

"Before I started the program, I had people tell me that they didn't think I could finish it or even do it at all – but I've been able to prove them wrong.

"Now I'm eager to take the next step and join the Navy next year, and hopefully I'll be able to help my teammates by passing on my knowledge and experience to them, too."

Showing off his new skills by manoeuvring a 15m vessel on Sydney Harbour, Loren credits his TAFE NSW teacher and expert mariner Adam Parkinson.

Striving to bring out his newfound confidence in a supportive environment through several once-in-a-lifetime activities, Lazarevic has thoroughly enjoyed learning from teacher and expert mariner Adam Parkinson.

"Adam's been really good to us, sharing with us how the maritime industry has grown over his career. We've got to tour commercial cruise ships and tall ships, and we even got to go on a jet boat on the Harbour thanks to his connections and the help of Tribal Warrior and the Sea Heritage Foundation," he said.

Students experiencing an exclusive Jet Boat experience on Sydney harbour. (Image: supplied)

Recognised as one of the oldest in the country, Australia's maritime workforce in desperate need of more skilled workers with advertisements for marine transport professionals tripling since the COVID-19 peak.

For Mr Parkinson, the course is an opportunity to inspire the next generation of maritime workers. After nearly 30 years in the industry spanning everything from operating barges and water taxis on the Harbour to working on superyachts in the Mediterranean for the likes of James Packer and Tiger Woods, Parkinson was eager to be able to educate and enhance the knowledge of the selected TAFE students.

"I started my career at 16 years old doing the same identical course at TAFE NSW as these students, and it took me to jobs all around the world. It's an incredible opportunity to now be part of training the next generation and imparting my passion for the industry and my learnings to them," he said.

"Loren is our star, he's the first one to arrive and the last to leave. The Certificate I in Maritime Operations (General Purpose Hand Near Coastal) means he and his classmates will be qualified to work as part of a crew on deck or in the engine room on any vessel in Australia, and several major employers have already expressed interest in hiring them.

"A career in maritime is exciting and varied, and the possibilities are endless. Now is a great time for anyone interested in joining the maritime industry to take the plunge because of the plethora of job opportunities and a range of fee-free study options at several TAFE NSW campuses across the state."

With an average working age of 45, the maritime workforce is eager to enhance and educate younger students, with the hopes that more and more young people will come forward and join this unique industry and training opportunity.

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