West Australian Indigenous plumbers, Kim Narkle and Blake Bin Swani, were two of the ten winners of the 2019 Rheem Apprentice Plumber Grants program.

Mr Narkle and Mr Bin Swani competed against over one hundred apprentice plumbers aged between 15 and 43 from across the nation for the $3,000 grants – which included $2,000 towards educational costs and $1,000 towards tools and a tool tote.

Thirty-five-year-old Noongar man Kim Narkle is a father of two in his first year of a plumbing apprenticeship. Previously a cabinet maker, the Bunbury-based apprentice made the huge decision to switch trades.

“I knew it would be tough starting as an apprentice in a new trade, but I love being on the tools and I needed new opportunities. I decided having dual trades would be a good step and I wanted to continue mentoring, as a lot of local youth here are struggling to get educated and get into first-time jobs,” Mr Narkle said.

Kim Narkle says he loves being on the tools.

Mr Narkle, an active community member, has spent over two years mentoring youth at the local Bunbury skills and job centre. This is where he found the opportunity to pursue plumbing with Koormal Contracting.

“I’m very grateful to receive this grant, which will really help me and my family. I also couldn’t wait to tell my wife, who had a lot of concerns when I became a first-year apprentice at my age.”

Grant recipient Blake bin Swani is a twenty-year-old Indigenous man from Broome.

A father of two, Mr Bin Swani is a role model for both people in the industry and his community. A third year apprentice, Mr Bin Swani has hard work in his veins coming from a well-respected Broome family—his father was a pearl diver and his mother is a successful small business owner.

Mr Bin Swani is currently employed with NUDJ Plumbing Services, a partnership between Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Corporation, the Victorian Plumbers Union, Cooke & Dowsett Pty Ltd and the Jarlmadangah Burru Aboriginal Corporation.

This relationship is aimed at providing employment and training to Indigenous Australians specifically those in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions.

“When you see these young guys walk out on site, the kids look at them as rock stars. You can see them in awe of who they are and what they’re doing.”
– Darren Dawber, Cook & Dowsett WA Manager

Cook & Dowsett WA Manager, Darren Dawber, said Mr Bin Swani is an outstanding role model.

“He kicks goals for us all of the time – we look forward to seeing where it takes him,” Mr Dawber said.

“When you see these young guys walk out on site, the kids look at them as rock stars. You can see them in awe of who they are and what they’re doing. Instead of lying around and wasting their lives, they’re doing something that’s worthwhile and having an impact on themselves and their community. Kids really get inspired by that.”

Rheem Australia, since 2012, has awarded almost $250,000 in grants to apprentice plumbers across the country.

A full list of the 2019 Rheem Apprentice Plumber Grants program recipients can be found here:  www.rheem.com.au.