For 12 years, the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association has been helping Indigenous people get a start in the industry.

Story Kerry Sharp  

Kayla Costello was in her early teens when she set her heart on a career in the cattle industry. Raised on vast Alexandria station, on the Barkly Tableland, she remembers being 12 or 13 and helping her truck-driving Pop load cattle by chasing the hefty beasts up the ramp. “It was so exciting,” she says. “It made me realise I wanted to make a career of this line of work.” 

Kayla, now 17, is one 10 new recruits to the Pastoral Real Jobs Program (RJP), an NT Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA) initiative launched in 2008 to boost Indigenous employment in Australia’s northern pastoral industry. The peak industry body runs the acclaimed program in partnership with the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC).

Kayla completed a Charles Darwin University Certificate II in Rural Operation through Katherine High School’s VET program and now wants to attain her Certificate III through RJP. “I love being out bush, working with animals, getting dirty, doing something worthwhile from sunrise to sundown and working hard with good mates in a profession I love,” she says.

Her career choice has been influenced by a deep love and respect for family role models, including her Dad and both grandfathers, who work on Alexandria. “One Pop is nearly 80 now and has worked there more than 50 years,” she says. “I could easily go there and be Dad’s wingman, but first I want to learn as much as I can through this program, make a name for myself in the industry and one day run my own stock camp.”

The five male and five female trainees chosen this year range in age from 18 to 28 years and were selected from more than 30 applicants. They come from the Katherine region, Victoria River Downs, Bullo River, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs communities. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #137

Outback Magazine: June/July 2021