An innovative new program has commenced in Far East Gippsland to support bushfire recovery efforts and deliver important education and employment opportunities to local youth.

The Bushfire Recovery Conservation program, delivered by Envite Environment, working closely with TAFE Gippsland, Bushfire Recovery Victoria, Moogji Aboriginal Council and Parks Victoria, provides traineeships in conservation and ecosystem management and uses bushfire recovery projects to build the skills and real-world experience of participants. The program is offered in bushfire-affected communities across East Gippsland, including Orbost, Mallacoota and Cann River. It will employ over 12 trainees over the next 14 months.

The program has been supported with a $850,000 grant under the Victorian and Federal Government’s Local Economic Recovery program and is being administered by Regional Development Victoria (RDV). The program will primarily target members of the community who may be experiencing barriers to employment or otherwise disadvantaged. This includes local youth, Indigenous Australians and the under-employed.

“Over the past 18 months, Envite has been working across East Gippsland where we’ve seen the devastation and emotional impact that these bushfire events have had on our community, but in particular we saw the vulnerability of the young adults in these communities.”

“While other people their age are navigating the transition from high school into work or study, young people in places like Mallacoota, Orbost and Cann River have fewer opportunities and, as with the environment and the rural economy, are still recovering from the trauma.” Said Abigail Wills, Victorian State Manager of Envite Environment.

“This program aims to empower young people by building their confidence, providing a sense of purpose and creating direction through education and work experience that ultimately sets them up for a career path in conservation and related fields; skills that are highly valued in this beautiful wilderness coast region.”

Trainees will learn important skills in areas such as weed management, revegetation, fencing, seed collection and propagation, and the conduct of site assessments. They’ll receive certified training in Conservation and Ecosystem Management, delivered by TAFE Gippsland, in addition to career mentoring and job preparation skills to assist their transition into further employment.

Member for Eastern Victoria Jane Garrett said she will be delighted to see the program getting ready to welcome its first intake of trainees.

“It’s difficult to overestimate the impact of bushfires on communities across East Gippsland but in particular on young people who may have struggled with the enormity of what happened.”

“Giving these young people an opportunity to work through the aftermath of the fires while developing practical knowledge will give them new skills and leg-up in the job market.”

The program commenced on 15th June, with 8 trainees from Lakes, Orbost, Marlo, Cann River and Mallacoota starting on 28th June.

“We’ve already received 20 expressions of interest from community groups, organisations and individuals seeking assistance on projects in areas such as Buchan, Cann River, Chandler’s Creek, Mallacoota and Cape Conran.” Said Abigail.

“The diversity of works and environments in which we’ll be working will mean that our trainees gain a broad range of skills and experience that will strengthen their employability long term.”

“By working on projects that support individuals and communities, our trainees can play an active, positive and rewarding role in bushfire recovery.” Added Abigail.

A second round of traineeships will be announced on the Envite website in November, with the next round of participants to commence in January 2022.