Page MP Janelle Saffin, pharmacist Kate Daniel, trainee Cherice Close, pharmacist Anna Nipperess and Cassie Ryan from CONNECT.
Page MP Janelle Saffin, pharmacist Kate Daniel, trainee Cherice Close, pharmacist Anna Nipperess and Cassie Ryan from CONNECT.

Indigenous traineeships in health

A number of local pharmacies are taking part in a new local employment project for Aboriginal high school students.

Launched recently by Page MP Janelle Saffin, the project provides for 15 Aboriginal high school students to study and train for a career in the pharmacy industry. Working with training provider CONNECT, the federal government is providing more than $112,000 in funding which will allow the students to undertake apprenticeships while studying at TAFE and finishing their high school studies.

“This is an excellent example of how the government’s Indigenous Employment Program is working in practical partnerships to overcome Indigenous disadvantage,” Ms Saffin said.

CONNECT support officer Cassie Ryan said the project was important because it helped girls to create a career pathway.

“Some of the girls didn’t know what they wanted to do when they finished school and this program helps to give them ideas,” Ms Ryan said. “The girls are signed up with the Australian Apprentices Centre for two-year school-based traineeships. They get to study Certificate II in Community Pharmacy at TAFE one day per week and at the end of the program, they have the chance to study Certificate III and IV.”

Cherice Close, a Year 10 student from Kadina High School, said she was excited about being involved with the program and was working in the pharmacy at Alstonville.

“I’ve just had my first day and I really like being a pharmacy assistant,” Cherice said. “I was interested in an apprenticeship in hairdressing and I found out from my school careers advisor that I could also do hair and beauty in a chemist. It’s a diverse job and the pay is good.

“I’ve been busy filing scripts and learning about customer service. It’s about having a good personality, being well presented and being easy to approach.”

Cherice said her mum is a registered nurse at an old people’s home and she was interested in helping people.

“I understand what old people want and I have compassion for them when they come into the chemist,” she said.

Explaining why it was mostly girls who expressed an interest in taking part in the program, Ms Saffin said that she believed that it was because women loved chemists.

“My mother and I spend time in together in chemists – we love looking at the beauty products. I think that the job holds a bit of glamour for the girls.”

In recent years, the health industry has been attracting more women and currently, about 60% of trainee doctors are women.

Ms Saffin said that the creation of these pharmacy apprenticeships showed the ability of government to think more broadly about how to meet community needs and get more people trained to work in the health industry.

“It’s not just more doctors that we need,” Ms Saffin said “We need more people in the retail industry as well.”

Goonellabah’s Chemist Warehouse store owner Anna Nipperess said she was happy to be able to help young Indigenous people get into the workforce.

“We had a young girl called Jasmine start working with us this week and we were really impressed,” she said. “It’s the first time we’ve done anything like this and we’re happy to be involved in a program that helps the community.”


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