True blue jackeroos
HANDS calloused from gripping the reigns of horse’s bridle and forcefully managing a wriggly sheep with the sharp edges of a shear.
Before he came to Warwick, Afghani-born Ali Khanullah had never known the jackeroo life.
Known as Ali by his mates at the Southern Queensland Institute of TAFE’s “jackeroo school”, the only animal the 18-year-old had ever ridden was a saddle-less donkey with no nose for direction.
“The donkey went all over. Horses are much easier,” he said.
“Here we’ve also leaned to use the tractor, forklift and fencing.”
SQIT project officer Charlene Keller said the education facility in an Australian-first had crafted the working man’s occupation into a teachable curriculum complete with cocky lingo.
“Ali is one of 20 migrant and refugees from Burma, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka who have taken part in a Certificate II in Rural Operations,” Ms Keller said.
“There’s a heavy emphasis on English appropriate to the Australian rural setting.
“The students have learned horse riding, horse husbandry, cattle and sheep management work, hay baling, fencing, tractor and agricultural motor cycle operation and cattle pregnancy testing.”
Ms Keller said that the state and federal governments had contributed $120,000 and $178,000 respectively to teach the students the way of the land.
SQIT director David Taylor said the students were two weeks off completing the course and had been approached by Southern Downs properties to employ the newly accredited jackeroos.
“We hope these guys will have jobs within the month. They have all indicated they want to stay in the Warwick area,” Mr Taylor said.
“Rural operations certificates have been part of our rural course for several years but it’s been modified for migrant workers by adding an English-language component. “Some Australian terms they can’t quite get the hang of.
“People ask them, ‘How you going?’ and you often get a surprised look and they’ll answer, ‘I’m going to the toilet’.”Yesterday’s jackeroo open day – an opportunity for students to show off their country skills – concluded with a barbecue.
When student Sadeq Mohammad was questioned if he was ready for smoko, he assured me he didn’t smoke.