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Lawrence Kelly arrived in Sydney with just $20 in his wallet and just one bag of clothes. But after completing the Koori Job Ready course as part of the Aboriginal Employment Program, Lawrence is finding success by working in construction for Lend Lease.
“I moved to Sydney from Coffs Harbour to work around seven years ago,” explains Lawrence. “I came down here with nothing – I had $20 to my name so the first few weeks was a struggle. Thankfully my Uncle got me a laboring job and told me about the Koori Job Ready Course so I enrolled and took part in the eight-week course in construction.”
Since then, Lawrence has completed an apprenticeship in carpentry and has been working for Lend Lease. He is currently working at the construction site for the $500 million Darling Quarter project in Sydney, managing sub-contractors as the Leading Hand.
“My aim is to become a site manager,” says Lawrence. “I have worked on a variety of sites such as the new Commonwealth Bank site at Darling Quarter, Barangaroo South and the Royal North Shore Hospital redevelopment, so I am always learning. With technology, there’s always new ways to do things and I love the freedom of working outside and working with my hands. I also love working on a job from start to finish – it goes from being just a hole in the ground to a building.”
The Aboriginal Employment Program offers students training in the construction, rail, and aviation industries through the Koori Job Ready Course as well as hospitality and catering at Yaama Dhiyaan. Since its inception in 2006, over 850 employment opportunities have been created for Aboriginal people.
Rohan Tobler, Senior Project Manager, mentors many of the graduates, including Lawrence, and finds the role an inspiring one. “It is rewarding to witness the success of many of the graduates, many of whom have come from disadvantaged backgrounds,” he says. “I negotiate employment opportunities with companies and mentor graduates to ensure they have the support they need. I have been working with Lawrence for many years now and I am proud of what he has achieved.”
Lawrence will be working on site at Darling Quarter for the next four months. “My day is always varied from dealing with sub-contractors, managing deliveries, carpentry work, and keeping the public informed.
“It’s a long way from when I first arrived in Sydney – it took me a while to get used to the city as the country is very different. It was a challenge but I am really enjoying what I am doing now and I am looking forward to the day when I am managing large sites by myself.”