Council uses environmental program to grow job opportunities for youth

Date published: 31 March 2022

Townsville City Council has used a Queensland Government-funded environmental program to help improve the local environment and create job opportunities for First Nations Australians, long-term unemployed and underemployed youth.

The Reef Assist program has delivered restorative ecological projects to areas around Townsville while creating job opportunities for locals.

Council's Community Health, Safety and Environmental Sustainability Committee chairperson Maurie Soars said the program has been a huge success and helped to remove a significant amount of weeds from around the region.

"Through the program, we employed about 25 people and helped to remove more than 250 tonnes of weeds from areas around Townsville," Cr Soars said.

"About 70 per cent of those who worked in the program were First Nations Australian youth, and most of them have gone on to find full-time employment.

“Some young people part of the Youth Justice system were also involved in the program, and three of those were offered full-time apprenticeships.”

Three Big Rivers Executive Director Thomas Holden said the investment from the Queensland Government and the collaboration with Townsville City Council had produced real employment pathways for First Nations people.

“Three Big Rivers employed 10 First Nations Australians in the program and eight of those have gone on to gain full-time employment in sectors like mining and government,” Mr Holden said.

Cr Soars said the program has also delivered significant environmental benefits for the Townsville region and has helped show local businesses the potential economic opportunities of using weeds as a resource.

"Council converted the weeds collected during the program into high-quality soil, which we have been using across the city,” he said.

"We want to demonstrate to local businesses that there is an economically viable market for the removal, recycling and reuse of resources that would otherwise go to landfill and drive a circular economy."

Cr Soars said multiple businesses have already benefitted from the program since it started last year.

"We have worked with more than 38 local businesses for the supply of goods and services to help carry out these environmental projects.

"We have also worked closely with some smaller businesses and First Nations organisations to identify ways to capitalise on future waste-to-resources initiatives," Cr Soars said.

For more information, go to Reef Assist – Business Activation and Environmental Restoration.