$10m commitment to invest in Aboriginal training and jobs program

6 May 2019
New funding announcement will grow Poche Centre program
A $10 million commitment by the Federal Opposition announced today will help grow the University of Sydney's highly successful Aboriginal jobs and skills program.

The funding will help the University’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health expand its customised model of learning support which has so far seen 400 health related qualifications awarded to Aboriginal scholars through TAFE. It will allow a further 1300 Aboriginal people in rural Australia to gain qualifications while they undertake paid work experience.  

The Poche Centre works with communities to identify local skills shortages and assist locals to get qualified for those jobs. Funding announced today will enable Aboriginal people from across Australia to gain skills and employment in much needed areas such as disability services, aged care, community health and hospitality. Participating employers provide paid work to the scholars in the area of their study for the duration of the course.

Rachel Williams, a graduate from the centre, undertook her Certificate III and IV in Dental Assisting in 2015 while she was working as a trainee dental assistant at Armajun Aboriginal Health Service in Inverell. She did so well that she was accepted into the Bachelor of Oral Health at the University of Sydney. Rachel recently completed her degree and is now back at Armajun as their Registered Oral Health clinician providing treatment to people from across the region.

Associate Professor Kylie Gwynne, who led the evaluation of the program over the past four years said: “Our customised model has enabled 96% of participants to complete their qualifications, three times the average completion rate for Aboriginal students at TAFE.  We are eager to offer the program to more communities and more scholars.”

The Poche Centre has called the program Project5000 as it ultimately wants 5000 Aboriginal people to be qualified and in local secure jobs. Its model utilises combination of practical, social, cultural and learning support and ensures that the scholars graduate with relevant and local workforce skills alongside their qualifications. Preliminary economic analysis estimates a cost-benefit of more than $27,000 for every job secured.

Bundjalung Elder and Director of the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health Boe Rambaldini said, “This announcement means so much to Aboriginal people across Australia and brings hope for building skills and securing local, stable employment. We are proud of the results our scholars have achieved and the success of our seven-stage approach. Our team will be delighted to offer this program to another 1,300 Aboriginal people across Australia.”

Dalang Project Oral Health Therapist, Kiya Laird providing a dental screening and dental health education at Tingha Public School in Tingha, NSW.

Oral Health Therapist Kiya Laird providing dental screening and dental health education at Tingha Public School in NSW. 

The University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver welcomed the commitment to fund Project5000.

“Project5000 is an ambitious but practical and proven model of supporting Aboriginal people to obtain qualifications that will directly improve the quality of life into other communities,” she said.

“The Poche Centre has demonstrated how effective its model can be in delivering health care to regional and remote communities, employing a largely Aboriginal workforce and engaging with community partners in clinics, schools, healthcare settings and other community locations.

“This funding will allow us to commit to its expansion to in other communities and across other industries.”


  • Project5000 expands on the Poche Centre’s current program found to have delivered oral health care to Aboriginal communities in NSW at half the cost and twice the effectiveness of the NSW government’s model at the same time.
  • The model uses a localised approach, delivering services almost entirely in local communities with local community partnerships and accountability, employing both dentist and oral health therapists with new graduate clinicians.
  • It involves training and qualifying local Aboriginal people to enable them to deliver services to their own communities.
  • Project5000 is expected to include industries such as aged care, disability services, community health and hospitality – and could extend to construction and other industries depending on where local skills shortages are identified with local communities.
  • Over four years the project intends to work with 20 communities, over 1,300 participants, working in 1,000 jobs at a cost of $2.5m per year.
  • The Poche Centre will work with local industries to identify skills gaps, negotiate qualification type and level and agree on paid work experience arrangements that are directly linked to the qualification being undertaken.
Senator Doug Cameron, Shadow Minister for Skill, Tafe and Apprenticeships with Folau (Paul) Talbot, a dental technician and graduate of the Poche Centre.

Senator Doug Cameron, Shadow Minister for Skill, Tafe and Apprenticeships with Folau (Paul) Talbot, a dental technician and graduate of the Poche Centre.

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