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First Nations-led pilot program promotes digital inclusion

Located at the TAFE Queensland Nurunderi campus on Wakka Wakka Country, the Cherbourg First Nations Service Centre is shaping the future of economic development in Queensland’s First Nations communities. 

Now in its second year of operation, the service centre has grown from eight to 30 employees who provide IT support to the centre’s foundation client, tech giant Fujitsu.

Those engaged in the program are employed by Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council and undertake job readiness training at TAFE Queensland to achieve a Certificate III in Business (BSB30120) qualification.

The service centre is part of a three-year pilot program, between Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council, Queensland Department of Innovation, Tourism and Sport and TAFE Queensland, that is designed to boost the economic development of Queensland First Nations communities through digital skills training and employment opportunities.

TAFE Queensland Chief Executive Officer John Tucker said the provision of training and skills in First Nations communities provided many benefits, including financial stability and confidence, as well as improvements to living standards.

“I am incredibly proud to say our training is helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to not only build lifelong careers, but most importantly enriching their local communities and industries and strengthening their local communities,” Mr Tucker said.

“This Service Centre is evidence of the critical role training and skills plays in supporting First Nations people to build better lives for themselves and their community.”

As the foundation customer, Fujitsu encouraged other corporates who are looking to create meaningful social impact and drive digital inclusion to consider the First Nations Service Centre.

Nicole Forrester, Head of Office of Purpose, Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand said: “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including those in Cherbourg, have continued to demonstrate unmatched strength and resilience, and it’s time this value is recognised by corporate Australia. We’re immensely proud to collaborate with the Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council and community to support them as they take hold of their future and leverage the industry-wide digital transformation brought on by COVID-19.”

The service centre is now a fully community-owned and operated enterprise, with revenue reinvested for the benefit of the enterprise and the community, and as staff get more training, the centre will take on more complex IT jobs for Fujitsu and assist them with banking, insurance and government services.

Now in its second year of operation, the centre has already more than doubled in employees with capacity for further growth, which includes expanded services on behalf of the Queensland Government (Department of Digital Economies Smart Services Queensland and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries).

Similar programs at Palm Island and Jumbun are now also operating, with staff commencing training in mid 2023, for foundation client Telstra.

The program was awarded Highly Commended at both the 2022 Premier’s Awards for Excellence and the 2023 Queensland Reconciliation Awards | Partnerships.