There are just 3 days to go until the 20th cohort of the Australian Rural Leadership Program graduate in Darwin on Friday, 19 September! In this, our final instalment of the Territory Tuesday series, we bring you a double-header from Brooke Rankmore and Toby Gorringe - two very different leaders, with moving and inspiring stories. For the last six weeks we have dedicated each Tuesday to profiling a Fellow or graduate based in the Northern Territory.
Having completed my undergraduate BSc degree at UNE Armidale, I moved to the Territory in 2000 to take up a PhD scholarship at Charles Darwin University. I had applied for the scholarship after completing my Honours degree and really hadn't thought I'd be successful, as the environmental field was so competitive at that time. So, it was unexpected when I got the phone call offering me the candidacy. I remember ringing my mum super excited to tell her and she burst into tears that I would be moving so far away. But, moving to the Territory has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
My PhD study investigated the effects of land clearing and habitat fragmentation of flora and fauna of tropical savannas. It was the first study of its kind in northern Australia.
As a young scientist the wonderful thing about the Territory was that you were working in intact landscapes and every aspect of your study was discovering new and valuable information to inform management decisions. Research focused on key management issues that needed to be addressed. It gave real value to the work I was doing.
For my PhD studies I was based with the Biodiversity Conservation division of what was then the NT government Parks and Wildlife Commission. This office was full of passionate people working on key environmental issues threatening the biodiversity of the NT. It was a place where everyone loved what they did and was a lot like a family away from home. The NT and indeed northern Australia is a land of opportunity, where people are able to contribute towards something greater.
Since completing my studies I have worked in remote areas of the Territory working in conservation and land management in the pastoral industry and also with indigenous rangers protecting threatened species. I have been to amazing places and had wonderful adventures that few people will ever get to experience.
Most recently my leadership efforts have focused on what for many of us will be our greatest legacy, being a parent. I have a two year old little boy, Angus, who has been the focus of my attention for the past couple of years.
Just over a year ago I lost my second baby boy at 23 weeks gestation. Losing Conall has been the most devastating experience of my life and one that has changed me forever. For the last year my only focus has been on getting up each day and be there for my husband and son, getting through life and managing my grief.
Conall's angelversary was a turning point for me. I am now beginning to look to the future and think about the direction I want to take in life.
An aspect of this is working to improve support services for parents who have lost a child, as services in the NT are lacking and what is available is poorly underfunded.
My leadership focus is contributing through board positions with Territory Natural Resource Management and Sids and Kids NT.
What do you think the main challenges facing the Territory are, and do you think there is the leadership to meet them?
There are many challenges facing the Territory. Environmentally, our mammal species are declining at a rapid rate, despite our relatively intact landscapes. We have a three tier economy with Darwin booming, other towns in a status quo and remote indigenous communities with little to no economy, which are almost solely reliant on government funding.
The interest from the federal and Territory governments to develop the north must be managed carefully, otherwise we are likely to repeat the mistakes of the past.
The Territory is a wonderful place full of difficult challenges, but also amazing opportunities to contribute and make a difference.
The ARLP provides us with memories, learning and friendships that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Use what you have learned to enhance your life and the lives of those around you, be it at home, work and within your local community more broadly. You are soon to be part of an alumni of amazing people, with various skills and networks across the country, be sure to utilise it, not just within your course but also with those that have gone before you.
Toby Gorringe. TRAILblazers 2012. Ngukurr.
Toby Gorringe started life in the Channel Country in the small township of Windorah. He is a Mithaka man who has made the Territory his home for the past nine years. Toby says; "I just love the Territory. It's got a good climate, and wide-open spaces. I've always lived in the bush and that's where I feel at home, this is where I love to be."
A teacher by trade and by nature, Toby is Rural Operations Trainer with Ngukurr Community Education Centre, situated in South East Arnhem Land on the north bank of the Roper River, 70 kilometres from the Gulf of Carpentaria. "I'm passionate about these young kids," says Toby, "The kids love the program and it teaches them how to work. I'll say to them, 'go in and clean out that trough and then we'll ride the horses', they love riding so much that they will always do the work."
But Toby is deeply concerned about the children after they complete their education. He has very high retention rates but after the program has been completed, they become lost. "These are really good kids, they complete the program, but the jobs aren't there for them afterwards. The people who own properties won't give them a chance and on top of that, they get 'sit-down money' without leaving home. They don’t have to work."
"The statistics for young Aboriginal people in our gaols is terrible. The truancy officers are keeping the kids in the schools, that’s working, but what do they do once their schooling years are over? People won't employ them. Where are the jobs for these excellent young stockmen? Who are property owners, such as Charles Darwin University or the Indigenous Land Council employing? It's not our young people."
Passionate about the Territorians he has trained, Toby only wants to see them employed in jobs that they will love. He wants potential employers to understand that they won't be on the Internet answering job advertisements; they just have to come out and see the skills of these young trainees to build belief in them.
"I'm working to break this cycle; these kids have grandfathers who became so well known for their stock work and I want to see the same for this younger generation. These young Territorians deserve a chance."
And Toby is working towards helping them strive to become great stockmen. This determined man, who was a Northern Territory Finalist for Australia's Local Hero Award in 2012, is making a difference to so many young lives.
He hopes that in the future, the Territory will build a cross-cultural system that provides a pathway for young Aboriginal kids in the bush, so they can complete their education and go into jobs that are meaningful and enjoyable to them.