For Christopher Hanslow, 19, from Port Pirie, a unique training course run by the Australian Defence Force has opened the door to a new career.
He has just graduated from the ADF’s Indigenous Pre-Recruitment Course (IPRC) and has been offered a job as a Rifleman in the Australian Army.
The six week course offers young people from Indigenous backgrounds the chance to experience military life in an environment that builds skills and self-confidence while respecting Indigenous culture.
"It brings the two cultures together – military and Indigenous culture," said Chris. "It's been easy to mix the two cultures on this course, as family and trust are big parts of both cultures," he said.
The IPRC focuses on five core training modules; Indigenous and military culture; academic advancement; fitness and life skills; introduction to military training; and job preparation and interview skills.
Chris graduated from the 02-2015 IPRC in Adelaide, where it was supported by the 9th Brigade of the Australian Army.
For Chris, the course meant six weeks away from home immersed in a range of experiences including field training, live firing exercises and daily life in a barracks setting.
At the start, Chris found some parts of the routine challenging – it took time to get used to the early mornings.
"Spending time in the classroom at TAFE was the hardest part, as the classwork was challenging," said Chris.
"The study has helped me better understand the things I learnt in high school, by making it clearer for me, like working out percentages, for example.
"The instructors have been very helpful and the respect for them on this course has been massive," he said. "It's been like my own family."
The Senior Indigenous Mentor of the course, Warrant Officer Class One Colin Watego, is a Bundjalung and Torres Strait Island man who has served in the ADF for 40 years.
He said the course offers high-quality training to young Indigenous Australians from a range of cultural backgrounds.
"The Indigenous Pre-Recruitment Course offers unique opportunities for personal and professional development that participants will take with them into a career in the ADF or back to their local communities," he said.
"The ADF values and supports young Indigenous people and I am proud to be part of the leadership team running this course."
For Chris, the course has offered him new skills that he hopes to use in his new career.
"I’d like to join the infantry then learn a trade," said Chris.
"This is a starting point for me and eventually I'd like to set up my own business. My family think it's awesome I'm doing the course - they are really proud."