Toyota Cowboys NRL squad members Zac Santo and Javid Bowen went bush this week to congratulate nine young Indigenous Australians about to start their careers in Queensland’s rural industry through the Cowboys’ Learn to Earn program.

The nine students are completing a six-week live-in Certificate II in Agriculture training course held at the Toomby Horsemanship Ultimate Rural Training Centre located at Wonderland Station in Alice River.

The group’s training has now come to an end and the students will split up and move to cattle properties across Queensland and the Northern Territory to start their work experience.

Trainer Geoff Toomby said: “They're a great group who all have their sights set on working in the cattle industry. 

“They’ve had a taste of working on a property while they’ve been doing their training and now it’s time for them to spread their wings and get a paying job and some hands-on experience on a working property.”

The partnership between the Cowboys’ Learn to Earn program, the Australian Government and Geoff and Vicki Toomby’s Rural Training Centre allows these Indigenous Australians to achieve entry level qualifications and a guaranteed job placement with a rural employer over the next 12 months.

“We have participants from all over North Queensland including remote communities such as Palm Island and Torres Strait doing the course as well as a couple who have been in the justice system,” Mr Toomby said.

“Even though some students have never been near a property before, they're showing a real talent for horse and cattle work.”

Cowboys community relations manager Fiona Pelling said: “We're determined to give these guys every chance of succeeding.

“In addition to being trained by the Toombys, who are some of the best in the business and have the industry knowledge to source appropriate job placements on some of the biggest properties in North Australia, we support them with personal mentoring by our Indigenous mentoring staff.

“This occurs for 12 months during their training and continuing on to when they get out to their job placement on one of the properties.”

The students have learnt everything from horsemanship to butchering, operating farming machinery, station weed control and camp cooking to the all-important stock handling skills. 

“I’m amazed how good these guys are and how much they’ve already learnt,” Cowboys player Zac Santo said.

“I’m sure they’re going to do fine when they get out on the job.”