Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (12:57): Having lived in Western Sydney nearly all my life, it has been amazing to see how the place has changed. The pace of development has been incredible. Paddocks have been transformed into housing estates in what it feels like the blink of an eye. While bricks and mortar have spread rapidly in Western Sydney, residents in my neck of the woods also recognise the value of maintaining green space within the built space. Reflecting this, state governments and councils, to their credit, have been keen to establish more parkland out our way, and the Western Sydney parkland stands as a terrific example of this. But we need people to help maintain and protect these green spaces.
I recently attended a graduation ceremony for one of the National Green Jobs Corps projects in my area, and I met 14 young people who were not only impressive but inspiring. Most of them were early school leavers, who used the opportunity provided by the program to acquire skills and pursue options they never thought they would have. The National Green Jobs Corps is a 26-week training and work experience program, delivering 10,000 places over two years for eligible Australians aged from 17 to 24 and costing around $80 million. Participants undertake work experience and skills development on environmental projects, with 130 hours of this training leading to a nationally recognised qualification in horticulture or conservation and land management, helping them get ready for deployment in emerging green and climate change industries. The projects are focused on conservation, protection and rejuvenation of natural environment and cultural heritage. There are nine job and training providers nationally and over 120 projects across Australia, including water testing, bush regeneration, planting, surveying, track repairs and construction. The project recently completed in our area was titled Fixing the Hawkesbury: The Three R's—Restoration, Rivers and Revegetation, with the participants working on various sites around the Hawkesbury and Whalan areas. They undertook activities including the protection of a rare orchid and Aboriginal sites, which included engaging with schoolchildren in developing interpretive materials; restoration and protection of creek banks, waterways and fish habitats; monitoring water quality and flow with University of Western Sydney staff, Streamwatch and local volunteers; woody weed control; collecting seed; developing plant stock; and walking track and signage construction.
There is a saying that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination, and I think that is very true. Many of the young people involved in this particular project, with the discipline and dedication required to complete the project, will be empowered to embark on another journey with different dimensions: those of a skilled student, responsible adult and contributing citizen. I promised that I would refer to their achievements in our nation's parliament, and today I enthusiastically fulfil my commitment to them. Congratulations go to Aaron Albert, David Benington, Chris Borg, Bradley Bush, Chris Cameron, Shalom Fepoleai, Joseph Piggot, Sean Richmond, Luke Thompson and Tiffany Williams, who all received statements of attainment from the Certificate II in Conservation and Land Management. Daniel Cacation, Edison Lasuma and James Wood all completed the full Certificate II in Conservation and Land Management.
One of the successful graduates recounted to me how he got involved in the program. He said: 'The reason I wanted to go into the program was simple. I was at a job provider's premises. I saw a brochure that was green. I turned it over. It talked about this program, and I knew this was what I wanted to do.' So he followed it up, he stuck with the program and—from memory—he is going to be engaged in horticulture in a major Western Sydney council, Hawkesbury City Council. I remember the enthusiasm on his face and that of his mates and the fact that he said: 'I didn't want to go into a warehouse; it wasn't for me. I didn't want to go into logistics or transport. I wanted to do something with my hands, but outside and feeling like I was making a contribution to the environment.'
This is what I loved about the time I spent with the graduates: seeing the confidence and the excitement in their eyes as a result of completing the program and being connected with the community and the environment. I want to take the opportunity to congratulate them, to remark on the impression they left on me and to celebrate their achievements. They deserve recognition for their hard work and their contributions to their local community. The environmental restoration and regeneration works they undertook will serve as a long-lasting testament to their community and their personal success.