TEN indigenous students have become deckhands through a TAFE NSW maritime program.

TAFE developed the Get Into Maritime program in partnership with the Sea Heritage Foundation and the Prince’s Trust Australia.

The initiative aims to give indigenous maritime students the opportunity to develop hands-on skills and a pathway to a career and further study.

It was also designed to create social and economic change for Indigenous Australians in the maritime industry.

According to TAFE NSW, nearly half of maritime employees are above the age of 45 and the younger workforce predominantly works casually.

The institution said ads for marine transport professionals have tripled since the peak of covid.

Loren Lazarevic, 22, said he has wanted to join the Australian Navy since touring the HMAS Newcastle as a child.

He is now qualified to work on a near coastal vessel as a deckhand across the country and plans to apply for next year’s intake.

“The experiences I’ve had through Get Into Maritime have given me a much better understanding of the roles of the crew and helped me develop life-saving skills like sea survival, firefighting and CPR,” he said.

“Before I started the program, I had people tell me that they didn’t think I could finish it or even do it at all – but I’ve been able to prove them wrong.

“Now I’m eager to take the next step and join the Navy next year, and hopefully I’ll be able to help my teammates by passing on my knowledge and experience to them, too.”

Mr Lazarevic said his TAFE NSW teacher and expert mariner Adam Parkinson had brought out his newfound confidence in a supportive environment.

“Adam’s been really good to us, sharing with us how the maritime industry has grown over his career,” he said.

“We’ve got to tour commercial cruise ships and tall ships, and we even got to go on a jet boat on the Harbour thanks to his connections and the help of Tribal Warrior and the Sea Heritage Foundation.”

Mr Parkinson, who has been in the industry for nearly 30 years, said the course was an opportunity to inspire the next generation of maritime workers.

“I started my career at 16 years old doing the same identical course at TAFE NSW as these students, and it took me to jobs all around the world,” he said.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to now be part of training the next generation and imparting my passion for the industry and my learnings to them.

“The Certificate I in Maritime Operations (General Purpose Hand Near Coastal) means he and his classmates will be qualified to work as part of a crew on deck or in the engine room on any vessel in Australia, and several major employers have already expressed interest in hiring them.

“A career in maritime is exciting and varied, and the possibilities are endless. Now is a great time for anyone interested in joining the maritime industry to take the plunge because of the plethora of job opportunities and a range of fee-free study options at several TAFE NSW campuses across the state.”

Get Into Maritime is a culmination of three years of work between the Sea Heritage Foundation, the TAFE NSW Indigenous Engagement team and Prince’s Trust Australia.