Murdi Paaki Regional Enterprise Corporation Ltd (MPREC) currently has several enterprises operating in Cobar aimed to provide participants with on-the-job skills to assist them in gaining employment.
MPREC is an indigenous non-government organisation which provides services to remote Aboriginal communities.
In Cobar this includes Centrelink services, Community Development Programs and Social Enterprise Programs.
MPREC Cobar’s employment manager Vicky Ansin told The Cobar Weekly part of the service also includes developing specialised case management plans, which are very comprehensive, for those with significant barriers to entering the workforce.
As part of the Social Enterprise Program the clothing store Chi Chi, purchased in June, is providing the opportunity for MPREC participants to learn new skills in retail.
MPREC also runs a Cobar Sporting Clubs Project, where participants work with a number of local clubs to assist them with the maintenance of their sporting grounds.
The Cobar Market Garden nursery, located on the Fort Bourke Lookout Road on a 22 hectare block, has become a hive of activity in the past 12 months and has grown past what the organisation ever expected.
Ms Ansin said the nursery now has chickens, ducks and pigs on site, as well as growing a range of vegetables, herbs and fruit.
She said the idea of MPREC taking over the nursery lease was originally suggested by Joan Evans, a member of the board, and they officially took over the lease in 2013. The MPREC participants were then offered work there as a Work for the Dole activity.
“The program was designed to propagate seeds to assist Peak Gold Mines in the revegetation of sites. We continue to do this and we have a good relationship with Chris Higgins,” Ms Ansin said.
She said the nursery Social Enterprise Program provides employment free from the onerous regulations of working on a mine-site, which often results in Aboriginal employees breaching mine policies, leading to their dismissal.
With an increase in participation numbers, MPREC has added additional activities to the nursery.
The first project was to make the nursery run completely on permaculture principals.
“All our produce is grown with no pesticides or non-organic fertilisers. The introduction of the animals has supported this process,” Ms Ansin said.
The nursery has also developed an extensive worm farm.
“The general public is able to buy directly from the garden beds at affordable prices.
“We also have had a stall at the markets and hope to continue this,” Ms Ansin said.
The nursery struggled a little over winter and mainly focused on growing herbs, but it is currently being boosted back up, and lots of wildflowers are growing.
The staff are excited to see what the rain and heat will now bring out.