Environmental program to build Illawarra's Green Army

Killalea Park manager Nathan Cattell

Killalea Park manager Nathan Cattell

Tony  Abbott's Green Army will help build a track linking Killalea State Park to Shellharbour in the coming months, as the region's 17 to 24-year-olds become some of the first to try out the government's new environmental program.

Killalea park manager Nathan Cattell said he had high hopes for the program, which would help young people get jobs.

"They'll be working on a track construction project, basically linking the park to Shellharbour and the wider community," Mr Cattell said.

"Our main objective is to have that whole eight kilometre coastline as a walk."

He said the 10 people who were successful in applying to be part of Killalea's Green Army would gain experience in managing noxious weeds and identifying endangered plants and animals, as well as construction of the bush pathway and park management.

"We've got high expectations on ourselves as a host," he said. "We want to actively assist in them getting employment and I'd like to see them work in park management or go and further their studies at Yallah TAFE."

Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis said the Green Army would soon be deployed at five sites in the Illawarra, including Killalea, Yallah TAFE and Bundanon.

Each site would employ 10 young people, she said.

"Gilmore is a region with very high average unemployment, especially among our young people, so the quick rollout of this program across our area is a true testament to how serious the government takes our local unemployment situation," she said.

Workers will be paid between $10 and $16 an hour for 30 hours a week, which is less than the minimum wage but higher than Newstart or Youth Allowance rates.

They will also be able to obtain Certificate I or II qualifications and can gain occupational health and safety and first aid skills during the six month program, Ms Sudmalis said.

Launching the program on Sunday, Mr Abbott stressed the Green Army was separate to the work-for-the-dole program, calling it an "environmental traineeship".

"It's six months of good work and good comradeship that you can come back and look at in the years ahead and say, 'I did that for my country'," he said.

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