Nonprofit Group Trains Disadvantaged Aboriginal Youth

Australia’s Tribal Warrior Association (www. tribalwarrior.org) was established by concerned Aboriginal people with a view to spread and revitalize Aboriginal culture and to provide economic and social stability for it. The association provides quality training for employment skills and extends everyday practical assistance by distributing food and groceries to struggling families. The management committee of the association includes grassroots Aboriginal people from various areas and respected Elders.

The Tribal Warrior Association uses the 50-foot gaff-rigged ketch, Tribal Warrior, to train Aboriginal people to attain their Master Class V commercial maritime certificate and other qualifications including the radar certificate, and the marine engineer certificate. At more than 100 years old, the Tribal Warrior may be the oldest working boat in Australia. Based in Sydney Harbour, she is a unique piece of our maritime history. The boat has been restored and is lovingly cared for by members of the Tribal Warrior Association and the students of the Tribal Warrior Indigenous Maritime Training Program.

The Tribal Warrior was originally named Mina. She was built in the Torres Strait as a pearling lugger, and the history of pearling has not always been a happy one for Aboriginal people--abuses were common and the work was hazardous, with divers in the water for up to 10 hours a day. In the 1980s, the Ganabarr Morning Star Clan, traditional people of the Arnhem Land and Gove Peninsula area, adopted the boat. They named her Wutuku, meaning "drifting wood". On Sorry Day, 1999, the Tribal Warrior underwent a traditional smoking ceremony to purify, cleanse, and heal past memories.

Her masts are carved and painted in Aboriginal motifs. On all public occasions and celebrations, the Tribal Warrior flies the Koori Flag and the jib sail painted with the words "It’s a Koori harbour" and the Black Duck totem. Wherever the boat goes, or where Aboriginal people have seen it, it has been intimately their boat. This has been the spirit and goal from the beginning.

The Tribal Warrior Association uses the boat to train Aboriginal youth to attain their Master Class V Commercial Maritime Certificate and other qualifications. The first four students completed the program in November