Aquaculture Magazine

Aquaculture project helps Victorian Indigenous community

An aquaculture project run by the community is also now helping to keep some women out of jail.

Australia: About three hours' drive from Melbourne lies a small Aboriginal community taking advantage of its coastal location to create jobs and income.

On the industrial outskirts of Bairnsdale in eastern Victoria, a row of sheds is home to an innovative fish farm.

The aquaculture manager Jaime-Lee Martin says it's a job that has her hooked.

"It is crazy, it's like something out of a dream I can't believe it's actually happening and to be in Bairnsdale doing this. It's unbelievable" she said.

The enthusiastic 24-year-old admits tending to fish may not be for everyone but she's come a long way to head up the farm for fish, lobbies and yabbies.

Inspiring those around her, Ms Martin has become a mentor for other indigenous women in the community.

The aquaculture project is helping women who have the option to work off court-ordered sentences, instead of going to jail, like Sandra Chester.

"I had some outstanding speeding fines and this organisation is able to have people do their community work and that's how I came to be here," she said.

Homeless when she was 15, Jaime-Lee says that experience made her determined to change her life.

"I remember looking around at family and friends just the lifestyle that everybody was leading, I didn't want to end up like that," she said.

"I really wanted a career and better myself. I put my head in my books and literally stayed there for years and when I pulled my head out I was somewhere really good."

The Bairnsdale Fish Farm was set up four years by the Aboriginal Co-Operative. Acting CEO of the Co-op, Peter Ryan, says it's this kind of concept that's crucial for strengthening the community.

"I think enterprises are extremely necessary for the future of Aboriginal communities to become self-sufficient."

Ms Martin believes the adversity she faced when she was younger gave her the resilience she needs as an aspiring businesswoman.

"I'm glad about what I went through. It's made me a better person, it's made me appreciate stuff a lot better it made me realise how good and bad life can be so I'm very happy to be where I am and I wouldn't change anything for the world."


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