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The interns at Ballina beach

Ballina and Lennox Heads beachgoers can feel much safer thanks to a local initiative that has seen seven ETC job seekers trained to use Drone technology to provide extra shark surveillance across the region’s beaches and waterways this summer.

Starting today, the candidates will commence a 4-week internship aimed at equipping them with industry specific skill sets and the professional attributes required to conduct drone operations within the local community. The internship will include an intensive training package delivered by Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver Pilots, combined with additional aviation training at The Ripper Aviation Academy.

The Ripper Aviation Academy’s General Manager Rob Curtis said the ‘extra eyes in the sky’ will provide a valuable aerial surveillance capability, capable of making a huge contribution towards public safety.

“We are really pleased to have partnered with ETC, Ballina Shire Council and the local community to provide this service. We’re finding there is a genuine appetite for using drones in this way and we are humbled by the support we’ve received for this program”, Mr Curtis said.

“The benefit of using Drones is that they provide a bird’s eye view over our waterways, particularly those that aren’t routinely patrolled. Over previous seasons, we’ve successfully employed drones for shark surveillance, spotting swimmers in distress, identifying dangerous conditions such as rips and conducting the words first surf rescue by a drone.”

Mr Curtis said that working with ETC has resulted in the creation of a training and employment program that not only delivers a service to the community, but also facilitates professional opportunities to local unemployed people. This is a model likely to be expanded into other areas across NSW and QLD.

One of the candidates Connor Prosser was excited by the opportunity to help protect his local community from sharks and to be working in one of the jobs of the future.

“I saw this as a once in a lifetime opportunity. The training was a bit daunting at first, but it’s been a really awesome experience. I’m so excited to start the internship,” Connor said.

ETC CEO Jenny Barnett said ETC was enjoying working with the Ripper Group, home of the Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver to provide this training and employment pathway for young job seekers.

“This was based on a successful model provided in Port Macquarie recently which saw four of our job seekers actually employed by the Ripper Group and now flying the Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver as Pilots – in fact, a couple of them have been helping to train and motivate the Ballina candidates,” Mrs Barnett said.

“Being a not-for-profit, employment service provider and Registered Training Organisation, ETC is proud to be supporting the Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver program. This aligns perfectly with our own goals of helping to reduce disadvantage and providing employment and training opportunities in the local region.”

Ballina Shire Mayor David Wright said he hoped this initiative would help Ballina locals and visitors feel safer on the town’s popular beaches.

“We are so lucky to have such amazing beaches on our doorstep. This initiative will boost the existing patrols already provided at our most popular beaches and is a step in the right direction towards giving our residents and visitors to the region peace of mind whilst enjoying our beautiful natural assets,” Mayor Wright said.


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