Kaurilands Skills Centre
If you ever find yourself near Kaurilands Skills Centre in rural Northland, don’t expect to find anyone around, it’s a busy place and its clients can be found anywhere from the back of the farm to a dirt road on a remote peninsula, kilometres away.
Kaurilands Skills Centre is a small rurally based Trust, which operates on 45 acres near Dargaville. It is home to 16 residential clients and three day programme clients. The Centre’s key focus is on paid employment.
“The majority of our clients work for a refuge company and can be found running behind rubbish trucks or sorting recycling. Other clients get involved in the farm work, work in the Kaurilands laundry, or work for independent employers in the area,” says Kaurilands residential manager Karen Duncan.
There are also numerous other activities for the clients to participate in, there is a gym on site, and a little golf course. In Dargaville there is a craft centre that clients attend.
The crafts centre is operated in conjunction with another organisation, and is attended by clients of both organisations, as well as community volunteers.
“We aim to provide a good balance between on-site activities and community participation, we don’t want people sitting around doing nothing and Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm our clients are very busy,” says Karen.
Each client’s days is individually tailored for them depending on their needs, wants and requirements.
The hard work the clients put in on their rubbish truck runs, or while taking “a cow from the paddock to their dinner plate”, results in some awesome holidays.
Later this year a group of Kaurilands residents will be heading to Sydney, another client is off to Taihiti and another will tour the South Island.
“We look for a balance of holidays with-in New Zealand and overseas for them,” says Karen.
Twenty-two years ago, three people came together and put in $1,000 each and the Trust was formed. Today the Trust owns the 45 hectare property, mortgage-free and from small beginnings has grown into a relatively big operation.
“It’s a great place, and a busy place. We are well-known in the community, and the community is very accepting of us. Our clients are highly visible to the community as they cover a very large area on the rubbish trucks. They are treated the same as any other employee of a rubbish company would be, and that is great – free pies and all,” says Karen.
While it is fantastic that the clients are able to reside on land owned by the Trust and that despite their rural location they are all employed, there are a number of challenges that come hand-in-hand with such a rural location.
“Transport is the big one; there is no public transport to our door, so if our clients need to go anywhere our staff need to drive them. Furthermore there are no specialists in this area, which means a two-and-a-half hour trip to Auckland, often for an appointment that is only ten minutes,” says Karen.