AN ACCIDENT may have grounded Jessica Leigh Henry's dreams of pursuing a career as a pilot, but she's enjoying being a part of the aviation environment thanks to a new Illawarra-based initiative, Boorowa Aviation.
The indigenous teenager received a kickstart to her aviation career, landing a job at the Illawarra Regional Airport, Albion Park Rail. The 17-year-old Wollongong resident began her new full-time role as an administration worker at NSW Air a few weeks ago.
Boorowa Aviation began as the brainchild of Adam Brady, 34, an Aboriginal youth support worker and passionate pilot who has been flying since the age of 16.
Now the organisation, developed in 2007 in partnership with the Bendigo Bank Aerial Patrol and Illawarra Aboriginal Corporation and officially launched this year, provides indigenous youths support and opportunities to aim for the sky.
Boorowa is a Dharawal word for "above and beyond".
It offers programs for children younger than 12, trial instructional flights for teenagers, pilot training through schools and indigenous commercial pilots licence training.
Mr Brady hosted young people from throughout NSW on a three-day aviation awareness course at the Royal Australian Air Force base at Williamtown late last month.
The RAAF hosted a similar event at Richmond in July, which Ms Henry attended.
Mr Brady said of the 24 young people who attended the camps, 10 were actively pursuing careers in the defence forces.
However, Ms Henry is the first to gain fully-fledged employment via the program.
The NSW Air flying school at the airport is owned by the Aerial Patrol, one of Boorowa's many partners.
Unfortunately, an accident a few years ago left Ms Henry blind in one eye, but Boorowa opened a door for her.
The teenager is also undertaking a night business studies course at TAFE.
"It's awesome; it's such a good environment and I'm getting heaps of advice," she said. "I can still be a part of something . . . It's great being around the environment, [which] is as close as I could possibly get to having a flying career.
"I'm happy with that. You may not always quite get to your dream, but you can get pretty close. [Even] if there are little things to hold you back [slightly], never let them hold you back entirely."
Aerial Patrol general manager Harry Mitchell said as interest in the program spread nationwide, he was confident of up to half a dozen more positive employment outcomes by the end of 2013.
Mr Brady agreed, saying the program was all about creating a range of opportunities.