By JURIS GRANEY
THE North Coast Computer Project (NCCP) has gone from a small operation eking out an existence at the Lower Clarence Rowing Club shed in 2003 to opening a satellite operation on the Mid North Coast two years later.
And the NCCP's work has not gone unnoticed, garnering national recognition and praise from everyone, including global computer giant Microsoft.
Now based at the North Coast Institute of TAFE's Maclean campus, the NCCP won two national grants for an Indigenous Engagement Project.
With only three grants handed out nationally from 32 applicants, it is a major coup for the small operation.
The grants have enabled the NCCP to set-up new learning courses, which will include the installation of 60 computers at Hillcrest and Pippi Beach Yamba Aboriginal communities.
Also on the agenda is the creation of websites for the Yaegl and Birrigan Gargle communities along with courses specifically run for indigenous individuals in the area like information technology, build your own computer and webbased design classes.
On top of the grants, the group has also hired the first indigenous Australian trainee under the program, 19-year-old Kaelah Lines.
But the group's coup de grace remains their new satellite operation at Macksville.
Scouts for the group have been identifying key locations in the region to house the operation, which will be run the same as the Maclean-based group.
NCCP's Bernie Francis said it is expected the operation will be open by mid-August.
Campus manager Lyn McGuire said the past couple of months had shown just how successful smaller areas in Australia can be.
"It is a big thing for us to receive two grants when only three were given out," Mrs McGuire said.
"Then to have Kaelah become the first-ever trainee with this program is great.
"The programs we will be running opens up the world to indigenous Australians."
Mrs McGuire said the new set of courses offered at Maclean TAFE would complement previous IT courses run for local Aboriginal elders.
The NCCP has come a long way since its inception in 2003, Mrs McGuire said.
"In the two-and-a-half years, the NCCP has recycled 600 computers."
The not-for-profit organisation sells the computers at a discounted rate to people in the Clarence Valley.
The NCCP has just been accredited under the Microsoft Authorised Refurbisher Program allowing the group to install Windows 2000 Pro on all their outgoing computers.
"Microsoft believes that all people, regardless of their circumstances, should have access to, and the ability to benefit from, technology," Microsoft Australia director of citizenship Sarah Hatcher said.
"We believe that this project will provide technology access and opportunities for many long-term unemployed and dis- advantaged indigenous adults."