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Deadly Hair Dude Inspiring Indigenous Students and Communities

A lawyer-turned-hairdresser is training Indigenous students in the art of 'clippers', hoping to inspire employment opportunities by taking barbering out bush. Darwin-based hairdresser Gary Strachan is behind the 'Deadly Hair Dude' not-for-profit project. Having called the Top End home for more than 40 years, Mr Strachan said his experiences in remote communities fueled his eagerness to give back to community in the form of a trade. Gary yarns with Gman on Big Brekkie. "I want to support small communities as best I can with the trade I know best." Over the course of 12 months Deadly Hair Dude will train Indigenous students from across the Top End in hairdressing and barbering. Once completing the traineeship, students can choose to continue studying a diploma or take their skills into remote communities.

"This will allow our students to return to community and provide a new service in remote areas," Mr Strachan said. Prior to hairdressing, Gary said he experienced life in remote communities through a completely different lens. "I was a lawyer out bush and I noticed something very distinct in the courtroom; I haven't been able to shake it since," he said. "I was representing Aboriginal community members, considering the distance many of them had travelled to appear in court [and] I noticed sometimes my clients would look scruffy appearing before the judge.

'Success is as simple as a good haircut' Former police officer Ashleigh Brown comes from a background of professional and workplace training and will assist the project by formalising the traineeship process. Mr Brown identifies as an Aboriginal man and has worked extensively with the Kabi Kabi community on the Sunshine Coast. He said these experiences highlighted a gap in employment opportunities. "Growing up as a kid I definitely experienced some adversity and it was a challenge to get a traineeship," he said. "Now, I notice our local Aboriginal community in Darwin feeling timid even to walk into a salon for their own self-care, and we want to change that."

"Of course, we also want to recognise cultural boundaries and expectations, if our students need to partake in sorry business or have a death in the family we will not stunt them from achieving their goal. "By then taking a traineeship or a diploma of hairdressing back into the community, hopefully that will encourage other young ones or aunties and uncles. We want to offer new opportunities." Mr Brown said learning the art of clippers could "go along way".

"A haircut makes you feel a million bucks, and by learning these skills a simple haircut could lead to a gainfully employed future for our local communities," Mr Brown said. "This is all about grassroots, we want communities to contact us and any kids in remote areas interested in learning committing to that ownership and coming our way," Mr Strachan said. "Everyone needs these start-up skills, no matter where home is, and I want to do my part to facilitate that gap — everyone deserves a fair go."


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