Fuel drums become furniture in creative NT community.

In the remote community of Barunga, 400 kilometres south-east of Darwin, there is hardly a home without at least one piece of junk furniture.

The colourful creations are the handiwork of local men and women who have mastered the art of turning items from the tip into treasured pieces.

They began by transforming wooden pallets into tables and chairs, and have now expanded their range to include old metal drums. The barrels that once contained aviation fuel are now blank canvases on which to showcase skills in welding, carpentry, and upholstery.

“We grab an old barrel, and what we do then is get the men to cut it, start trimming it, cut into the side of it – fold it back and start making the couch,” Tony Walla, a community member explained.

“There’s a lot of people looking at what we’re doing, and it’s a pretty good message that we’re sending to the people out there, that there are things to do without throwing it out in the dump.

“It’s good fun, plus you get more of the boys coming in once they heard about the project then we started getting more participants coming in from CDP [community development program].”

The program is part of an employment scheme with Roper Gulf council that upskills people who are looking for work. Jenelle Islob, CDP regional manager at Roper Gulf, agreed jobs in remote communities were limited.

“No matter which community you’re in, you’ve only got a small labour market that we can actually hone in on,” Ms Islob said.

To make the old fuel drums into an even seat, the process requires complex measurements and a keen eye for accuracy. Once men in the program have cut and welded the barrel into a seat, women then turn their hand to upholstery.

“We measure the cushion up, and then we put all the stuffing inside it,” Esther Bulenbarra said.

Ms Bulenbarra said as a volunteer she enjoyed passing on her sewing skills to other young women in the community.

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