Indigenous contractors such as Warrikal, Carey Mining, and Brida illustrate the increasing maturity of the sector.
As the co-founder and chief executive of Western Australia’s largest indigenous contractor, Amanda Healy sees a bright future.
“I can, for the first time in my life, see a shift in attitude to Aboriginal people and businesses,” Ms Healy told Business News.
“We see the emergence of a very broad range of skills and experience shining through.
“And given that Aboriginal people are more inclined to employ their own, we will see an increase in employment opportunities for our people, across a huge range of businesses.”
“We opened for business in 2017 and hit the ground running,” she said.
Warrikal’s biggest client is Fortescue Metals Group, for which it has done numerous shutdowns on fixed plant.
Other major clients include BHP, Rio Tinto, and Pilbara Minerals.
Its workforce has grown to about 350 people, with 18 per cent being indigenous, putting it at the top of Business News’s Data & Insights (formerly BNiQ) listing of indigenous businesses (see facing page).
Ms Healy expects the strong growth to continue.
“We expect more work, we get asked to tender a lot,” she said.
Warrikal seeks to work with other Aboriginal businesses in everything from coffee and office supplies to logistics and hydraulics.
“There is almost nothing I can think of where there isn’t an Aboriginal business operating,” Ms Healy said.
“We just need to make sure now that everyone knows and understands what businesses are around for those companies that want to involve themselves in socially responsible practices.”
While Warrikal is a new business enjoying rapid growth, the state’s second largest Aboriginal business is a role model for sustained success.
Carey still works for AngloGold at its Sunshine Dam mine, having signed a new contract for ore handling and crusher feed in July last year, and also works for Fortescue, BHP and others.
On top of that, Carey’s civil arm has just won its largest contract: a $20 million contract to upgrade the Great Central Road near Laverton in a joint venture with Central Earthmoving.
It has already started recruiting local Aboriginal people and putting them through a structured training program.
Carey may shortly be part of a much larger project, having joined a consortium shortlisted for the $850 million Bunbury Outer Ring Road.
Another successful Aboriginal business with a very different model is Roebourne-based Brida.
With origins going back to the 1970s, Brida provides maintenance and gardening services to clients including Rio Tinto, Woodside, and Sodexo.
“The business is going extremely well,” he said.
“We’ve been kept extremely busy over the past few months.”
Brida’s achievements have been recognised with multiple awards, including being named indigenous business of the year at the 2019 Aboriginal Enterprises in Mining, Energy and Exploration awards.
The profits from Brida are reinvested into NBAC, which delivers a range of employment, training and community services in Roebourne.
NBAC is ranked as the 14th largest indigenous corporation in WA, according to Data & Insights, available on the Business News website from this week.
Many other indigenous corporations have established commercial subsidiaries, though none as large as Brida.
Karlka Nyiyaparli Aboriginal Corporation is the state’s largest indigenous corporation, with total income last financial year of $35.9 million.
Its core operations include ethnographic and archaeological surveys for mining companies, and delivery of services to the Nyiyaparli People.
Its business arm, Karlka Developments, has facilities management and labour hire operations, and in 2017 paid $5.8 million to acquire Perth-based fencing contractor Fencewright.
Other indigenous groups with large commercial operations include Marra Worra Worra Aboriginal Corporation in Fitzroy Crossing, Pilbara Meta Maya Regional Aboriginal Corporation in South Hedland, Wirlu-murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation in the Pilbara, and Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Corporation in Broome.
Marra Worra Worra Aboriginal Corporation is a not-for-profit organisation whose principal activity is the provision of housing, employment, training, health and other community services.
It also has a range of commercial businesses that generated operating income of $8.9 million in FY19, more than a third of the group’s total.
The largest contributor was the Ngiyali Roadhouse at Fitzroy Crossing, which generated sales of $7.3 million and incurred a small loss of $8,400.
Other businesses include a hardware store, café and mechanical services business.
In addition, Marra Worra Worra has a $13 million investment in KRSP Pty Ltd, which trades as Kimberley Regional Service Providers.
Jointly owned by Marra Worra Worra and Gary Johnson, this Balcatta-based business specialises in servicing community power stations, water supplies and waste water processing plants in the state’s north.
It has a 65 per cent indigenous workforce.
MWW has also invested about $5.5 million in Kimberley Agricultural and Pastoral Company, which was initiated by KRED Enterprises and is the largest Aboriginal pastoral business in the Kimberley with four stations.
Pilbara Meta Maya Regional Aboriginal Corporation earned total revenue of $23 million from its diverse operations.
Based in South Hedland, the group employs 70 staff.
It provides similar services to KRSP; i.e. the provision of municipal services such as water, power and waste water.
It also provides housing management, environmental health services and tenant support to about 30 Aboriginal communities across the Pilbara, Gascoyne and Mid West regions.
Since 2014, the group has progressively added a suite of commercial business operations, including property management and real estate, environmental consulting, construction and mechanical services.
The establishment of Meta Maya Construction has seen the group open a Canning Vale office.
Wirlu-murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation earned $23 million in FY19, mostly from provision of labour services ($17.2 million) and a lesser amount from equipment hire ($4.7 million).
The business had 114 full-time equivalent staff, with 32 per cent Aboriginal participation.
It provides a range of contracting, training and heritage preservation services along with certain community services.
Its operations include a joint venture with privately-owned contractor Eastern Guruma, providing services such as maintenance of roads and tailings storage facilities.
The joint venture has a five-year contract with Fortescue Metals Group running to 2024.
Wirlu-Murra provides bus services at Fortescue’s Solomon mine with the corporation buying ten 55-seat buses and its subsidiary Wirlu-Murra Enterprises securing a contract to provide bus services.
The buses were purchased through a hire purchase facility with ANZ Bank, with Fortescue providing a guarantee.
Fortescue announced recently it has approved $20 million in financial support for nine Aboriginal contractors under the guaranteed leasing facility with ANZ.
Broome-based Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Corporation generated total income of $19.6 million in FY19.
Its operations include Kullari Building, which contributed nearly half the group’s income.
It also owns Broome Electrical Services and Kullari Employment Services.
Like other aboriginal corporations, it also provides a range of community and environmental health services.