04/07/2016 - 13:50

Pilbara knowledge too important to waste

04/07/2016 - 13:50

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SPECIAL REPORT: For indigenous entrepreneur Blaze Kwaymullina, the Pilbara is not the remote desert that many other Australians would perceive it, but rather the crucible of Aboriginal business development in this country.

Pilbara knowledge too important to waste
BIG VISION: Blaze Kwaymullina (right) with Veolia group general manager, environmental services, Mark Churchin.

SPECIAL REPORT: For indigenous entrepreneur Blaze Kwaymullina, the Pilbara is not the remote desert that many other Australians would perceive it, but rather the crucible of Aboriginal business development in this country.

Now, partnered with multinational industrial giant Veolia, Mr Kwaymullina believes there are good reasons to take the knowledge gained from indigenous businesses in the north and apply it to other regions.

“The Pilbara has led Australia,” Mr Kwaymullina told Business News.

“We are exploring some of the lessons learned in the Pilbara and making a national model.”

Mr Kwaymullina, from the Palyku people of the eastern Pilbara, credits the indigenous jobs and training review led by iron ore magnate and philanthropist Andrew Forrest with driving federal government procurement policy, to follow the lead of resources giants in improving terms of terms for Aboriginal-owned contracting businesses.

“There is a lot of interest in industry and government,” Mr Kwaymullina said.

However, he said it was not just the needs of those major stakeholders that had to be met. Indigenous groups around the country were also looking understand how to capitalise on these opportunities.

“There are a lot of indigenous groups looking for business but where is the structure that will enable them to grow in a sustained way?” he asked.

As a relative newcomer to the contracting Mr Kwaymullina does not claim to have all the answers, but he believes teaming up with Veolia to create the North West Alliance will create a wealth of opportunities.

It now employs about 30 staff, and Mr Kwaymullina believes is a model that can be expanded and adapted elsewhere, because it has the capacity to take on bigger contracts that often elude Aboriginal business (even in the Pilbara), due to factors such as experience and a growing need for efficiency.

“As contracts get bigger the barriers to entry rise; they were already significant,” Mr Kwaymullina said.

Previously an academic who had taught himself the ins and outs of contracts and procurement, Mr Kwaymullina, decided that there was an opportunity to enter a sector like waste management that was not peculiar to resources.

And there were obvious benefits in doing so, with a major player in that field having no presence in the Pilbara at the time.

He said Veolia’s culture and desire for long-term sustainable business practices made it an ideal partner –to win market share in the Pilbara and also exchange knowledge to solidify the partnership.

Veolia was looking for indigenous business and I was doing some consulting for them,” Mr Kwaymullina said.

“There was the desire (on their behalf) but how do embed that in their business?

Veolia are a bit different because they are into sustainability.

“My interest was to open up Veolia.

“(They have) systems, knowledge and global reach and global technology, so that local Aboriginal businesses can plug into it.”

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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