Businesses are committed to rise above challenges
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Indigenous businesses across the Pilbara continue to strive to champion the rights and wellbeing of First Nations people.
This month, the North West Telegraph celebrates the ongoing commitment and strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups and acknowledge the role they play in keeping communities strong during Indigenous Business Month.
The theme of IBM 2020 is “Invigorate, Build and Maintain” — a call to mobilise despite coronavirus-related challenges.
Hedland’s Ashburton Aboriginal Corporation, established in 2000, is a leading State not-for-profit organisation bolstering employment pathways and vocational training opportunities for Aboriginal people.
Its reach extends to Marble Bar, Tom Price, Newman and Nullagine.
Speaking about maintaining the organisation’s vital community work, Hedland projects manager Michelle Kivits said the group hoped to maintain its community partnerships and strengthen existing programs.
“For us, it’s identifying what the need is in the employment sector and addressing those needs,” she said.
She said the organisation was proud of its work facilitating the Tom Price Containers for Change depot, which had offered jobseekers a chance to engage in work experience while caring for the environment.
“Everything that we do, we try and generate employment,” she said.
For Bloodwood Tree Association, a trusted institution catering to at-risk and vulnerable people across Port and South Hedland, it’s all about community connections and targeting the specific needs of locals.
It’s what chief executive Kelly Howlett said would help maintain the group’s important community outreach, which includes foodbank-style services — namely the recently established South Hedland Mini-Mart.
The lifeline has served more than 275 customers since it opened in July, with an estimated 634 families and household members reaching out for food relief.
She said despite the challenges of operating during the pandemic, the group would ensure it stayed attuned to the needs of the community and encourage locals to use its services.
“People that are vulnerable and at risk come through our door every day but we were quite attuned to the fact that from mid-March onwards we ... almost immediately ... had a dramatic rise of people (asking for help),” MS Howlett said.
“For us (COVID) really showed us how important our soup kitchen was and really increase the capacity in terms of the number of meals it could provide, and that was through our connection with out partner and sponsor organisations.”
The group wants to maintain the programs through community service collaborations.
Award-winning 100 per cent Aboriginal-owned Impact Media based in Karratha helps new and existing businesses throughout the North West to grow and flourish.
Yawuru woman Tamara Bin Amat founded the communications, design and marketing business in 2013 and said she had helped support other local Aboriginal businesses to increase their online presence during COVID-19.
“When COVID first hit, we struggled, with our clients struggling. So we were quite concerned but we pivoted, strengthened and managed to grow in that time, but we don’t know what is around the corner so we are just trying to be sustainable at the moment,” she said.
“Although a couple of our clients didn’t survive, the digital work picked up and we got really busy with websites, online overhauls and really helping people make sure their digital presence was strong.
“I don’t know what the new normal will be, but we are certainly standing by and ready to see what happens and also to help support other Aboriginal businesses in our community as well.
If they need to strengthen their brands or grow, we are here to offer that too.”
Waste and water management business North West Alliance has also stayed resilient throughout COVID-19.
The company brings together Aboriginal and western approaches to sustainability to help deliver environmental solutions.
Contract delivery manager Paula Reeves said NWA had a strong focus on supporting Aboriginal employment and training opportunities and had a 100 per cent local workforce.
“It started as a small family business in Port Hedland. The owner is from Port Hedland and it’s just grown from there. They’ve now opened a branch in Karratha, Newman and Tom Price,” she said.
“Since we were deemed an essential service, we kept running through COVID. Things that we did to change our operations included staggering start times for drivers. Lots of our office staff worked from home.”
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