A long term commitment by Pindan to mentor and support two of Western Australian’s most outstanding indigenous companies continues to have a positive long term impact on communities across the state. Pindan has been instrumental in the growth and mentorship of NorthWest Construction Services (NWCS) and Wirra Wirr Construction into fully-fledged indigenous enterprises over recent years and Pindan’s Managing Director of Contracting, Tony Gerber, could not be prouder of their success. “Both companies were engaged to assist us with the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing (NPARIH) programme from 2010 to 2014,” he explained.
“We supported their start-ups by not only employing them as sub-contractors on the NPARIH but by working with them to diversify into other trades as new contracts arose.
“They have risen to every challenge and we continue to engage their services for NPARIH, as we are again on the panel for 2014 to 2018, as well as other contracts across Western Australia.”
Tony said Pindan was privileged to be among a preferred few who have the opportunity to tender for NPARIH and had successfully completed $160m of works since 2010, thanks to dedicated contractors like Jade Barnes from Wirra Wirr and Mika McLennon and Frank Di Latte from NWCS.
“Pindan is extremely proud of its commitment to indigenous mentorship and employment and this commitment is clearly evidenced by our continued presence on the panel.” he added.
Jade Barnes has been at the helm of Broome company, Wirra Wirr Construction, for the past 16 months but has been involved with Pindan projects for many years.
He spent those years saving to fund his own company and he and his wife used their house deposit and financial help from his father, brother, sister, uncle and brother-in-law to start Wirra Wirr.
Specialising in fencing and concrete works, Wirra Wirr employs 111 people to manage projects for Pindan in the Kimberley, Pilbara and other parts of Western Australia as required.
Recent projects include concreting works at the Kununurra Renal Hostel and Fitzroy Courthouse and supply of concrete slabs and fencing for an indigenous housing project in Bayulu.
Jade said he had been working on Pindan jobs for several years when in 2011, while employed by a now defunct company, Tony Gerber and former Pindan Project Manager Barney McGorrigan offered him the opportunity to work for himself.
Barney provided valuable mentorship to Jade for several years before he returned home to the UK in 2015.
"Having guidance from Barney and other Pindan staff, and having someone to show me the ropes was invaluable.
"Barney would be very proud of what we have achieved,” Jade added. “He taught me how to deal with work on site and how to manage other contractors.”
Jade said the surety that Pindan could provide continuous work had been a significant help.
“It really does help the Wirra Wirr family to know that we have work to support the company and contracts keeping our employees busy,” he said.
Tony adds, “To their credit, the Wirra Wirr boys grasped the opportunity with both hands and over the years that followed, became one of our most trusted sub-contractors on the NPAARIH project. Always hardworking, keen to learn and with an unrelenting “can-do” approach.”
The brainchild of Gija man, Mika McLennon, NorthWest Construction Services was an opportunity to expand his existing knowledge base with over 20 years’ experience in the resources sector.
Mika, who hails from the Aboriginal Community of Warmun (Turkey Creek) some 200km south of Kununurra in Western Australia, is a qualified surveyor. He joined forces with Frank Di Latte in 2012 when he identified a match between skills, work ethic, experience and values.
Led by Mika and Frank, NorthWest Construction Services (NWCS) – a proudly Aboriginal owned and operated company specialising in demolition and earthworks, surveying, external roofing and cladding, internal ceilings and linings and painting services – employs around 40 people.
It is one of the only Aboriginal construction companies operating in the Kimberley that is multi-trade.
Mika said NWCS had developed a very strong, dedicated working relationship with Pindan, highlighting that: “both companies are committed to working exclusively on as many projects as practical and this support has been fantastic”.
Frank added, “Pindan has helped NWCS enormously by providing opportunities that enable us meet our overall business growth strategy, including expanding our services by allowing us to develop and offer new trade components to our overall business model.
“Pindan have made this possible by extending opportunities to undertake new contracts.
"NPARIH is a unique program in that it stipulates the requirements of local Aboriginal employment and procurement. NWCS provides that solution – local community members are employed full-time for the length of the project.
“We are very proud of our ability to employ 20 to 30 per cent of our Aboriginal labour directly from the communities in which we work, thereby creating an opportunity for local people to be employed within their own community, and always give everyone a fair go."
Second nature to Mika, community engagement and cultural protocols have become a standard business practice.
For example, before embarking on a project in a new community, NWCS will follow the stipulated protocols.
In many cases this requires seeking endorsement from Councils and Elders as well as teaming up with government funded bodies responsible for supporting local people into jobs through the Community Development Programme.
Frank explains: "Organisations such as Job Pathways support us by introducing us to potential staff, interviewing them and signing contracts.
“This approach has a positive impact on local residents because the opportunity to try new trades allows them to accumulate skills in different areas and gives them a wonderful grounding to apply for future jobs.”
Mika adds: “We then provide references and referrals after a project is completed.”
When asked about the approach to deliver on the contracts, Mika noted, “We engage local people wherever we can and are proud to be Supply Nation Certified, an accreditation recognising that we are a majority owned and managed Aboriginal business."
Tony adds, “NWCS are dedicated to engaging and training indigenous labourers from each community they work in and, with our support, have steadfastly adopted new skills as projects called for them, expanding their services to include a host of valuable trades.”
Recent projects include the Dampier Community Hub and Kununurra Renal Clinic, in addition to the Department of Communities contracts.