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With Indigenous enterprise

Mentoring and mateship help Indigenous enterprises to flourish

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.

“Pindan gave me a shot at running my own work and I am very thankful for the opportunities they have provided Wirra Wirr.”
Jade Barnes, Director, Wirra Wirr Constructions
"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.

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How the student became teacher

A 21-year-old Aboriginal woman is giving back to the company that gave her a shot by spending her time mentoring and supporting new trainees.
Juanita Evans was offered the opportunity to work for Pindan on Woodside’s North West Shelf housing refurbishment program and one year later she’s a fully qualified trades assistant.
She completed her Cert II in Construction at North West Regional Tafe’s Minurmarghali Mia campus in Roebourne while working full-time for Pindan.
Juanita said she’s already learnt so much in her time working for the company.

I’ve learnt about the area perimeter, how to build the roofs and plastering, it’s sort of like I could build a house ... slowly, but still.
Juanita Evans

Now that Juanita is qualified, she’s taking time to offer support to new trainees that start on the job. Having been where they are she’s qualified to give them guidance.

“I’ve been given so much help from other people and I wanted to do the same,” she said.

“I want to be able to teach others what I’ve learnt and they can probably teach me a thing or two as well. It’s a great thing for people to learn from each other.”

The refurbishment program involves the upgrade of 400 Woodside properties, with the work expected to continue until June 2020.

“I’ve been removing walls, vinyl and frames and whatever else needs to be replaced, we have to do two houses per week, so I’ve been taught new techniques to do it quickly,” she said.

Pindan senior site manager Shane Langley said Juanita hadn’t worked a lot before they hired her and her transformation has been incredible to watch.

“When she started she was shy and timid and now she’s the longest serving member of the team,” he said. 

Her knowledge of the job has really expanded which has given her the confidence and enthusiasm to grow with the role.
Shane Langley, Senior Site Manager

Pictured: Juanita Evans on the job
Photo Credit: Shannon Beattie
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Pindan supports Indigenous youth

Pindan, together with SMYL Community Services Pilbara Region, is proud to be supporting youth in regional West Australia by hiring two school-based trainees at the Karratha based Pindan office. SMYL works with over 170 schools across WA to identify eligible students and match them with appropriate host employer businesses from across a broad range of industries. With an established track record in assisting West Australian communities, through the provision of education, training and transition to employment services for nearly two decades, SMYL hosts hundreds of year 11 and 12 high school students in West Australia to embark on their chosen career pathways through to the Aboriginal School Based Trainee Program (ABST).

Trainees Tysha Sambo and Connor Bruce commenced their traineeships in Term 2 and are attending the Pindan office in Karratha one day a week. Pindan manages and performs contracted maintenance works on 7,500 houses across the mid-west, Gascoyne and Pilbara regions of Western Australia.
Tysha is studying towards a Certificate II in Business and will be office based focused on administration tasks. Tysha said her goal is to complete the traineeship from SMYL at Pindan to gain the skills and experience needed for full time employment in the future.

“Learning these important skills now in the traineeship will help me to build my confidence and achieve my goals for the future.”
Tysha Sambo, Trainee
Connor is working towards a Certificate II in Building and Construction and will be based on site exposed to all trades except for electrical.
“I am very grateful and excited about the traineeship I am doing at Pindan in Karratha through SMYL,” said Connor.
“To learn new skills and to be involved in a team is a great opportunity for now and for future employment. One day I would like to own my own business and learning these skills now in the traineeship will help me achieve my goals,” he added.
Mia Zaknich is SMYL's Field Officer who is located in Karratha and manages ASBT's who live in Karratha, Wickham and Roebourne. Mia knows first hand just what an impact the SMYL program can have on Aboriginal youth.
As SMYL’s very first Aboriginal school based trainee in 1998 and 1999, I can relate to the trainees from my own experience successfully moving through the program 18 years ago.”
She added, “My role is to mentor trainees and proactively engage with schools, extended family and their support networks. I am delighted to continue the important work the ABST program provides Indigenous youth today.”
Pindan HR Manager, Lynn Hanich, said “Investing in traineeships provides industry opportunities and pathways for all youth, ensuring the benefits of our business are shared.”

“The program provides a stepping-stone to an apprenticeship with Pindan and an opportunity to cultivate a long term relationship between Pindan and the trainee,” she added.

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A framework for Indigenous business

Pindan is showing its support for the Indigenous communities of WA by providing opportunities for business development and employment for Indigenous people in the communities where the company works. In 2011, Pindan established a new business, Fitzroy Frames, in partnership with the Marra Worra Worra Aboriginal people. The 50/50 joint venture proved highly successful and mutually beneficial.

Fitzroy Frames provided steel frames for the Department of Communities Indigenous Housing project in Fitzroy Crossing, as well as for other commercial buildings such as the Fitzroy Crossing Police Station and Wiluna Health Clinic.
“These kinds of partnerships are vital to sustainable business and operations in remote communities,” said George Allingame, Pindan’s Managing Director.

“It’s critical that businesses engage with the local and Indigenous communities to genuinely benefit regions in an ongoing manner.”
George Allingame, Managing Director, Pindan
Positive outcomes of joint enterprises such as Fitzroy Frames included:

  • The venture was profitable since its commencement

  • Seed capital investment was paid back within the first 12 months of operation

  • A number of Indigenous residents were able to receive practical workplace skills training and ongoing employment

 The Fitzroy Frames joint venture was catalytic in the establishment of downstream businesses in the area of maintenance, fencing and labour hire, and Pindan provided ongoing support to these ventures.

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