Project launched to assist Aboriginal-led startups in the Wheatbelt

Business support: Moorditj Yaakiny project officer Robert Miles, RDA Wheatbelt director Mandy Walker, Department of Social Services assistant director Brian Mathewsand RDA Wheatbelt chair Tuck Waldron. Photo: Supplied.
Business support: Moorditj Yaakiny project officer Robert Miles, RDA Wheatbelt director Mandy Walker, Department of Social Services assistant director Brian Mathewsand RDA Wheatbelt chair Tuck Waldron. Photo: Supplied.

A project helping Aboriginal people in the Wheatbelt start their own businesses and social enterprises has been launched in Northam. 

The Moorditj Yaakiny project, led by Regional Development Australia (RDA) Wheatbelt and funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services, is seen to be the first of its kind, starting as a supporting role at a grass roots level. 

RDA Wheatbelt director Mandy Walker said the project stands out for its focus on idea development.

 "There are a lot of programs available that help people with an established idea write a business plan or get funding," she said.

"We are actually working with people before that step to have a conversation about what they might like to do and what is possible for them to do, and then we feed them into places where there is already support available."

Project officer Robert Miles said Aboriginal-led businesses have dwindled in the region.

"At present, there are not many Noongar businesses in the Wheatbelt but in the old days Noongar people set up businesses and were contracted by white people to do work on farms like shearing sheep, building fences and putting in or harvesting crops," he said.

"Noongar people need to get back to running their own businesses and making sure their young people have options to set up their own business or have employment opportunities with Noongar businesses.

"But things have changed a lot since the old days and running a business now can seem to be a lot more complicated.

"This project will help our people to understand how to set up and run a business.

"The more businesses we get going, the better it will be for us, our children and their future."

Ms Walker said RDA Wheatbelt wants to see positive economic outcomes in the region.

"When we look at unemployment rates, self employment opportunities are an awesome way is a get people back into the economy where they provide goods or services," she said.

"The benefit is people participating in the economy, benefiting from that and then ultimately leading to better health and wellbeing outcomes by having a viable business model.

"We want people to know what it is possible to start their own business."

Mr Miles said his role will be to interact with local Indigenous communities to see how he can help them develop their business aspirations. 

"It is about giving people more confidence," he said.

"It is my role to help inspire, enable and activate Ballardong people to develop self-employment options and social enterprises that lead to skills development, employment pathways, income generation and a sense of purpose for those who are prepared to go down their own track."

At a grassroots level Mr Miles will help develop ideas into real businesses, educate people who how to start up and run a business, mentor participants throughout the process and connect them with existing programs and funding providers who can help the business further develop.

Mr Miles said culture underpins program.

"Business can help reconnect people to the culture and language," he said.

"It is asking what cultural assets people have in their community and turning it into an economic asset. 

"Through my role I am able to bring that cultural connection.

"I can conceptualise these business plans in a Ballardong perspective.

"I'm really about trying to interpret this project to our people who are just starting out in business."

Ideas for businesses are already emerging following conversations with locals.

"People want to do tourism type roles, arts, food and floristry," Mr Miles said.

"Even getting people involved in aged care, gardening services and home services.

"You know that people want these services and we can help create new service providers with our local Indigenous people."

 The Moorditj Yaakiny project is currently funded until June 2021 and is free for Aboriginal people to access.

For more information on how to build up your business contact Robert Miles on 0428 959 084 or at ballardong@moorditjyaakiny.com.com.