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Indigenous Entrepreneurship Program helps get business off the ground

[by Greg Chapman]

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Image: supplied

Chinchilla’s Clay Evans was once hesitant to start his own business, but since he completed Arrow Energy’s Whanu Binal Indigenous Entrepreneurship Program at CQU, he’s now providing scaffolding, painting and insulation services to the resources industry.

The Kitja man has spoken highly of the Whanu Binal Program, which is delivered through a partnership between Arrow Energy and CQU, providing customised mentoring to First Nations people looking to start their own business.

“Prior to joining the program, I had thought about starting my own business for several years but had limited understanding of what was required to really get up and running,” Clay said.

“I had a concept but didn’t really know how to evolve it into something that could be launched. I also lacked the confidence in myself and was hesitant to jump in ‘boots and all’.”

Whanu Binal offers First Nations entrepreneurs, executives, managers, and Traditional Custodians a chance to build upon their business and entrepreneurial skills through a virtual yarning space, Indigenous learning styles, experienced mentors and the opportunity for networking with peers and business accelerator organisations.

Although the program partnership with CQU launched in 2020, Arrow Energy has run Whanu Binal in various forms since 2013, with the goal of supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses and individual workers in its operational footprint.

The Whanu Binal program not only enables participants to access content anytime, anywhere on any device, but also to build a professional support network. 

“I completed the program in 2020, at the same time as completing a Masters in Project Management at another university,” he said.

“I found it easy to follow and the self-paced structure fitted in well with my busy life at the time (completing my Masters, working a fulltime job and trying to piece together the framework for my existing business). I loved the weekly mentor sessions.”

Clay’s business, which is called Kitja Services to pay respect to his great grandmother and mob’s ancestry, manages contracts for multi-national companies on tier 1 sites in the mining and oil and gas industries.

“The program gave me the confidence to start the business. The support network is probably the most influencing aspect of how the Whanu Binal program helped me set up Kitja,” he said.

“We’ve only been operational for a few months now so still in the ‘set-up’ phase, but we’re starting to secure some short-term projects in our region, as well as looking for opportunities in south-east Queensland.”

He said hearing stories from other Indigenous business owners (who are the mentors in the Whanu Binal Program) as well as his fellow mentees, was extremely rewarding and inspirational. 

“The program gives a great introduction to what framework is required to start a small business. Hearing the stories of other budding Indigenous entrepreneurs, at all different levels of experience (and ages), industry and their personal journeys really inspired me to ‘have a go’,” he said.

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