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Whanu Binal Program gives spark to electrical business

[by Tiahna Fiddling]

L-R: Blake Truscott, Zimarne Oui, Kalum Anderson and Michael Prien. Image: supplied

After seeing the shortfall of Indigenous tradespeople throughout his career, Townsville CBD Electrical Pty Director Michael Prien knew he wanted his business to be different.

With the support of CQUniversity and Arrow Energy through the Whanu Binal Indigenous Entrepreneurship Program, the Juru man is proud to say he is succeeding in his mission to provide employment opportunities for First Nations youth.

“I was inspired to start my own business and train Indigenous apprentices after seeing a lack of Indigenous electricians when I worked for other companies,” he said.

“I have worked with four Indigenous apprentices and helped them start successful careers since launching Townsville CBD Electrical Pty.”

He explained that while launching any new business can be difficult, starting an Indigenous business came with own set of challenges.

“The initial start-up and scaling up as a business are really tough, but being an Indigenous business, it can be even harder with a lot of pre-assumptions out there in the mainstream community.

“Fortunately, I have the support of the Whanu Binal program which gave me a platform to engage with other entrepreneurs in Queensland.”

He said the Whanu Binal Program provided the tools and guidance to start a business from the bottom up and insight into what achievements can be reached.

The weekly online yarning circles provided an opportunity for Mr Prien to engage with experienced mentors and network with peers who had been through similar struggles.

“I was able to learn about other business and their journeys of ups and downs. The was no egos and it was great to yarn about different facets of business every week.

“I highly recommend it to new start-ups or established businesses looking to grow.”

Whanu Binal is delivered in partnership by Arrow Energy and CQUniversity. While Arrow Energy has run the Whanu Binal program in various forms since 2013, the partnership with CQUniversity was launched in July 2019.

The program is dedicated to improving Indigenous business outcomes by not only supporting business owners and entrepreneurs but encouraging individuals and organisations to support Indigenous-owned businesses.

The Townsville local said that over time, being unique in the service and construction industry has helped to build a strong reputation and has been a benefit to the business.

“We have worked hard to break down the stigmas, especially in North Qld, with the professional way we deliver our services and being open and transparent with our clients. Some of our larger clients came on board quickly and loved the idea of supporting Indigenous employment opportunities.

“A large highlight of mine has been seeing Indigenous and non-Indigenous people becoming mates long-term.”

By providing education and employment opportunities Mr Prien said his staff are making a positive impact in the community.

“I really enjoy getting Indigenous youth into apprenticeships. I believe I’m creating some great role models for the next generation to aspire to be,” he said.

“It is a tough journey for the apprentices (and me!) but with some resilience and hard work the world can become their oyster.”

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