In the early days of his Indigenous-owned project management business, David Mallett would get asked one question more than any other.
Prospective clients would always quiz the Yanun Project Services founder on how many Indigenous staff he employed.
“At the time, it was only me because professional project managers of First Nation’s descent are as rare as hen’s teeth,” Mallett says.
“It sort of got me thinking that it was certainly something I wanted to improve but I wasn’t sure how to approach it.”
Mallett spun the question around to his clients and asked if they’d be willing to help train First Nations people to lighten the workload.
“We were looking at really smart Aboriginal men and women coming out of school, not necessarily wanting to jump straight into a university degree, which for Aboriginal people can sometimes be a bit of a bridge too far.
“So, I sort of put the pathway out there and started talking to some of them about what a career in this space looks like, and that you can actually learn a lot of what we do on the job.”
These discussions kickstarted a career pathway program within Mallett’s company that allows First Nations people to work full-time while gaining a Certificate IV in project management.
The Lot Fourteen based company now has a team of eight people, including several First Nations trainees, and is scoring work with major defence suppliers.
“We need to be represented at a professional level and it needs to evolve from cultural heritage training and environmental cultural clearances, and all those sorts of roles and services that Aboriginal businesses get pigeonholed into, to a more business perspective,” Mallett says.
“I guess we’re trying to break the mould and say, there’s other things we can do.”
Yanun Project Services will be among 100 companies across South Australia participating in the First Nations Business Showcase this month.
The Circle, an inner-city First Nations entrepreneur hub located within the Lot Fourteen innovation district, will present the showcase at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on October 27.
The Circle’s operations manager Kelly May says the event allows people to see how they can incorporate First Nations businesses into their operations.
“Engaging First Nations businesses to fulfil business needs is a practical way to demonstrate your commitment to South Australia’s First Nations community and reconciliation more broadly,” May says.
“Attendees will also have the opportunity to network with The Circle team, who will be providing advice on our tailored support offered to connect industry, government and non-government organisations with the First Nations business sector.”
Mallett says the future is looking bright for Yanun, with plans to open an office in Sydney next year to take advantage of a large amount of defence work in the eastern states.
“We really want to continue to grow our team and expand our training programme. So, as our team grows, we’re able to support more partnerships as well, and that goes hand in hand,” he says.
“We’d like to obviously continue to expand our footprint into the defence market, so when organisations start to look at tendering big defence programmes, we want to be front of mind for the services that we can bring.”
This article was first published by The Lead South Australia.
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