Adjournment matter: Worn Gundidj Enterprises

Extracted from Hansard
20 February 2018

Adjournment matter: Worn Gundidj Enterprises

My adjournment matter is for the Minster for Aboriginal Affairs, and the action I seek is for her to meet with Shannon Collyer from Worn Gundidj Enterprises in my electorate to discuss a plan he has developed to provide Indigenous people with the opportunity to gain skills to enter the workforce.

Worn Gundidj Enterprises have developed a native foods agricultural social enterprise project plan, with stage 1 including agricultural trials. This has been identified as an emerging market and one Worn Gundidj has historical links with. As part of the project Worn Gundidj Enterprises plan to grow native celery, tea, parsley, mints, berries and strawberry gums, which are in demand in the perfume industry. This project is special and has intensive support associated with it to equip jobseekers with the skills and attitudes necessary. It is done by Aboriginal people with proven track records and for Aboriginal people to teach the skills needed for long-term employment.

So far the program has the support of Deakin University, which will help with research facilities and may provide land, and Wannon Water, which showed Worn Gundidj a number of potential sites last week. The South West Institute of TAFE is also on board. Worn Gundidj also have their own land available which has nursery facilities already established. Funding is the last remaining barrier. Mr Collyer is seeking $50 000 for a pilot program, but he is facing issues. Worn Gundidj are being told by some funding bodies that the plan has too much of a social focus, while those who specialise in social enterprises say it has too much of a financial focus. Mr Collyer does report that Regional Development Victoria have been very helpful.

Mr Collyer has a long track record in this area and has long been a staunch advocate of programs that encourage young Indigenous people to improve their skill sets and equip them for life in the workforce. Worn Gundidj Enterprises has been involved in labour market programs since 2003. These programs are becoming harder and harder for the Indigenous community to obtain successful outcomes through as large cohorts of the community will not engage with job networks due to the manner in which these networks engage with their clients. Mr Collyer says one of Worn Gundidj’s organisational strengths is their smaller size, which allows strong relationships to be built through one-on-one networks — very necessary for success with his clients. He believes Indigenous clients are inherently entrepreneurial and micro-enterprises are popular and successful in Indigenous communities. He says classrooms do not work for entrepreneurs.

Minister, I ask that you seek a meeting with Mr Collyer and Mr Sproal. I believe you will be impressed with this innovative program which they have developed and will see the enormous potential this has to engage Indigenous people in my electorate to become successfully employed for the long term. I have personally known and worked with many of these people for a long period of time. I know Mr Collyer will do a very good job of making sure he has the confidence of the community he works with.