Joint Media Release with Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch MP
The Coalition Government is providing a $4.5 million boost to Indigenous entrepreneurs in the electorate of Leichhardt, as part of the $5 billion community-led Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS).
At a ceremonial launch of the Wik Timber project with Rio Tinto on Tuesday this week, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion announced a $2.7 million investment in a major tropical hardwood harvesting project from the Indigenous Entrepreneurs Fund.
The new Amrun bauxite operations South of Weipa will clear around 1,500 hectares of forest a year. Wik Timber has worked in partnership with Rio Tinto to develop a holistic timber harvesting project that will produce up to 125,000 tonnes of timber for export and domestic markets.
With the IAS investment, Wik Timber has purchased specialist timber harvesting equipment including in a shovel logger, a log skidder and wood-chipper to help capture this opportunity and employ local Indigenous people.
Commonwealth Government agency, Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) has also approved an additional $1.8 million in leasing, equipment and working capital to support the growth of Wik Timber.
“Communities called for an Indigenous Entrepreneurs Fund and in the 2016 election the Coalition Government made a $115 million commitment to back them. We heard in every community there are Indigenous entrepreneurs who have the ideas and energy to start a small business but the banks rarely took on the risk of lending to people in remote and regional communities.
“The Coalition Government has stepped in where the banks won’t lend and these grants will help remote and regional Indigenous entrepreneurs move their communities from welfare to work.
“The Commonwealth’s significant investment in this local business will support job seekers who have been re-engaged and given the necessary experience and training through the successful Community Development Programme to transition to work and a better future.
Member for Leichardt, Warren Entsch said “The Wik Timber Holdings project has the potential to be a game-changer in terms of employment and economic development for the people of Aurukun and Napranum, both in direct and indirect benefits to the local economy.”
“As it ramps up, the project will create opportunities to move up to 70 Indigenous jobseekers from welfare to work.”
Gina Castelain from Wik Timber said it has taken years to get to this point.
“Our people have been training in preparation and now we can move forward and get real jobs,” Ms Casterlaine said.
“We have proven that our timbers are of the highest quality and demonstrated we can salvage this timber safely the right way.
“Traditional Owners have made it clear that they do not want these forests burnt to waste and want to make good use of them. This is the start of the future for all Wik Waya people and all Traditional Owners for Western Cape York. We have a long way to go still and need to work together and share the benefits.
Rio Tinto Weipa Operations general manager Daniel van der Westhuizen said “We are proud to be partnering with Wik Timber. With the support of the Federal Government, we are pleased to provide another opportunity for a local, Indigenous business on the Western Cape.
“The Amrun Project builds on Rio Tinto’s 50-year history on Cape York and the strong partnerships we have developed with Traditional Owner groups in the region. We are committed to providing access to opportunities for local and Indigenous suppliers and community members to benefit from the project.”
Supporting Indigenous economic development is a key priority of the Coalition Government’s agenda. The Indigenous Entrepreneurs Package builds on the on the success of the Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) that has resulted in over 1000 Indigenous businesses winning over $1.084 billion in contract since July 2015, compared to just 30 Indigenous businesses winning $6.2 million under Labor’s policies in 2012-13.