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Noongar entrepreneur Gerry Matera on why he exited Marawa WA before its downfall

David Prestipino -

Indigenous entrepreneur Gerry Matera has revealed post-merger strategic differences led to his resignation as a director of one of Western Australia's biggest Aboriginal-owned construction companies, which was placed into administration on Friday.

The Noongar businessman said he found "it hard to be associated" with the direction Marawa WA was taking after its 50/50 merger with boutique developer M/Construction in 2022, and decided to resign as a director "about 11 months ago".

"I just found myself no longer wanting to be associated with the process and direction [of the newly-merged company]," he told the National Indigenous Times about his decision to resign, which Australian Securities and Investment Commission documents confirmed occurred in June 2023.

Mr Matera said the construction industry faced continual battles amid a volatile economic environment and believed the sector's Indigenous procurement policies needed reform.

"These procurement policies were put in place to benefit Indigenous businesses and people, but they aren't really benefitting many, so it's been hard to stay motivated." he said.

Mr Matera established Marawar WA in 2018, securing several government contracts and national industry recognition for its building and maintenance services, employing more than 100 staff, of which half were Indigenous, before it was placed into administration by Brett Orzel and Stephen Dixon from Hamilton Murphy Advisory last week.

In June last year the maintenance entity of Marawa WA, Civil West Construction - which also merged with MGroup's MConstruction in early 2022 - was also placed into administration.

At the time, Mr Matera said he hoped the newly-structured Marawa WA would boost the level of First Nations apprentices and tradies in the industry.

Its merger with MGroup's M/Construction in 2022 effectively created WA's biggest Indigenous-owned construction business, with Marawa WA and its entities procuring regular government contracts on major projects, and recognition from Supply Nation and the Master Builders Association WA among other industry gongs.

Mr Matera had owned 50 per cent of Marawa WA with an entity Match Pty Ltd, understood to be linked to MGroup, the integrated real estate company led by developer Lloyd Clark.

Mr Matera said some philosophical differences with Match, which began to run Marawa WA's daily operations - including concreting, design, construction and civil works - emerged shortly after the January 2022 merger.

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