Cairns-based social enterprise Bama Services is a wholly owned and controlled Aboriginal business working towards sustainable employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The business has four main divisions: civil construction, building construction, landscape construction and facility maintenance and services.

“Our mission and vision is to create sustainable employment opportunities for Indigenous people in far north Queensland, in particularly the Cape York region,” said Bama Services General Manager, Cade Dawkins.

“It is at the heart of why we exist.

“We currently employ around 45 people across those divisions including management personnel. Around 75 percent of our employees, of those 45, are Indigenous at this point in time.”

With a focus on employing and supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Bama Services provides mob an opportunity to work on Country.

“From my experiences, Indigenous people are drawn to the construction industry, they seem to find personal alignment with the type of services that we provide and the training that they are interested in doing. That perhaps may be alignment with Country,” Dawkins said.

“There’s some sort of cultural alignment when it comes to working with the land which they have grown up around.”

Bama Services was awarded the Westpac Foundation Social Enterprise Grant which will provide the business access to $1.25 million. This will be split between five social enterprises across three years.

“It’s been tough across most sectors, but particularly so for social enterprises and small not-for-profits. These organisations play a vital role in local communities around the country,” said Westpac Foundation CEO, Susan Bannigan.

“Through this funding our goal is to help them continue to provide the jobs, education and training support they offer to people that need it most.”

Not only will the funding assist Bama Services through COVID-19, it will also fund their Support and Wellbeing program.

“The program we run … is instrumental to attracting and retaining our Indigenous employees,” said Dawkins.

“Many of our employees have come from complex and challenging backgrounds. The support from the Support and Wellbeing Program helps keep our employees with healthy minds and healthy bodies, keeping them focused on work, setting goals for them and also providing support beyond work.

“Something that our program offers is providing medical support by way of check-ups, help with any mental health concerns, legal and housing advice, financial literacy, family and relationship support, vocational training needs—it is quite broad.

“That Support and Wellbeing program effectively wraps around the workforce and is integral to keep our people turning up to work and doing a good job.”

Surviving the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic so far, Bama Services has ambitious and exciting goals on the horizon.

“On the whole, Bama Services has gotten through it okay, and we are now forecasting a period of significant growth,” said Dawkins.

“From an Indigenous employment perspective, we’re set … to create an additional 54 employment opportunities over the next three years. From a financial perspective we are planning to take our annual turnover from $10 million to $20 million.”

The Bama Services team have contributed much to their local community and are pushing to take on every opportunity that comes their way.

“We’re out there up against all other private sector businesses going for the same piece of work, we do have some complex challenges within the workforce but we back ourselves and we work hard on delivering good performance for our customers,” said Dawkins.

By Rachael Knowles