For Jonathon Griffin and Michael ‘Sonny’ Walters, creating opportunities and connecting with other Aboriginal businesses is at the heart of their Indigenous construction company, Boya Group.
The company has gone from strength to strength over 2020.
“The last 12 months has been huge for us; we’ve grown immensely,” said Griffin.
Boya has obtained multiple government contracts, doing work for the Department of Communities and the Department of Education refurbishing and re-roofing schools.
Boya Group was founded in 2017 by Griffin and Walters, both acclaimed AFL players with the Fremantle Dockers, with an eye on their careers after footy.
“I wanted to start this with Jon and a few other people as something that we can slide into when we’re done [with football],” Walters said.
For Walters, being active in the company has been more difficult than usual this season, with COVID-19 restrictions meaning he spends weeks at a time in quarantine going to and from the AFL hub in Queensland.
Now that his football season is over, Walters will have more time to spend on the other focus of the business: providing opportunities for people who are looking for a way into the building industry.
“Since I got into the AFL system, I’ve seen myself as a role model,” he said.
A career in the construction industry is a natural extension of that role modelling for Walters.
“The building industry is another avenue that I can show my leadership and tell [people] that if they want to do something in life, they can do it,” he said.
Connecting with other Indigenous businesses is a high priority for the Boya Group founders. But building relationships isn’t just about the practicality of more opportunities available from networking, it’s also about building a community.
“We’re not here purely for ourselves,” Walters said.
“We’re here to help each other out and we want to be able to help and work with other Indigenous companies as well.”
Boya provides opportunities not just for apprenticeships and traineeships, but also for people who are already qualified but may have hit a wall in their careers for a variety of reasons.
“We’ve got a number of trades that we’ve used on all our jobs—chippies, gyprockers, painters, sparkies—and we’ve been able to obtain them through the partnerships that we’ve established,” Griffin said.
Boya has worked closely with Indigenous business centre, Wirra Hub, engaging contractors and subcontractors through the hub’s network.
The upcoming Indigenous Emerging Business Forum (IEBF) fits perfectly with Griffin and Walters’ philosophy of connecting with other Indigenous businesses.
Griffin said it’s a huge step forward to see larger businesses like Telstra Business Technology Centre Perth North investing in Indigenous commerce.
“If you were to ask me whether or not there would be a forum like this a few years ago, I’d say that I wouldn’t have thought larger businesses or companies would invest in this and try and promote it,” he said.
“I think it’s been a huge shift.”
He said the IEBF represents action over talk.
“This a huge step forward in Reconciliation in Australia,” he said.
“The more we can get together, the more we can stand together and lean on each other for support and become better leaders ourselves. And I think for the younger generation coming through, that word ‘Reconciliation’ is something that is definitely achievable.”
By Sarah Smit
NIT is the proud media partner of IEBF2020.