Since its establishment two years ago, Warrikal Engineering has been putting Indigenous excellence front and centre.

Founded by successful Koori businesswoman Amanda Healy, Warrikal is now the largest Indigenous contractor in Western Australia, working on projects with mining giants such as Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), Rio Tinto and Pilbara Minerals.

After over a decade of experience in the resource sector, Ms Healy registered her business with partners Roy Messer and David Flett in late 2016.

“It was fantastic, we literally hit the ground in late January [2017] and by the first of March we had all of our pre-qualifications,” Ms Healy said.

Goliaths of the resource industry, Rio Tinto and FMG, were quick to pick up Warrikal as a contracting business, with Warrikal undertaking their first round of work with Rio Tinto.

The company’s first larger project was refurbishing an apron feeder, a conveyor belt-like machinery used to transport or extract mining materials.

This refurbishment was with FMG – now their biggest client.

“[FMG] has a strong interest in making sure Aboriginal people develop businesses and do whatever they can,” Ms Healy said.

“We’ve been so thankful for the response that we’ve had from those businesses and the support that we’ve received.”

High standards on the ground
Ms Healy attributes Warrikal’s rocket to the top as a mix of industry connections and performing work to the highest standard.

“Roy [Messer] himself really loves to be on the ground and make sure that things go well,” Ms Healy said.

“In a business if you don’t do it yourself, you’re never really going to be sure of the outcome.”

Ms Healy said Mr Messer is often on site to ensure Warrikal is operating safely and correctly, which she said has been “a real godsend.”

“If there are any issues – as there always is – then they’re discussed really early with the client.”

Warrikal’s largest project to date was at the beginning of the year when the company worked at FMG’s Cloudbreak mine in the Western Australian Pilbara.

“That was close to $2 million worth of work – which was a pretty big thing for a new company to take on,” Ms Healy said.

“That had close to 200 people on site. That in itself [was] a massive challenge and we’ve got a great support … we have a team of about 30 in the office who do all [the logistics] support.”

Indigenous excellence in the workplace
Part of Warrikal’s philosophy is an investment in Indigenous engagement and biodiversity, clearly demonstrated by their 15-20 percent Indigenous workforce.

“I’m Indigenous myself … one of the things I really bang on about all the time is, I think for way too long our culture has been undervalued, our people have been undervalued,” Ms Healy said.

“For me it’s about kicking doors down and making sure people see that actually … Indigenous people are perfectly capable of doing, given the right opportunity and environment, exactly the same as everyone else – if not better.”

Ms Healy said Warrikal has had some amazing Indigenous workers despite Indigenous people not typically working in the resources sector.

“Most importantly, it is about viewing our people and our capabilities differently and showcasing that,” Ms Healy said.

Ms Healy has certainly showcased her capabilities as a successful and ambitious Indigenous businesswoman with an MBA from Curtin University, where she was recently appointed Adjunct Professor through the business school.

She is also currently attending the prestigious Murra Indigenous Business Master Class Program – a program which educates and supports Indigenous entrepreneurs in advancing their tools and strategies for business development.

Upskilling for the future
For now, Ms Healy wants Warrikal to stay in WA and perfect their organisational structure before expanding.

“We want to stay in our lane for the moment just to make sure we get all our processes right … we’re probably a couple of years from getting it all together,” Ms Healy said.

“What I really want to do [in the future] is establish a workshop in the northwest [of WA] and start getting more Aboriginal people trained in the mechanical space.”

Ms Healy said the old roles that Indigenous people have traditionally held in civil works are disappearing due to vehicle automation, which is why she wants to upskill Indigenous workers and push them into more skill-specialised roles.

“Also, [I want] to have a great profile as an Aboriginal and for Aboriginal businesses so that we can start to change the view of the world [about Indigenous people],” Ms Healy said.