WA businesswomen turn hemp into hi-vis

Majority Indigenous-owned Wortkoorl is turning hemp into high-vis

A majority Indigenous-owned company is turning hemp into mining wear with a new line of high visibility clothing.

The hemp-blend clothing is due out next month but has already been trialled at mine sites in Western Australia’s Pilbara.

The venture is the result of a partnership between majority-Indigenous owned Wortkoorl and mobile mechanical services company High Grade Mechanical, based in WA.

High Grade Mechanical has been announced as a finalist in the Australian Mining Prospect Awards for community interaction to be held in Sydney on Thursday on the back of the project.

Wortkoorl director Jennie Olszewski said the company — headed by four women directors who met at a women’s only business networking event — had been up and running for about 18 months.

The board’s two Aboriginal businesswoman directors are Della Rae Morrison and Sophia Narrier.

“When we first started off we were actually medicinal cannabis, but the government had put so much red tape in place we had to pivot so we went to industrial hemp,” Ms Oszewski said.

“It’s easy to grow in WA and there’s no red tape. It’s a fledgling industry in Western Australia that is attracting a lot of attention around the world because we’ve got a great growth environment here.”

“We can get up to three crops a year out of WA. For example, in France, they can only get one crop a year. There is huge potential.”

Ms Olszewski said they were trialling growing hemp in WA’s south-west. The work garments were currently manufactured in China, but it was hoped that could eventually be moved to Australia.

Ms Olszewski said hemp was lighter, stronger and cooler than cotton and also easier on the environment to produce.

Initially Wortkoorl will release a line of orange and yellow high visibility shirts, but it also has plans to expand the range to duffle bags, anti-static underwear, socks and other work-grade clothing and uniforms.

A women’s line is planned, including special shirts for bigger busts.

Ms Olszewski said its shirts met Australian Standards.

“At the moment Australian Standards won’t take 100 percent hemp because it’s considered too much vegetable matter,” she said.

“So, we created a maximum blend of hemp and cotton.”

“However, the other uniforms we’re currently working on are 100 percent hemp, but are not hi-vis.”

By Wendy Caccetta

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