A WA-owned female-owned Aboriginal engineering company has landed one of the largest contracts ever awarded to an Aboriginal business in Australia.

Warrikal has been awarded a five-year, $350 million shutdown and maintenance contract by Fortescue Metals Group, providing long-term security for the Aboriginal contracting business.

Wonnarua woman and Warrikal majority shareholder Amanda Healy says the contract will allow the business to grow significantly.

“It is a bit of a watershed, in terms of the size of the business and the contract. But it also means so much more for the broader community as well,” Ms Healy told NIT.

“It’s about opening doors and it’s allowing us to show that Aboriginal people can do anything.”

Apart from the long-term employment opportunities the contract creates for Aboriginal staff, Ms Healy said she looks forward to working with other Aboriginal businesses and helping to develop the sector.

“It presents opportunities for us to help develop other small businesses; working with other Aboriginal businesses and providing opportunities for Aboriginal people,” she said.

“If somebody else comes and knocks us off the perch, then that’s because we haven’t been doing good enough and if that’s an Aboriginal business then more power to them.”

All businesses tendering to Fortescue are required to submit an Aboriginal engagement strategy as a standard part of their tender documentation, according to Fortescue’s community development manager Heath Nelson.

“Because it was such a large contract, and long-term contract, it gives Warrikal the opportunity to engage with a number of Aboriginal subcontractors to provide similar long-term opportunities to build their capabilities,” he said.

Founded by Healy and business partners Roy Messer and David Flett in 2017, Warrikal has been providing services to Fortescue for three years now.

“We love working with FMG. They have always been supportive of Aboriginal business. They say they are, and they act like they are.”

“It’s a reward for all the hard work that our teams have put in to making sure things go properly and making sure we behave safely and making sure that we do the right thing by our client,” Ms Healy said.

Mr Nelson said the contract win demonstrated Warrikal, and Ms Healy’s, impressive capability.

“She’s a role model for other Aboriginal business owners to see that if you do the hard work, (if) you really focus on what you’re good at, you can (achieve),” he said.

“(Warrikal) really stayed true to who they are, where their core capabilities sit and delivered such a high standard that they actually made our job easier because they were just delivering time and time and time again.”

Mr Nelson said it was unheard of for such a young company to be awarded such a massive contract. Warrikal has been in operation for just four years.

“It is the biggest contract that Fortescue has ever awarded to an Aboriginal business, and in this case it’s a majority female Aboriginal-owned business as well,” he said.

“And it’s one of the largest, if not the largest, contract awarded to an Aboriginal business in Australia as well. It’s right up there with the biggest.

“It’s so important because it actually demonstrates to the broader industry and to the broader community that Aboriginal businesses have the capability to deliver at this level.”

By Sarah Smit