Business bulletin - 2 November 2017


Mia Freedman on stage at the closing OBM keynote event
OBM closing event with Mia Freedman

Australia’s leading industry experts, entrepreneurs and sporting personalities have shared their recipes for business success with Territorians during October.

Around 320 people attended the closing event which featured the co-founder and creative director of Mamamia Women’s Media Company, Mia Freedman.

This year’s calendar attracted a high calibre of inspirational keynote speakers, with almost 6,000 people attending 148 OBM events across the Territory.

An impressive line-up of OBM keynote speakers included:

  • Turia Pitt, bestselling author, mindset coach and twice iron woman
  • Jason Dooris, CEO and founder of Australia fastest growing media and marketing company, Atomic 212
  • Nigel Collin, author and founder of one of Australia largest entertainment design companies
  • Wayne Pearce, Australian Rugby League legend and business owner
  • Peter Jackson, CEO of the Melbourne Football Club.

For the first time, OBM this year featured a whole week focused on innovation. Forty-nine innovation events were held across the Territory to equip digital leaders and entrepreneurs with the tools to create a dynamic business.

Another highlight event was the East Arnhem Land Business Festival. The business festival continues to grow with 10 days of events workshops and training to support, inspire and grow the local business community.

Our Territory Business success stories were also popular with audiences hearing from Darlene Chin, Magdaline Coleman, Luke Myall, Justin Gill, Karinda Gill and Julie Ross.

OBM would not be possible without the support of the local business community and sponsors.

Diners at the AIDN NT awards

Darren and Jan Diwell were ecstatic when their heavy industry machine maintenance company clinched one of the most prized trophies in the Northern Territory business world.

It was reward for many years of hard work.

Darwin-based North Track Machinery, which was founded in 2007, won the Chief Minister’s Award for Excellence in the Defence industry at the AIDN NT awards in Darwin last month.

The awards, held in conjunction with the Northern Australia Defence Summit, recognises Territory businesses that work hard to support the Army, Navy, Airforce and Border Force in the Northern Territory and contribute to the overall growth of the industry.

Darren, a diesel mechanic who worked in the oil and gas mechanical maintenance industry for 17 years before going into business on his own, says: “My wife and I have been working very hard from the start. It’s non-stop. My last real holiday was 10 years ago.”

North Track Machinery is a home-grown innovative business, which meets the demands placed on it by constantly evaluating and improving its processes.

It has 16 staff with multiple skill sets enabling North Track to cater for a variety of mechanical and technical services.

Darren is a strong supporter of Territory business winning Defence contracts.

“You won’t get the work just because you’re local. You’ve got to be capable of doing the work and be reactive to the particular demands. And most of all, you need to look after your staff - we value all our staff immensely.”

Two companies also won the AIDN NT Special Recognition in the Defence Industry Award: Norship Marine and Savanna Alliance.

Norship Marine is a privately owned Australian company with a long history in ship repair and maintenance, asset management, sustainment and heavy industry projects.

Norship Marine Darwin has a team of experienced tradies, specialising in on-site repair and maintenance of commercial and Defence vessels.

Savanna Alliance is a consortium of companies entrusted by grassroots Aboriginal business to help them develop their own enterprises.

Work includes ecosystem services, mining, energy, training, construction and carbon farming.

Fiona Plunkett, the VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year

NT Training Awards winner Fiona Plunkett loves the great outdoors.

Her work 'patch' covers 39 cattle stations across a vast swathe of the Northern Territory outback and it’s not unusual for her to drive 2,000 kilometres in a week.

Fiona is a Charles Darwin University (CDU) Vocational Education and Training (VET) lecturer and workplace assessor in horse and cattle production.

Her main teaching role is to look after about 200 workplace students.

Fiona was named VET Teacher / Trainer of the Year at the NT Training Awards, which are staged by the Northern Territory Government’s Department of Trade, Business and Innovation.

She will now compete in the national finals in Canberra on 23 November.

“It might be a touch cooler down there, but I am more concerned about having to wear high heels again.

“It should be a great experience to meet other people in the VET sector from different states.”

Fiona and work colleagues Tegan Dunn and Kayla Kurnof spend up to two weeks at a time on the road visiting stations and trainees.

“It can be a challenge to even find the trainees some days when they are out mustering or working in remote areas,” Ms Plunkett said.

“But this is a part of the job we particularly love as it allows us to get out of the office and enjoy the hands-on, practical side of things while lending a hand wherever we are.”

Most of the trainees taking agriculture certificates work in stock camps.

“We spend time with them in the workplace just doing whatever they are doing and run theory help sessions at night.

“This can mean some early mornings and late nights but coming from station and stock camp backgrounds, we are used to those.”

Fiona also delivers face-to-face training at the Katherine Rural Campus for internal students and on-station short courses, covering everything from pregnancy testing to welding, machinery maintenance to working with chainsaws.

She has to work hard to ensure the training is up-to-date and relevant to industry needs.

Fiona is a teacher by profession but worked for a Katherine-based mustering company for three years before joining CDU.

“I’ve found the perfect job - it suits me down to the ground,” she said. “I love my job because I get to help students improve their skills and knowledge in an industry that I am extremely passionate about.

“I get to see students’ skills and ability develop throughout the year and this is very satisfying.”

Like many Territorians, Fiona only intended to spend a short time in the NT but she has been here six years - and has no plans to leave.

Aeriel view of a date farm in Alice Springs

The harvest of dates in the desert is to almost double thanks to a Northern Territory Government program that rewards businesses for being innovative.

A grant under the Smarter Business Solutions (SBS) scheme enabled the Desert Fruit Company to switch their bore water pumping from diesel to solar power.

Company manager Ben Wall said the switch would not have been possible without the SBS grant.

The solar power will not only enable the Desert Fruit Company to increase production at its operation 65 kilometres east of Alice Springs, but also slash their $1,110 per month diesel bill.

Mr Wall said growing dates was a 'tough business'.

“Water is critical to its success.

“We were struggling with old diesel pumping systems being able to deliver the amount of water required to get a decent crop.

“We have always wanted to convert our water pumping systems to solar but had to put it off due to financial considerations. But this year it became essential if we wanted to be able to keep our farm viable and grow into the future.

“We came up with an innovative direct solar pumping system that we think will work for the long term.”

Mr Wall said Alice Springs-based government Small Business Champion Sam Hill and his colleagues gave their support and encouragement 'from day one'.

“Once we explained our unique situation, they quickly grasped our problems and need for an urgent solution, and then proceeded to provide extremely professional assistance and support.

“Farming, as with most business is a lot about timing, capacity and momentum. We had to convert our water systems to solar this year to go forward.

“We could not have achieved this change at this critical juncture without the support of Smarter Business Solutions.

“I thank the NT Government for having such a program and hope to see it expand and continue its success into the future.”

The Desert Fruit Company has about 700 palms and grows 12 varieties of date.

Dates are drought tolerant but still require a lot of water in a commercial operation.

Now the Desert Fruit Company no longer has to turn diesel into dates but can use abundant solar power to do an even better job of growing food in the arid zone.

Sam Hill, a Small Business Champion

Sam Hill is literally helping turn the Red Centre green.

He facilitates the Northern Territory Government’s popular Smarter Business Solutions program in Central Australia.

His 'patch' covers the Alice Springs and Barkly regions - a vast area bigger than some European countries.

The program supports businesses, Indigenous enterprises and not-for-profit organisations to adopt efficient and innovative technology and best practice to reduce energy, water and waste costs.

“It’s very popular - and increasingly so,” said Sam, who works for the Department of Trade, Business and Innovation as a Small Business Champion.

The program has helped a wide range of business operations, from remote cattle stations to the Desert Fruit Company, which has about 500 date palms 65 kilometres east of Alice.

Sam was born in Alice Springs but went interstate for a decade - to gain degrees in Environmental Science and Business Management, and to work in the mining industry in the Pilbara.

“I was happy to come home to Alice.”

Sam loves his job as a government Small Business Champion.

“I enjoy the diversity of my role, meeting a wide variety of small businesses and being able to assist not only through SBS but providing direction to other programs and agencies.

“Alice is a small town and I know a lot of business people. I empathise with them and enjoy helping them.

“My job entails getting out of town a lot. I try to visit as many people as possible.”

If you would like to discuss ways to improve the profitability, sustainability or capability of your business, call our small business champions team on 08 8999 5479.

October Business Month 2017, thank you to our sponsors

Last updated: 10 July 2019

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