Indigenous employment is at the heart of the Bama Services and Westpac Foundation long-term partnership.

Westpac Bama Services grant

100% Indigenous-owned, social enterprise Bama Services is working towards sustainable employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

A Cairns-based social enterprise is continuing to create sustainable job opportunities for the local Indigenous community thanks to ongoing support from Westpac Foundation.

This year, Westpac Foundation has invested $2.25 million into community organisations and social enterprises across Australia that, like Bama Services, are creating employment, education and training opportunities for those facing barriers to the workforce.

Bama Services’ mission is to give Indigenous people the capability to participate in the real economy, empowering them to be active agents in their own development. Westpac Foundation has helped the social enterprise to grow from a humble lawn mowing business that provided a ‘transition to work’ pathway for young Indigenous school leavers, to a dynamic, multi-faceted enterprise providing civil construction, building construction, landscape construction and facility and asset maintenance services.

“Bama Services has been supporting Indigenous employment for the past 10 years and Westpac Foundation has walked beside us. Our mission is to grow so that we can train and develop more Indigenous men and women and provide not only job opportunities but sustainable career opportunities for our people,” says Cade Dawkins, General Manager of Bama Services.

“The funding has been important for our business, but the collaborative support from the Westpac Foundation, like access to expert skills and resources, has enabled us to attract, retain and grow our employee base.”

At the core of Bama Services’ model, and what helps to encourage staff retention, is its unique Support and Wellbeing program that provides staff with personalised services in areas such as medical support for physical and mental health concerns, legal and housing advice, financial literacy, family relationships support and vocational training needs. This program has enabled the enterprise to maintain a stable, highly-skilled workforce and empowered individual staff members to achieve professional goals.

“Through Westpac Foundation’s ongoing support, we’ve been able to implement our award-winning Support and Wellbeing program tailored to the specific challenges our workforce faces. Many of our employees come from complex and challenging backgrounds, and the Foundation has enabled us to keep them healthy in mind and body, as well as support Bama Services in remaining commercially competitive. Westpac Foundation understands how important this is to the sustainability of our business,” says Dawkins.

To help facilitate this program, this year Westpac Foundation awarded Bama Services with a Social Enterprise grant valued at $300,000 over three years. With this support, Bama Services hopes to create an additional 54 employment opportunities and 81 pathways to employment over the next three years.

Westpac Foundation CEO, Susan Bannigan says: “Long-term relationships are key to creating long-term impact. Bama Services was one of the first social enterprises we invested in over a decade ago. Today, we can fully appreciate the role this organisation and many other social enterprises are playing in creating meaningful employment for people who need it most.”

Bama Services has created 88 employment opportunities and 47 job pathways for people experiencing barriers to employment since 2016, with the support of Westpac Foundation. Westpac Foundation has also provided Bama Services with critical non-financial support, including business expertise and resources through the Foundation’s connection to Westpac Group and other partner organisations committed to driving social change.

Over this time, Bama Services have increased their revenue from $5 million per annum to $10 million per annum and “a robust plan is in place to double revenue in FY21,” says Dawkins.

“The funding has been important for our business, but the collaborative support from the Westpac Foundation, like access to expert skills and resources, has enabled us to attract, retain and grow our employee base,” he says.

With the belief that employment is a pathway out of disadvantage, Westpac Foundation supports social enterprises who have a proven model for job creation. The Foundation awarded four 2020 Social Enterprise Grants, valued at $300,000 each over three years, to help stabilise these businesses and prepare them to scale. This year’s recipients also include Soft Landing, APY Art Centre Collective and Muru Mittigar.

Read the story about how around 7,000 social enterprises are creating jobs in Australia.

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