5 July 2022

Breaking the cycle of intermittent work

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Founder Melanie Tavo Nee Hicks started NorWest Contracting and Rail (NWCR) as a 100% Pilbara Indigenous Traditional owner company. 

Its vision to offer and create sustainable employment for both Indigenous and Non-Indigenous workers has not changed since.  

“We originally started with a core focus in rail, specifically flashbutt welding,” administration manager Chantelle Rogers said. 

“Over the years, and many meeting with clients, we have had to diversify as a contractor due to the clients’ requests.” 

The company has maintained an indigenous work force of 95% or more, with multiple team members gaining full-time employment.  

According to Chantelle this ability to supply safe, sustainable employment, in line with NWCR’s early business vision, is key to breaking the cycle of intermittent work.  

Beyond the employment opportunities on offer, the company has also supported the community through sponsorship of children’s sport, including soccer, water polo, junior rugby and basketball. 

 But success has not come without challenges. 

 “Our biggest challenge to date has been building the confidence with the clients that an Indigenous business can deliver and compete in the market,” Chantelle said. 

 “This is not something we have overcome entirely as each day comes with different challenges, it is ever evolving.” 

 There have, however, been many proud moments – two of which stick out to Chantelle. 

 “We have enabled, supported and mentored other start up indigenous businesses that have now in their own right built businesses that are recognised in Australia,” she said. 

 Chantelle said the second stand-out achievement was a “once in a lifetime event where we organised and enabled the recognition of Indigenous contribution” of Australia’s original heavy haul rail networks. 

 In 1968, a rail gang of Torres Strait Islanders broke the world record for track-laying while working on the Mt Newman line, sinking 7km of track in 11 hours and 40 minutes. 

 Fifty years later, NWCR officially recognised this record, and gave the families the opportunity to share their stories. 

 For more information on NWCR, go to the company website.

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