Tags: Community & relationships Community connectedness

“You get some indigenous people, they love working outdoors with their hands and they get to see the results, 'I’ve just done that, I’ve cleaned that, I made that' or 'I built that' or 'I made that look pretty', I think a lot of our mob like doing that, which is great.” – Joe Wallace.

“We all have to start somewhere.”

For founder Joe Wallace and his team at Multhana Property Services, striving to create opportunities for indigenous people is paramount.

In the Kalkadoon language, Multhana means “coming together to help each other”, and with more than three decades of experience in indigenous employment, Joe lives and breathes the ideology behind the business.

“We’ve got about 20 boys on at the moment; we do property servicing, grounds, landscaping, pressure cleaning, and internal cleaning,” Joe says. “The main objective is to give opportunities to local indigenous people, whether it’s young school leavers or mature people out of work.”

Joe Wallace from Multhana Property Services

Striving to make a difference

Having been in operation for about two years, Joe says Multhana is a majority indigenous-owned company and is striving to make a difference by supporting local economic development for Aboriginal people and communities.

The priority, as Joe sees it, is to ensure everyone gets an opportunity that might otherwise have been denied to them.

“The main motivating factor, it’s a low-set skill where people can start off,” Joe says. “I’m 47, I left school, wanted to play footy, get an apprenticeship, but I didn’t have the right grades.

“You get some indigenous people, they love working outdoors with their hands and they get to see the results, “I’ve just done that, I’ve cleaned that, I made that” or “I built that” or “I made that look pretty”, I think a lot of our mob like doing that, which is great.

“I come from a large family myself, I’m the oldest of 12 kids and I’ve worked in jails and juvenile justice and I’ve seen where a lot of people end up. Today there are a lot of social issues, drugs and alcohol, and mental health is a massive issue too. So it’s all about giving people an opportunity who can’t otherwise get a foot through the door.”

A partnership that works

Multhana has been working with Australian Unity on their property management for eight months now and Joe says the partnership has been a “fantastic experience”.

He’s also optimistic the partnership will naturally provide even more opportunities for his largely indigenous workforce.

“It’s a good process, as you grow and build and maintain there’ll be opportunities to do more asset maintenance and it’s good to have our foot in the door at the beginning,” Joe says. “It’s been very positive; If you’re going to have a RAP (Reconciliation Action Plan), let’s fully commit and look at all the facets, the way this business is set up.

“You get a lot of companies today, if you’re a triangle and they want a circle and you just don’t fit, simple as that.”

Australian Unity and Reconciliation Week

In 2016, Australian Unity launched its RAP to affirm our commitment to build strong and respectful relationships with First Nation peoples, communities and businesses. The RAP outlines key actions across the business that will provide practical support in progressing reconciliation in Australian Unity and the broader community. These key actions are underpinned by the guiding principles of Relationships, Respect and Opportunities.

As part of our RAP, National Reconciliation Week (May 27-June 3) is a time for all Australians to discover more about our shared cultures and histories, and to understand how everyone can help with reconciliation in Australia.

The theme for Reconciliation Week 2019 is “Grounded in Truth – walk together with courage” and for Joe and his team, Reconciliation Week highlights the progress that has been made in connecting Australian Unity and other companies with indigenous businesses like Multhana.

“It showcases that Australia isn’t a racist place. You go overseas and hear “oh Australia is so racist” and this is actually bringing people together,” Joe says. “It doesn’t matter what race or background you have.

“To me it shows that indigenous and non-indigenous people can work together and it breaks down that stereotype of racism.”

Building relationships is key

Joe says Australian Unity has done an outstanding job of understanding the cultural significance of indigenous businesses, and how even a decade ago, large corporations weren’t properly set up to engage with a company like Multhana.

“I think the benefit is that big companies like Australian Unity, they’re putting their hand on their heart,” Joe says. “Some companies don’t, they have these pieces of paper but they don’t walk it. I think just understanding the history – you can’t help what happened years ago – but it’s important for big companies to understand how they use Aboriginal companies inside their procurement chain.

“I think it’s great because you can actually tell other companies that they’re not walking the walk. We can point to Australian Unity and say “well they’re a massive company who came to us”. It’s about how we can fit into the scope of a company. We’re not expecting a company to just hand us a million dollar contract, but here’s something we can gradually grind at and build trust between us. I think it’s improving as time goes on. It’s about building relationships. People buy from people.”