Support worker and sponsorship of Indigenous owned and operated market gardens


Help these indigenous visionaries create gardens to feed their community and build the local economy
Indigenous visionarie Demala Dhurrkay (centre) and his nephew with AHED facilitator (right) tasting cane juice from their garden.

The AHED Project would like to invite individuals and groups interested in a unique opportunity to support Indigenous visionaries to sponsor our Indigenous clients who are at an exciting stage of developing their food garden enterprises in Galiwin’ku, Elcho Island NT.

We are seeking sponsorship and support for an enterprise initiative by Indigenous Australians to develop their existing market gardens into self-sufficient business that will grow the independence and health of their community. This opportunity is for community groups, churches, companies or philanthropists who are interested in committing to a medium to long term (9 months – 5 years) relationship with our clients, supporting their project for at least 12 months.  The preferred model is for the partnering group to sponsor an individual to work as support worker to these gardens based in the community of Galiwin’ku.  The position described below will require and investment of $60,000pa. There is no tax deductibility available at this stage.

The visionaries:

Timothy Demala (pictured centre above) and Tony Ban’thay, Yolngu elders and clan leaders in the Galiwin’ku community, Elcho Island, have a vision to see the Yolngu community grow its own primary produce and employ their own people in meaningful work. Over forty years ago, when there were high employment rates and levels of productivity in Yolngu communities, these men were growing fresh produce which supplied all of Galiwin’ku and also exported to the mainland. Currently, due to various factors over the years (see our blog series for more on the recent economic history). Demala and Ban’thay are the only Indigenous people growing primary produce on the island, which now has entrenched welfare dependency with chronic health outcomes. They believe the Yolngu community can be turned around, and that the Yolngu people have the capacity to achieve this. Demala and Ban’thay are passionate about gardening, and while they have the gardening knowledge, the land and the support from their respective clans, they are looking for financial support to be able to develop productive self-sufficient industries.

Goals and local benefit:

Galiwin’ku is one of the largest remote Indigenous communities in Australia and has the capacity to support a large primary produce industry. Currently all fresh produce in the region arrives weekly, shipped in from Darwin. The opportunity for these gardens is to supply regular and fresh produce to the Galiwin’ku community including the local store, existing Friday markets and to the surrounding Indigenous outstations. These two garden owners are working on their own land with existing infrastructure including irrigation, water sources, current crops and multiple site options to expand if needed. One garden is ideally situated to be fed by an invaluable nutrient-rich resource from the water reuse scheme to be incorporated in the planned redevelopment of the Galiwin’ku sewerage ponds. The success of a Yolngu owned and controlled enterprise will provide an example of self-sustaining enterprise on traditional lands, demonstrating a pathway for other Yolngu people to achieve financial independence, and a sense of purpose and fulfilment.

What will this look like?

Demala and Ban’thay have brought their enterprises together and are looking for support to employ a full time garden manager who will work across both gardens to provide a stable platform for building a workforce. The funds will provide a wage for a full time trainer/farmer who will work in both gardens under the direction of these two Yolngu men to provide training to increase skills and knowledg,e and implement a strategy to increase produce and sales until each garden is self-sustaining.

Both gardens aim to be able to cover the cost of equipment, supplies and the employment of 2-3 part time positions in each garden within 2-3 years. As production is scaled up it would support othe related commercial enterprises in the medium to longer term. Our viability study show these objectives to be realistic and achievable. Please contact us if you would like further detail of the viability of the self-sufficiency of these enterprises.

The uniqueness of this opportunity: Locally initiated, controlled and owned

While there have been other garden enterprises attempted in Galiwin’ku, these have not sustained themselves for the long term. This is because the motivation, planning, decision making and management have come from outside the community – and therefore do not last once outside input disappears. In contrast, true local ownership of the entire process of Demala and Ban’thay’s enterprises means that it is in a strong place to be sustained into the future. The Yolngu entrepreneurs involved in these garden enterprises have controlled their visions from the beginning and at each stage of the process, operating on their own land and engaging their own family members. Having worked hard on their enterprises to develop them to this point, means that they are well-prepared to move to the next stage of working towards commercial viability and growing a workforce.

Why not get Government support or other grants for this? Government does not want to sponsor projects support 6 – 12 workers, but only training for roughly 20 or more at a time.  This is not a sustainable way forward, as these enterprises need to build a small reliable teams who have ownership in the Gardens

Clear ownership of this enterprise is essential. Demala and Ban’thay need support in a way that allows them to learn how to operate on a commercial basis whilst remaining in control of their own enterprises. This way of working falls outside of current models for training and business development that aim at a high number of participants over a short term. With the Government tightening their belts, we are seeking committed individual or community groups to provide a support worker and back that person financially 12 months at a time, with a view to a 3 year commitment.    This will enable these men to grow their respective businesses whilst maintaining complete control and ownership.

How the AHED Project supports these clients:

AHED facilitators have been working in relationship with Demala and Ban’thay, listening to their dreams for this enterprises and working together through any barriers that need to be overcome. We do not carry out any labour for our clients, give any handouts or push our own agendas or ideas. We have provided support to match our clients’ levels of initiative and motivation; support and networking as requested by our clients. We believe this is an exciting next step for these visionaries in seeing their enterprises gain momentum and making a powerful impact on their community. The AHED Project will continue to support these enterprises until they achieve self-sufficiency.

How to get involved:

If you or your group, community or company would like to support this enterprise, please contact us to discuss and for further information about the current progress of these enterprises.