Recognising a Social Enterprise When You See One

Bama Services’ core mission aligns with an important social outcome and community benefit: providing employment opportunities for First Nations people. Consistent with the traits of a social enterprise, Bama Services derives its income from trade. It then reinvests its profits back into its core mission. “Bama is concerned with far more than its bottom line,” says Cade Dawkins, the organisation’s General Manager. “Our mission – giving Indigenous Australians the opportunity to participate in the real economy – is at the forefront of our operations.”

Bama Services has four core operating divisions as a part of its structure. These are: civil construction, landscape construction, facilities and assets maintenance, and building projects. The organisation consistently maintains an Indigenous employment rate of more than 70% across these divisions it has supported the employment of more than 300 Indigenous people to date. “I look at evidence and statistics. Right now they indicate that Indigenous youth are twice as unlikely to gain employment as a non-Indigenous person,” Cade says. “So, if organisations can do anything possible to attract and retain Indigenous employees that is a great thing for the local economy, as well as the organisation itself.”

Jonothan Coker, Bama Services’ longest serving employee, agrees. “We began with ten young Indigenous employees, split between two gardens maintenance crews,” he says. “We’ve now scaled to four crews in the landscape construction division alone." Jonothan is a prime example of a Bama Services’ success story. He currently leads its landscape construction division. His portfolio includes delivery of a $1.5 million landscaping project on the Cairns Southern Access Corridor. “I moved to Bama when I saw a job opportunity to mentor and train young Indigenous people as a team supervisor,” he says. “I never imagined that I’d be where I am today.”

     I am pleased by how Bama has grown into winning sophisticated commercial contracts with significant risks, and delivering them successfully.

Cade Dawkins, General Manager

As a social enterprise, Bama Services distinguishes itself from a charity by its ability to sustain itself financially over the long term. The organisation has scaled to a degree where it competitively tenders for major civil contracts. The crown jewel in its portfolio is a Civil Construction contract to upgrade 11 kilometres of the Peninsular Development Road (PDR) worth $16 million, delivered in partnership with the Downer Group. The organisation has since successfully tendered another PDR upgrade contract.

Bama Services consistently ensures that, in tandem with its operational growth, it matures across all facets of the organisation. The International Organization for Standardization (IOS) has accredited its management systems. It also has a Transport and Main Roads financial prequalification rating for road and bridge construction, as well as a federal safety certification. These achievements allow Bama Services to submit tender for State and Federal Government funded projects. “Taking on the role of GM in 2020, I am pleased by how Bama has grown into winning sophisticated commercial contracts with significant risks, and delivering them successfully,” says Cade.

As a social enterprise, Bama Services complements its operations with its award-winning Support & Wellbeing Program. The program facilitates soft skills development, such as teamwork and communication, and delivers formal presentations on mental and physical health. The program also works exclusively with individual employees to meet personal mentoring needs.

The organisation has received multiple awards, including the Tropical North Queensland Small Employer of the Year Award in 2020. It was also a finalist in the 2021 Queensland Reconciliation Awards. “We recognise that some Indigenous people have barriers to employment,” says Teena Akiba, Bama Service’s Health and Wellbeing Program Manager. “We do not discriminate against these people, but ensure they have employment opportunities too. Our program will wrap around them to ensure that their employment can be maintained.”


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