When it’s more than just a business

Host: Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development — Aboriginal Business Development Project
Written by Daisy Goodwin, Development Officer

Harry Curtin manages Glen Hill Pastoral Station — one of four properties of East Kimberley Cattle Company (EKC). EKC is comprised of Glen Hill, Doon Doon West, Bow River, and Violet Valley. Harry has achieved much over the years for Glen Hill and EKC. With a focus on property planning, infrastructure, and herd improvements, all four properties have improved by leaps and bounds.

Harry strives to get people out of town and back on country. Last week I told him about some new walkover weigh-scales I saw that allow you to draft from your phone whilst you sit inside. I thought we would be adding them to his wish list. Harry simply replied, “That just makes people unfit and takes them off the land”. For a second I forgot that EKC is more than a business to Harry and the social and community benefit is just as important. Through his commitment to building the business enterprise and increasing Aboriginal employment and training, Harry has impacted the lives of many Aboriginal young people.

More than twenty young people have benefited from training on the property in the last two years. Utilising funding from various sources, Harry was able to secure accommodation and mentor-ship for some of the trainees. These trainees would live on the station for six months at a time. This was incredibly important as it strengthened ties between young people and the land. Training included fencing, yard repairs, and mustering — important life skills that will kick-start further opportunities. Eight of the twenty trainees have now secured ongoing employment. Harry now has two full time employees and two workers on job pathways.

Harry was recognised for this effort this year when he won the ‘East Kimberley Aboriginal Achievement Award’ (EKAA) in the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Aboriginal Employment and Training’ category. Unfortunately Harry could not attend the ceremony as he was mustering. This was unsurprising to me, reinforcing his commitment to the business. When asked how he felt about the award, humble as usual, Harry replied that he was excited and hoped it would help when applying for new funding to go towards the property and further training.

Harry on Glen Hill Station with his EKAA award.

EKAA award for an outstanding contribution to aboriginal employment and training.

There have already been major improvements across EKC. There are new paddocks, laneways, and a solar powered bore and tank. Harry hopes to add two more bores and tanks and refurbish the yards by the end of the year. All works have been done with the properties capabilities taken into account. For example, fencing to exclude a river system with black soils.

A new laneway at Doon Doon West.

Harry and Aboriginal Business Development officer, Kevin May.

EKC have also purchased their own tractor, mower and hay rake. When I visited Doon Doon West and Glen Hill in May they had baled 120 hay bales for the next two musters. Aboriginal Business Development officer Kim Carter was very impressed and said he’d never seen any other Indigenous managed property take initiative like this.

Hay baled for the next two musters.

Harry has been focussing on improving their herd genetics and putting quality before quantity, moving the herd from Shorthorns to Brahman. Harry says this will increase their options and allow them to market for live export better. EKC have accomplished so much this year for the business and the community. I’ll be looking forward to see what they do next!