Business bulletin: 2 May 2019


Cattle being loaded on boats at Darwin wharf circa 1925
Caption: Cattle being loaded at Darwin wharf circa 1925 - Vestey’s established an export trade to Manila at about this time. PH0112/0013, Phyllis Moyle Collection, Northern Territory Library

Territory businesses are this week tapping in to a series of events being held to promote the Territory’s international trade and investment opportunities as part of the Business Engagement Program running alongside the Arafura Games.

The targeted program of events is showcasing the Territory’s unique international trade and investment opportunities and strengthen trade and investment relationships with our neighbours across the Asia Pacific region.

The Business Engagement Program received more than 100 registrations from international delegates including business people, investors, diplomats and embassy staff.

The delegates represent more than 16 countries including our closest neighbours Timor Leste and Indonesia. Delegates from the Philippines, Japan and China as well as those further afield including the US, United Arab Emirates and Hungary have also registered.

Fifteen sector-focused sessions have been held at the Darwin Convention Centre as part of the program, with sessions beginning on Monday 29 April 2019 and concluding today (Thursday 2 May 2019).

Topics of earlier sessions included business innovation opportunities in the Territory, a briefing on the Asian tourism market, an update on the Territory’s property market and opportunities throughout the week for businesses to book a one-on-one session with Anthony Cheng, Director of NT Trade and Investment based in Singapore.

Today’s session topics include unlocking export potential for small to medium enterprises, international education and training opportunities in the Territory and a site tour of the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre.

For a full list of events read Business Engagement Program.

A specially created History of Trade Exhibition running as part of the Business Engagement Program covers Territory commodities and trade from Aboriginal people exchanging trepang with Makassan seafarers hundreds of years ago to today’s thriving live cattle exports to South-East Asia.

Other industries explored in the exhibition include agriculture, minerals, gold, gas, crocodiles, pearling and seafood.

The exhibition, which will display trade goods ranging from pearls to bauxite to crocodile skins, is open daily on level 2 of the Darwin Convention Centre from 8am to 5pm up to and including Saturday 4 May 2019, and entry is free and open to the public.

Ms Heather Holt, who put the exhibition together for the Department of Trade, Business and Innovation, says it is expected that around 250 people will participate in the Arafura Games Business Engagement Program including international, national and local businesses, decision-makers and investors.

“Some of them may not have been to the Territory or even Australia before,” she says.

“This exhibition is an introduction to the Northern Territory. It showcases the industries that were historically important to the Territory and, in some cases, still are, such as gold mining.

“The aim of the exhibition is to help increase participants’ knowledge about the Territories trade history, and provides a unique backdrop to the Business Engagement Program and will also provide a talking point for locals, investors and business people.”

An extensive exhibition guide is available online on the Business Engagement Program page.

Amy Page holding her Belly Bunker product
Caption: ‘I imagined the Belly Bunker in my head and then went looking for it. I was shocked to find there was nothing like that for pregnant women. So I designed it.’

Mother-of-two Amy Page knows all about the joy - and discomfort - of being pregnant.

So she designed an inflatable bed to allow pregnant women to lay on their stomachs, which lets them enjoy leisure activities, and reap the many health benefits for mum and baby.

The Belly Bunker’s convenient fold design and waterproof material makes it easy to store and transport without having to inflate and deflate every time.

The support band acts like a baby hammock, taking the weight, supporting the skin and relieving the pressure off the back and spine, creating a state of weightlessness.

Amy has single-handedly taken her invention through every stage - research, design, manufacture, testing, branding, intellectual property rights, importing, warehousing and marketing.

“I imagined the Belly Bunker in my head and then went looking for it. I was shocked to find there was nothing like that for pregnant women. So I designed it.”

Belly Bunker was runner-up in last year’s inaugural Croc Pitch hosted by the Darwin Innovation Hub.

Forty innovators took part in the contest.

Amy, who is a professional photographer and graphic artist, has been given a grant under the Northern Territory (NT) Government Business Innovation Support Initiatives scheme, which will be used to refine the design, add new features and reach new markets.

She has also gained investment from the Paspalis Innovation Investment Fund.

“I am beyond words to have the support of the NT Government and Paspalis Innovation Investment Fund cheering me on and providing expert advice and connections to take things to the next level.

“Without their joint effort to give Territorians the opportunity in Croc Pitch none of this would have happened.

“Even though you have brought a great idea to life, nobody is going to know about it unless you get it marketed, which can cost a bucket load… and for most of us there’s only so much family funds you can spare.

“BISI has made this possible at a rate I could only dream of.

“I’ll be able to travel nationally to speak to leading health professionals and put this product front and centre at all major expos.”

Tiwi students sitting in a circle at the Starwin stored in DarwinCollection of products sold at the Starwin shop in Darwin
Caption: Tiwi students at the Starwin store in Darwin and some of the products sold at the Starwin shop

A Darwin-based company is using a Northern Territory Government grant to give young Aboriginal people the chance of a fulfilling working life.

MK ECO by Starwin received help under the Aboriginal Workforce Grant program.

They are now providing on-the-job training for an 18-year-old Larrakia, who is working at the company’s store next to the Darwin Entertainment Centre in Mitchell Street.

The company’s Each One, Teach One model is set up to provide career mentoring for new employees, but is also a two-way learning project, with support for the mentors and support workers to improve their skills and learning.

“It’s not just about learning good work skills,” says company founder Karina Gray. “Building confidence to put those into practice is also hugely important.”

Starwin’s Career Pathways and Youth Leadership program has had many successes and builds on their ADF Career Mentoring program they have run for Tiwi young women since 2016.

Already in 2019, an Aboriginal worker they had on board as a mentor has now gained a full-time job with the Department of Education.

Ms Gray is a strong supporter of the Aboriginal Workforce Grant initiative, which is administered by the Department of Trade, Business and Innovation.

“The grants are a great incentive for companies to provide holistic support for Aboriginal people.

“It allows us to invest in our team and really help them by providing a work environment they are comfortable in, where they are learning on the job and is a stepping stone on their career pathways.”

Starwin, which was set up as a social enterprise in 2010, also operates a consulting service, mainly for community and social enterprises.

The company’s shop sells Australian handmade, eco-friendly goods ranging from clothes to skincare products from more than 60 suppliers.

The third round of Aboriginal Workforce Grants provides benefit to 13 businesses in Darwin, Katherine, East Arnhem and Central Australia with grants of up to $80,000 for projects that support sustainable jobs or career advancement for Aboriginal people.

This adds to the 26 businesses supported in the 2017 and 2018 rounds, which enabled 215 Aboriginal Territorians to find a new job or undertake training to further their careers.

Shot of a damaged house roof before the repairsShot of repaired roof
Caption: SAR Contracting recently completed work on a new roof in Gray (before and after)

To ensure contractors are kept up to date on the progress of the $100 million public housing stimulus program, a works awarded report is now available on the Department of Local Government, Housing and Community Development website.

As of 17 April 2019, 266 contracts have been awarded to registered stimulus contractors.

This includes work from driveways through to roofing.

SAR Contracting recently completed a new roof on a public housing complex in Gray.

"It helps, we were looking at closing down in November, December but we are slowing crawling back week by week with the little bit of help from the package," owner operator Steven Robinson said.

NTRMS has completed a driveway on a home in Larapinta, and Andrew Lock said the program is making it ‘more viable’ to be in business.

"It's a really good thing that’s happening with the town, good to see old houses being made more liveable.

The money getting put into the town is much needed, helping keeping us all going," he said.

To view the report go to the Department of Local Government, Housing and Community Development website.

The second round of industry briefings for the $100 million public housing stimulus program is coming up in May.

This is an opportunity to learn about how the program is progressing directly from the team involved in running it.

It is also an opportunity to provide any feedback to the Department of Local Government, Housing and Community Development.

The industry briefings are being held at the following times:

  • Alice Springs: Hilton Hotel, Monday 13 May 2019, 11am to 12 noon
  • Katherine: Knotts Crossing, Tuesday 14 May 2019, 11am to 12 noon
  • Tennant Creek: Government Centre, Wednesday 15 May 2019, 11:30am to 12:30pm
  • Nhulunbuy: Gove Country Golf Club, Thursday 16 May 2019, 10am to 11am
  • Darwin: Hilton Hotel, Friday 17 May 2019, 2pm to 3pm.

Bookings are not required.

If you have any questions, or for further information, contact the Department of Local Government, Housing and Community Development by phone 08 8999 1989 or email

TURBO2 tourism initiative,

The Northern Territory (NT) Government has announced a further $62.8 million investment in the tourism sector through its TURBO2 initiative. The investment follows the success of Turbocharging Tourism, which will exceed its target of 53,000 additional holiday visitors.

Turbocharging Tourism has delivered more than 57,000 additional holiday bookings already, which will inject approximately $70 million into our economy.

The new TURBO2 stimulus package includes $27.7 million extra over two years to boost marketing that will promote the Territory nationally and internationally; $20 million extra over two years for major events and community festivals, recognising their value to not just tourism but also the liveability of the NT; and $15.1 million extra over two years to enhance visitor experiences in our parks, through arts and cultural offerings, and to help tourism operators improve their products.

Tourism Top End General Manager Glen Hingley said TURBO2 was a real opportunity for Territory businesses.

“Tourism Top End welcomes the announcement of TURBO2 to continue the much-needed additional funding to keep growing the NT’s visitor economy,” he said.

“Continuing to invest in tourism marketing, visitor experiences and major events will bring more visitors to the NT and, with this, bring new money to the Territory economy.”

Mr Hingley said many Tourism Top End members had noticed benefits from Turbocharging Tourism, and were looking forward to taking advantage of opportunities provided through TURBO2.

“Members are reporting the green shoots of success from TURBO1, and this makes TURBO2 necessary to support the tenacious efforts by many of our tourism businesses to continue to bring the Top End and NT back to its rightful place as Australia’s premier holiday destination,” he said.

“The Top End’s tourism industry comprises predominately of small to medium-sized businesses owned and operated by Territorians. Investing in the future of tourism is investing in the future of Territorian businesses.”

TURBO2 is set to benefit other sectors of our economy too, especially through the Visitor Experience Enhancement Program (VEEP). VEEP grants help tourism operators improve their facilities and offerings, and encourage private sector investment. Through $3 million allocated in the initial VEEP grants, Turbocharging Tourism saw 115 tourism-related businesses spending $11.6 million on a range of projects, such as new lighting, kitchens, toilet blocks and accommodation improvements. These works provided opportunities for local contractors. TURBO2 includes $3 million for VEEP.

History of Trade Exhibition, visit for more information

Last updated: 27 June 2019

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