Customers browsing in the Miyalkurruwung Op shop

At the top of the Northern Territory, 560 kilometres east of Darwin, a new community-driven business hub is giving Yolngu residents of Ramingining a leg up to get their small business ideas off the ground. 

The Bulungkunum Business Hub launched this month with support from the Developing East Arnhem Limited (DEAL), a not-for-profit that acts as an advocate and “front door for investment” to the region. 

So far seven businesses are on board offering a range of eclectic products from tools for crab hunting to hand printed fabrics.

Bulungkunum Chair Ronnie Garrawurra in his sports shop

Chairman of the Bulungkunum Corporation, Ronnie Garrawurra said embracing cultural pride and inspiring small business owners to take risks and experiment was at the heart of what the hub aimed to achieve. 

“I can’t wait to see this Yolngu led initiative become a thriving hub for the entire region,” he said. 

Like many communities, Ramingining is not without its problems, all of which are worsened by a lack of employment opportunities — with an estimated 0.4 jobs available per working age person.

“It’s so encouraging to see the Ramingining community come together to address some of our biggest needs to boost employment, provide goods and services, and improve social connection for our people,” Mr Garrawurra said. 

Rule one of business is know your market and local ventures were selected based on community research and demand for specific products.

Making up the hub’s businesses are:

  • Ronnie’s sports shop – selling football boots, jerseys, shorts, basketball uniforms, balls, bats, and bikes
  • Bunkanbow soap and perfume shop – selling soap to help address hygiene issues in the community
  • Miyalkurruwung op-shop – selling clothing and other second-hand goods like furniture, kitchen utensils, baby items, toys, books, and linen
  • Roger’s Crab hooks hunting shop – selling crab hooks, turtle hooks, and crab bags
  • Linda’s coffee shop – selling coffee and select baked goods
  • Buwanadu fabric shop – selling hand lino printed fabric

Helping get customers through the door is the centrally managed Bulungkunum Take-Away shop, which on top of providing healthy menu options, directs all profits to help cover repairs, maintenance, and utilities for other participating businesses within the hub.

Ramingining community painting the Business Hub containers ready for opening day

Giving even more local entrepreneurs a chance to take part, residents of Ramingining from all 25 clans are able host a stall at the hub on specific market days to buy, sell or trade their own wares. 

Providing support and guidance for the hub’s tenants is DEAL business support manager  Emma Drew, who said seeing the community-based business ventures come to life in the new hub had been the highlight of her work with the organisation. 

“I’m excited to see how the new business hub drives meaningful economic growth for the region and hope to inspire other rural and remote communities to implement a similar approach,” Ms Drew said. 

Bulungkunum board members and members of the Ganalbingu, Djadiwitjibi and Dabi Clan groups on the opening day of the Business Hub

All of the new ventures will receive the first three months rent-free to help them through the initial start-up phase. After which minor rental amounts, based on a percentage of turnover, will be utilised to contribute to utility costs.

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