Gnarla Biddi breathes new life into business models - METRONET


Gnarla Biddi breathes new life into business models

  • 6 August 2020

“Keep it simple. Partner with people you can work with, don’t take on more than you can do,” is Neville Collard’s (pictured) advice to emerging Aboriginal businesses.

A traditional custodian, former police officer and co-founder of the Nyoongar Patrol Neville Collard started his business, Nyungar Birdiyia, in 2004, providing cultural advice and training in government, businesses and schools.  

Neville’s business partner, Paul Carter – Melbourne based academic, writer, historian, poet and artist – said there are no shortcuts for collaborative partnerships, they are developed through trust, mutual respect and a common vision.

The two met five years ago, working on the Yagan Square development with Neville as the project’s cultural advisor and Paul’s company, Material Thinking, developing the project’s cultural interpretation strategy with a focus on the stories that are at the heart of place.

Since then they have worked together on the Scarborough Beach redevelopment to integrate art and culture into the place design, and most recently working together on METRONET’s Noongar Cultural Context documents, which provide valuable local Noongar context and community input that guides METRONET design.

Initially in 2019 Material Thinking was contracted to develop three of these documents, subcontracting Neville Collard, Vivienne and Mort Hanson, and Lynette Winmar to undertake community consultation and research.

Then in early 2020, Paul Carter became a co-director of Nyungar Birdiyia and the company was awarded a contract to deliver an additional three Noongar Cultural Context Documents. Paul oversees administration whilst Neville co-directs, undertakes consultation and training and is the METRONET contract lead – effectively flipping the previous business model.

Paul, who is passionate about exploring social and environmental history through art, said METRONET’s Gnarla Biddi Strategy offers a valuable opportunity to improve the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

“We entered our partnership in an organic way, with shared goals and interests, each taking the time to understand the other,” Paul said.

“METRONET has shown extraordinary leadership in exploring alternative business models through its Gnarla Biddi Strategy.

“Providing Indigenous employment opportunities in this way is a powerful tool for rebuilding community trust and optimism.”

To help capture the stories that form a key part of the Noongar Cultural Context documents, Neville takes the time to visit elders and community members in their homes to record their stories of place. Through the yarning process, stories emerge more organically, and sometimes for the first time.

“What METRONET is doing is extremely important within the Noongar region,” Neville said.

“Visiting community in their homes has taken the difficulty out of connecting with many Noongar people. It’s breathed new life into the consultation process.

“I think the people who are participating are extremely pleased because one day they might hear their stories on the railways stations or in a museum somewhere.”

Neville’s final piece of advice to emerging Noongar businesses and collaborations?

“Be generous with the people you’re working with – it’s important that we work together.”

Registered Aboriginal businesses are encouraged to register on METRONET’s Construction Business Register.

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