The isolated Northern Territory coastline Indigenous community of Maningrida has celebrated the opening of a fish processing facility, which could be Australia’s most remote fish factory.
Driven by traditional owners in Maningrida, the idea was developed as a way to get more training and job opportunities for locals.
As one of three traditional owners with an Aboriginal Coastal Fishing Licence in Maningrida, Stuart Ankin wanted to see businesses develop which would benefit the community.
Last year, the community started selling whole fish to Top End communities including the Darwin market, more than 500 kilometres away.
This facility means the fisherman can now value-add their produce by filleting, vacuum packing and freezing it, which is why it got the support of the NT Government.
“People see a lot of opportunities out here that they haven’t been able to capitalise on in the past,” the CEO of operator Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation (BAC) Karl Dyason, said.
“There is commercial fishing taking place in the rivers and on the coast that they [locals] haven’t been able to get involved in, so this is an opportunity for them to start a fledgling business and gradually take over some of those larger commercial activities.
The NT Minister for Primary Industry, Ken Vowles, said it is an example of how Government should work.
“The community saw a real opportunity here to make their fishing activities into a commercial enterprise to get off the [Work for the Dole] program,” he said.
“They [the community] approached Government to say ‘we want a processing facility so we can get our fish out of the sea, processed here, boxed and then [sent to markets]’.
“That is what Government should be doing is supporting communities in doing what they want to do.”
Combining culture and business
Maningrida locals call themselves ‘saltwater people’ and fishing is a big part of their culture.
By developing cultural activity into an enterprise, it has allowed traditional owners to combine culture with business.
“The traditional way when we catch fish we just leave the guts in. But we are learning balanda [white person] way. Processing and filleting it is new for us,” he said.
Training and development has injected a sense of pride into the remote community, motivating — particularly men — like Hans Lawrence to be involved.
“I feel proud. We need to teach our kids so they can grow and copy us on country,” he said.
“We are proud of our lands and this is creating opportunity for the kids behind us to work on our lands.”