15 Sep 2021

Small business supports local economic development opportunities in Beetaloo

The oil and gas industry represents a key economic driver in the Northern Territory and will play a key role in the region’s ongoing economic recovery.

In particular, the Federal Government has identified the Beetaloo Basin, which lies around 500 kilometres to the southeast of Darwin, as a strategic priority – which is good news for local jobs, energy security and small businesses like Safespear.

Supply Nation-certified business Safespear launched in 2019 to work with oil and gas companies to reduce safety risks, maintain operation schedules, and increase efficiency and productivity.

“We want to make sure that people who go to work are able to go home to their families safely — that is our top priority,” says Safespear Director Francois Witbooi.

The company is fully Aboriginal-owned and operated, offering several safety-focused services to oil and gas clients in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

“We were intent to work in an area in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses were underrepresented in order to show our people that it was possible for us to be a critical part of oil and gas operations,” says Barry McGuire, Safespear Chairman and former Board Member of Reconciliation WA.

“With that in mind, Safespear was created to work with the oil and gas sector to protect people, assets and production from the impact of hazardous area construction and maintenance activities. It is critical that we are seen, heard and recognized as valuable contributors in the oil and gas sector as well,” he says.

The Beetaloo Basin could drive the Territory’s economy for years to come. A Deloitte report found that the Beetaloo had the potential to provide around 6,300 full-time jobs and a $22.4 billion boost to GSP over the 20-year period to 2040.

That’s more than a billion dollars a year to put back into local communities, industries, and services, including businesses like Safespear.

Barry says the development could provide a huge boost for local Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.

“I think it would be a great opportunity to work with the Traditional Owners and bring Aboriginal businesses with the capability to build a strong network of support. The flow on effect will ensure greater opportunities for local Aboriginal people inside the community and in Beetaloo operations,” he says.

“It can help them understand how to provide a better future for themselves and brings a better understanding to industry too.”

Liza McGuire, Safespear Operations Manager and Director at the Foundation for Indigenous Sustainable Health (FISH), adds that the company’s benefits don’t start and end at the worksite, with plenty of opportunities for wider community interaction. Safespear’s founders are involved with several charitable activities, including their own, The Spear Foundation, which includes the youth-focused Smiling Child’s Fund for disadvantaged children and students.

“Giving back to the community is more than just the business itself, it’s about giving back through these kinds of social and economic development as an Aboriginal organisation working in WA and the NT. In short, we believe that doing good is part of doing good business” she explained.

“It’s the small things that can deliver an impact to the community. Our network can drive opportunities to create employment not just within our space, but also in the industries we’re all connected to via those networks.

“We bring the physical safety aspect to our business, but there’s a cultural and spiritual safety aspect as well.”

Francois concluded that development of the Beetaloo Basin has the potential to bring new jobs and training opportunities to the region.

“It’s part of our strategy to work with local communities no matter where we go” he said.

“There are young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who may not have considered or been given exposure to the resources industry, and we can offer them opportunities to learn from us and work with us on our contracts.

“The development of the Beetaloo basin has the potential to provide transformative experiences for people on Country, and if Traditional Owner groups are keen to pursue these opportunities, then we would love to work collaboratively with them to fully realise these prospects.”

To find out more about Safespear, visit safespear.com.au.

Lead image used in this article courtesy of photographer Ross Swanborough (website) and Company Director magazine. Pictured from L-R: Barry McGuire, Safespear Chairman; Liza McGuire, Safespear Operations Manager; Francois Witbooi, Safespear Director.