New boss at WA’s first indigenous grower group

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Cally DupeCountryman
Noongar Land Enterprise Group chief executive Alan Beattie.
Camera IconNoongar Land Enterprise Group chief executive Alan Beattie. Credit: The West Australian/Nic Ellis

WA’s first indigenous grower group has appointed its first chief executive, with Alan Beattie set to help create links between eight Aboriginal groups operating 22,000ha of farms.

The Noongar Land Enterprise Group, or NLE, was officially launched in 2017 to represent eight Aboriginal organisations with various parcels of land across WA.

The properties range from 227ha to 15,000ha of land and are at Esperance, Dandaragan, Bremer Bay, Cranbrook, Beverley, Bakers Hill and Roelands.

The creation of the NLE stemmed from discussions dating back to 2014, when a group of Noongar landholders formed the group to transition from passive to active land management.

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Mr Beattie was appointed the group’s chief executive on April 6.

Originally from a farm at Yealering, Mr Beattie, pictured, started his position at the helm of the NLE last week, after having held a number of senior roles in government, the not-for-profit and private sectors since 1997, his most recent as social enterprise manager at counselling organisation Holyoake.

His goal is to help the eight groups develop new business opportunities, boost financial capacity, create employment for indigenous people, and attract Noongar groups into the NLE fold.

“There are active business enterprises already being managed by our members, including sheep and beef production, training and education, social services and catering,” he said.

“Bush food production, honey, sandalwood, cultural tourism, social services and other mainstream agriculture and horticulture enterprises have all been identified as opportunities for growth.”

Mr Beattie will be accountable to a board chaired by Beverley-based Noongar Chamber of Commerce chairman Oral McGuire. He and his two staff aim to manage the NLE functions within a cultural and values framework.

Mr Beattie said there was potential for the NLE membership base to include an additional 24 Noongar properties, boosting members’ total farmland to 40,000ha.

“As a grower group, we can provide opportunities for our members to benefit from collective scale in areas such as product branding, information sharing and trialling and testing new techniques such as bush foods propagation and establishment,” he said.

The biggest property currently involved in NLE is run by Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, which includes 15,000ha and a ranger program producing honey and bush foods for sale.

Dowrene Farm Aboriginal Corporation launched a prime lamb sheep enterprise on their 712ha parcel of land west of Cranbrook in 2018.

Meanwhile, five of the eight groups have been developing honey, collectively branded as Ngooka. Ngooka’s first bottling was in December, and small scale sales will start later this year.

Mr McGuire said Mr Beattie was an asset to the organisation.

State Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan said appointing a chief executive was a “key step forward” for the grower group seeking to maximise returns to Noongar landholders.

“NLE is the first Aboriginal producer group in Australia and provides a mechanism for Noongar people to build viable farming enterprises,” she said.

“As we continue to learn about the role agriculture played in Aboriginal society, NLE can play a real role in creating jobs and opportunity for Noongar people.

“We are also seeing Aboriginal businesses move towards integrating traditional Aboriginal foods into farming landscapes: regenerating degraded land while generating income from production of food plants that co-evolved with WA soils makes a lot of sense.”

NLE was created with funding from both the WA and Federal governments, in particularly Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporations.

The group also receives funding from and works with Food Innovation Australia and the Noongar Charitable Trust.

NLE is also involved in a feasibility study for the sustainable development of an Aboriginal-led Australian Bush Food Innovation Hub, at the National Trust’s Avondale Farm at Beverley.

Noongar Land Enterprise Group members

Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation: 15,000ha at Esperance

Beemurra Aboriginal Corporation: 1242ha at Dandaragan

Banjelungup Aboriginal Corporation: 852ha at Bremer Bay

Dowrene Farm Aboriginal Corporation: 712ha at Cranbrook

Yaraguia Enterprises Incorporated: 840ha at Beverley

Wongutha CAPS: 1040ha at Esperance

Woolah-Wah Land Aboriginal Corporation: 604ha at Bakers Hill

Woolkabunning Kiaka (Roelands Village): 227ha at Roelands

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