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Small businesses ‘overlooked’ by State Government’s timber support package, Manjimup business owner says

Wayne Herdigan Countryman
Payments will be bigger for workers who choose to remain, with up to $45,000 available if they are made redundant or their saw mill closes.
Camera IconPayments will be bigger for workers who choose to remain, with up to $45,000 available if they are made redundant or their saw mill closes. Credit: FIFWA

I have been working in the native hardwood industry in some form for 50 years.

My family and I have been very fortunate to have found the place that we were going to raise our family.

In that I worked in timber mills as a teenager and found my true calling in the logging industry.

I worked for Bunnings and in 1992 I started a small business working in the forest and at that time started selling firewood commercially plus contracting to the State as a small logging contractor.

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I always had and still do have a passion for the South West forest and how it has been managed.

For sure there were aspects of that industry which did need to change and over time things were addressed for the better.

Fast forward to 2021 and our firewood business, Herdigan’s Logging, which has been supplied by the State 100 per cent for 30 years now appears, like many other businesses in the South West, to not meet the criteria of the support packages.

Wayne Herdigan has been in the timber industry for 50 years
Camera IconWayne Herdigan has been in the timber industry for 50 years Credit: Ben Loughran

In 2001 during the previous round of business exits there were many who did not meet the then terms of criteria.

We did at the time and were going to accept the exit but as an Aboriginal-owned business we were asked to consider staying in the industry as a senior Forest Products Commission Officer felt it was needed to have an Aboriginal contractor involved in the logging business.

We decided to stay in the hardwood up until now.

Now we find after 30 years of being provided logs for our business - any logs we used in providing firewood was bought 100 per cent through FPC - we still are working in a current contract with the State.

I feel there are many small businesses that are being overlooked.

The Government has done what Mark McGowan calls “the will of the people”, I am not going to enter my interpretation of that and am only wishing to gain some insight as to how it is deemed we and many others do not fit the criteria.

On a personal note, when I was a child we were taken from our parents so we could be brought up “right”; that was the cost of having an Aboriginal father and a white mother.

I have learned to accept that that was the way of things then.

WA Premier Mark McGowan with Forestry Minister Dave Kelly and Environment Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson.
Camera IconWA Premier Mark McGowan with Forestry Minister Dave Kelly and Environment Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson. Credit: Supplied/Supplied

When in these places we were to be brought up the right way, many were subjected to sexual or physical abuse.

I, thankfully, only suffered the physical beatings, I mention this as part of my life story.

In my time contracting to the State I had to deal with racism, however I am quite capable of dealing with that sort of crap firmly.

Not once through all of this did I believe we were hard done by and never once did I ask for any sort of handout.

I have always seen myself as an Australian who is proud of my Aboriginal heritage.

Having told you a little of my past I have always seen the need to work hard and appreciate the reward that come from it; those who know me can attest to this.

But now to be told that after 50 years working in this industry and 30 years of buying our logs from FPC we do not meet the criteria!

My wife and I put substantial money into our business so that when we came to give up the joys of work we would have an asset to sell to fund our retirement.

The decision from the State Government has left us with something which is un-bloody-sellable.

We could have put half of what we invested in this industry into our super and been quite comfortable.

All businesses affected by this decision need to have some form of compensation.

The Government keeps saying how important it is to be fair and just to all people, and now I am becoming a little annoyed because it does not look like that to me.

We are an Aboriginal-owned business that wants a fair and just return for years of hard work and substantial investment which is what any other Australian business is entitled to.

What I am seeking is to see that all businesses which are affected by this decision be compensated fairly.

Wayne Herdigan is the owner of Herdigan Logging Timber Supplies in Manjimup

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