Re­mote air­port own­ers soar

A Dampier Penin­sula Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity has just paid off a $6 mil­lion loan and now owns its own air­port. Pic­tured are Djarind­jin Air­port work­ers Shaun Pu­run­tatameri and Bruce Edgar as an oil and gas he­li­copter is be­ing “hot-re­fu­elled” in the back­ground.

Broome Advertiser - - Front Page - Glenn Cord­ing­ley and Jakeb Wad­dell

A tiny Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity in WA’s re­mote Kim­ber­ley has be­come a suc­cess story af­ter pay­ing off al­most $6 mil­lion dol­lars to cre­ate an air­port ser­vic­ing the off­shore oil and gas in­dus­try, us­ing its own peo­ple to run the show.

Djarind­jin Air­port on the Dampier Penin­sula 170km north of Broome has be­come one of a kind in Aus­tralia as it is fully staffed and man­aged by lo­cal in­dige­nous work­ers with zero tol­er­ance of drugs and al­co­hol.

The op­er­a­tion pro­vides work for about 20 peo­ple from Djarind­jin and sur­round­ing Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties Ardyaloon and Bea­gle Bay and is ex­pected to do so for many years to come.

The achieve­ment was cel­e­brated at the air­port on Fri­day, with guests in­clud­ing WA Sen­a­tor Pat Dod­son, Fed­eral In­dige­nous Af­fairs Min­is­ter Nigel Scul­lion and Kim­ber­ley MP Josie Far­rer.

Mr Dod­son said it was a his­toric day for the com­mu­nity and a great achieve­ment driven by in­dige­nous com­mit­ment

“I think it is one of the most pos­i­tive and con­struc­tive things that we are wit­ness­ing to­day,” he said.

“Th­ese peo­ple went into debt and were able to re­pay it and are now look­ing towards a pos­i­tive fu­ture.”

Air­port man­ager and lo­cal Bardi Jawi man Kim­ber­ley Baird said young peo­ple in the com­mu­nity were be­ing given a chance to give drugs and al­co­hol away in ex­change for good jobs.

“It is a dream come true to live and work in our com­mu­nity where we can stay close to our fam­i­lies and loved ones,” he said.

The ven­ture be­gan in 2010 when the Djarind­jin Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion en­tered into a part­ner­ship with Broome In­ter­na­tional Air­port to build a fa­cil­ity that could pro­vide re­fu­elling for heli­copters fly­ing to and from the Browse Basin, about 425km north of the tourist town.

To es­tab­lish the world-class fa­cil­ity, the cor­po­ra­tion needed to bor­row mil­lions of dol­lars from BIA.

It proved to be a wise in­vest­ment, with the DAC on Fri­day an­nounc­ing the loan had now been paid back in full — in just six years.

And the fu­ture looks just as pos­i­tive.

Train­ing and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for sev­eral gen­er­a­tions are ex­pected to con­tinue for the next 40-60 years, with Shell and In­pex es­tab­lish­ing liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas fa­cil­i­ties in the Browse Basin.

The DAC now man­ages and op­er­ates one of the few civil­ian air­ports in the coun­try that has trained staff to “hot re­fuel” heli­copters while they are still run­ning as pas­sen­gers wait in one of two mod­ern trans­portable build­ings.

At the mo­ment air­port teams are hot re­fu­elling up to 24 heli­copters daily with a ser­vice that is reg­u­larly au­dited and passed by global oil and gas and he­li­copter com­pa­nies.

DAC chair­man Brian Lee said in­come gen­er­ated from the air­port would be in­vested back into train­ing and busi­ness.

“We are im­mensely proud of this achieve­ment,” he said.

“The money we make here will go back into the com­mu­nity and we have to look af­ter it for our fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

Built in 2011, the air­port has a 1200m sealed run­way with pi­lotac­ti­vated light­ing and in­cludes a Royal Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice trans­fer sta­tion.

BIA chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul McSweeney said the fa­cil­ity pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity for res­i­dents to live and work on their land, which was “in­valu­able” to them.

“BIA is very proud of its part­ner­ship with Djarind­jin, the op­por­tu­ni­ties cre­ated for lo­cal Bardi peo­ple and of the valu­able con­tri­bu­tion be­ing made by Djarind­jin air­port to the de­vel­op­ment of the projects in the Browse Basin,” he said.

Djar­in­jin had a pop­u­la­tion of 395 in the 2016 cen­sus.

Pic­ture: Jakeb Wad­dell

Pic­tures: Jakeb Wad­dell

Djarind­jin Air­port staff and Djarind­jin Abo­rig­i­nal Co­po­ra­tion chair­man Brian Lee, mid­dle front, with in­vited guests at the cer­e­mony on Fri­day.

Chil­dren from the Djarind­gin com­mu­nity at the air­port cel­e­bra­tion on Fri­day.

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