Raga Leana was a featured speaker at Inspire, a joint event with ABV and Lihir Gold Limited in Lihir, Papua New Guinea. The audience comprised 75% women, and the event aimed to inspire local female entrepreneurship. Raga reflected on the significance of this event, stating, "This event was so important to me because I always tell the women around me that they don't need a formal education to start a business. You can dream big but start small with what you have."
During her speech, Raga emphasised being a "self-starter," as she believes it best describes her approach to life. She shared how this concept goes beyond business and began with small personal goals she dreamed of after becoming a homemaker at a young age. Everything she does now honours the creativity and determination of her younger self.
Raga's "passion for fashion" led her to teach herself how to sew by repurposing secondhand clothes. Her early designs are still worn by her 24-year-old daughter, a testament to Raga's craftsmanship. Observing her community, she noticed a gap in the current market, stating, "Printed fabric is the same everywhere, but everyone wants to be different. Women, especially working women, want to stand out in their clothes." Raga began to hand-paint designs featuring symbols of Papua New Guinea's rich cultural heritage to set herself apart.
Raga started receiving local orders through her Facebook page, Auna Tiares. The Facebook business market in Papua New Guinea is thriving, and as Raga's page grew, she also gained interest from customers in Australia. From this experience, Raga believes that a solid social media presence is an excellent stepping stone for any start-up.
Next for Raga is to create a line of bedding, tablecloths, and other homewares, all featuring her distinctive PNG designs. When asked about her life outside of work, Raga laughed and said that her business is not just a means of earning income but also her hobby. Every day, she enjoys her work by doing what she loves.
Raga expressed her gratitude for Inspire;
"When ABV gave me the opportunity to go to Lihir and inspire other women, I thought I might say no because I am not an outspoken person. But when I gave that speech, it gave me a breakthrough with my confidence. I want to put myself out there more now and know I can.
Nellie Varmari (Left - speaking) and Raga Leana (Right)
The Australian Business Volunteers team recently visited Braidwood as a part of their commitment to grow economic resilience in natural-disaster prone regions, empowering businesses to withstand disruptions and continue to thrive in the face of disasters.
This exceptional workshop brought together local business representatives, Chamber members, tourism association leaders, and council officials for the shared purpose of charting the path to boost tourism for Braidwood and surrounding regions.
The workshop called “Developing tourism and investment in Braidwood and Villages”, was held on the 19th of October at Mona Farm and facilitated by Fiona Court (BVBC), our ABV Senior Program Manager and Natascha Wernick, the unshakeable ABV Community Program Development Facilitator.
The workshop featured expert advice– with representatives from of Development West Coast from New Zealand and Bulahdelah Business Chamber of Commerce and Tourism from New South Wales. They shared their success stories in implementing innovative tourism development plans in their regions, inspiring all attendees.
Attendees left the workshop feeling invigorated and with the tools and a plan to help them reimagine Braidwood and Villages tourism offering.
Funding acknowledgement: This project is funded by the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (DRRF) which is jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments. We acknowledge the support of our partner The Braidwood and Villages Business Chamber.
The business community of Tumbarumba immersed themselves in a dynamic Business Bootcamp, a two-night event on the 16th and 17th of October 2023, facilitated by Australian Business Volunteers.
With a different topic each night, participants had the opportunity to sharpen their finance skills and gain insights into boosting their impact with creative marketing ideas. It was an opportunity not just to learn but to transform, to take those insights and supercharge their businesses.
What makes these workshops important is reaching local businesses to emphasise the critical fusion of economic resilience and disaster preparedness strategies. It’s about empowering businesses to withstand disruptions and continue to thrive in the face of disasters.
Guiding this event were our expert facilitators, Dr. Ken Long and Natascha Wernick, with their combined wealth of experience exceeding 40 years in business development and advisory roles.
Tumbarumba Chamber of Commerce members enjoyed complimentary access to these Bootcamps, yet another excellent reason for businesses in the region to join their Chamber of Commerce.
Participants expressed their satisfaction with the Bootcamp with resoundingly positive feedback. Robbie Ladbroke from Ladbroken Gin commented, “Thank you. Best facilitation I’ve ever experienced.”
Funding acknowledgement: This project is funded by the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (DRRF) which is jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments. We acknowledge the support of our partner the Tumbarumba Chamber of Commerce.
BSP PNG | BSP Financial Group Limited (BSP) in partnership with Australian Business Volunteers (ABV) has extended the roll out of its Your Enterprise Scheme (YES) Grow Program to local small and medium businesses/enterprises (SMEs) across PNG, following the program’s success in Fiji earlier this year.
The launch event, held on Friday 27th October at the Hilton Hotel Port Moresby, was attended by dignitaries from the Department of Commerce and Industry, the Department of National Planning and Monitoring, Australian High Commission and US Embassy along with business leaders from small to large corporations across PNG.
Highlighting the great successes of the SMEs who have already completed the program, the agenda showcased four business owners and their journeys to success. The audience were also addressed by the Group Chief Executive Officer of BSP, Mark Robinson, Chief Executive Officer of ABV, Liz Mackinlay and Retail General Manager of BSP, Daniel Faunt.
The YES Grow (Your Enterprise Scheme) is a four-week program designed to empower and support SMEs in their growth and development. Participant SME businesses attend a series of tailored workshops, one-to-one coaching, and mentoring sessions with highly skilled business volunteers. The program leverages the expertise of ABV and the financial resources and industry insights of BSP to offer a comprehensive curriculum, mentorship, and resources tailored to the specific needs of the small businesses.
Benjamin Basso - General Manager of 3492 Logistics and Consultancy Solutions is among BSP SME Customers who participated in the Port Moresby Training and spoke at the launch. He said the program contains practical concepts that focuses on real life issues affecting most SME operations today.
“This training came at the right time when I needed the most - when I wanted to expand. My daughter, who recently completed year 12 studies, attended the training with me. We have already begun applying the skills acquired in this program to our business activities,” Basso added.
Australian Business Volunteers (ABV), in conjunction with Newcrest Mining, recently held an Inspire Event in Lihir. The Inspire events focus on local entrepreneurs sharing their stories of success as they built their own small to medium enterprise. The event, held on the 24th October, showcased the talents of two female entrepreneurs, Nellie Varmari and Raga Leana.
Nellie grew up under the coffee trees in the highlands of the New Guinea Island and is now one of the leading operators in coffee. Raga shared her knowledge from running her own successful SME in clothing, jewellery, and food. Forty-four local budding business owners attended, with three-quarters of the audience being female.
These showcases are a part of the Newcrest Mining and ABV partnership to increase economic development in the region, facilitated through the Apeketon Business Hub.
Thank You to our Volunteers in Brisbane!
At ABV our skilled business volunteers are the backbone of our organisation. Their generosity in time and spirit enables us to continue our great work helping communities build economic resilience across Australia, Asia and the Pacific regions.
We recently held a function in Brisbane to thank our volunteers for a great year. Held at Blackbird Bar, on the 24th October, the CEO, Liz Mackinlay enjoyed the opportunity to have a casual chat with a selection of volunteers and raise a glass to their efforts.
It was also a great opportunity to garner some feedback about our volunteering processes, which was met with resounding positivity. Some comments included: “Your team are just so professional - they are a delight to work with.” and “So detail-focussed, polite and responsive.”
The ABV team are looking forward to future Thank You events being held in Sydney on the 8th November and Melbourne on the 23rd of November.
NAB Corporate Volunteers are in community learning, exploring, and discovering how they can develop initiatives that foster a sustainable future while ensuring a thriving and supportive community.
The team of 11 volunteers are working in collaboration with the Future of Orbost and District Project and Australian Business Volunteers (ABV) as part of a NAB skilled volunteering Community Strategy Challenge. This nine day immersive experience is an initiative that supports communities in understanding areas of future potential and development of the economy, to deliver a brighter future.
For over six years, Australian Business Volunteers has been partnering with NAB to run immersive skilled volunteering projects for NAB colleagues, harnessing their skills and expertise to drive sustainable social change.
We love seeing a team of people come together to make meaningful difference through the application of their skills, experience and personal motivation!
Twenty-two years ago, Natascha Wernick made a life-changing decision, leaving her city life in Brisbane for a deeper connection with nature. She drove across regional NSW with her 4-year-old, seeking a new home. Struck by Northern NSW's beauty, she settled on a serene 13-hectare piece of land beneath a sacred mountain. Here, Natascha found tranquillity, watching the platypuses in the river and the fireflies on warm summer nights.
In the early 2000s, during the "bead fashion craze," Natascha launched Barbereki Beads. She hosted interactive bead parties on weekends, selling her recycled handcrafted creations. While exploring the area, she noticed artists in Uki village needed help with balancing art and business. Natascha launched "Babareki Business" and "Ukitopia Arts Collective" to support them. Through the arts collective, she organised events like the Ukitopia Arts Festival and "Songwriters on the Song Line." The impact was profound; "people expressed how grateful they were for events like this finally being in the area," Natascha says.
Five years of managing events in Uki, led Natascha to the establish of "Creative Caldera" a not-for-profit organisation encompassing the entire Tweed Shire, which boasted the highest proportion of artists outside of a capital city in NSW at the time. Creative Caldera supported events like the Murwillumbah Art Trail, where artists took over empty shops, transforming them into vibrant exhibitions for ten days, drawing in thousands of visitors.
In 2018, after years of community volunteering, Natascha shifted her focus, continuing as a business mentor with the Murwillumbah Chamber of Commerce. The 2019 bushfires and subsequent floods thrust her into a community leadership role again, founding the Byrrill Creek Community Resilience Team in 2020.
Reflecting on her community initiatives, Natascha humbly stated, "I felt that I needed to give back, start new things and create something for the community that welcomed me." Her work has always been deeply rooted in listening to community needs, which Natascha continues to do as a community development facilitator for Australian Business Volunteers.
Natascha still has a cupboard filled with beads in her office, a colourful reminder of how it all started. Even after a decade since closing her bead operation, Natascha was surprised when a woman approached her in a restaurant, wearing her beads. The woman still carried the card Natascha gave her in her wallet, which had the meanings of each bead written on it, a touching reminder of the lasting impact that Natascha has made on people's lives.
Last week, Anna Durward had her first face-to-face meeting with her mentee, Camari Turagarua on Likuri Island. They have been working together since early 2023. Camari, the Chief Operations Officer at BSP Life Fiji, joined the program to enhance her leadership, management, and strategic skills. She expressed her gratitude for the mentorship program, stating, 'I've learned so much, and I am so grateful to Anna – she is like a sister to me.'
During their time together, they enjoyed the Fiji Day festivities. Camari had made Anna a sulu chamba, which she wore during the celebrations (pictured here). Anna thoroughly enjoyed the traditional dancing, especially the lively dance competition in the evening, which she took part in judging.
Reflecting on her experiences, Anna says, 'I learned so much and feel I have a new family in Fiji. If something feels a bit off in your career, if you're feeling lost, seeking more meaning, wanting to be of service, considering a career change, or aspiring to co-create real impact in communities, I highly recommend volunteering with ABV.'"
Anna Durward and Natascha Wernick from Australian Business Volunteers (ABV) and Daniel Tincknell from Newcrest Mining had an enriching trip last week, building relationships with Martu community members and Marra Worra Worra Aboriginal Corporation in the Fitzroy Crossing area. Marra Worra Worra is the largest First Nations resource agency in Kimberly. Over its 41-year history, Marra Worra Worra has assisted First Nations people in returning to their country to live in independent communities.
It was exciting for the ABV team to engage with communities like Wangkatjunka and Yunggora and see so much talent and eagerness for entrepreneurship. Several new community members are joining the mentoring program to build businesses, which is a positive step towards supporting their communities and families, fostering long-term economic self-determination.
The team had the privilege of hearing many stories about the significance of Martuwarra Fitzroy, the Martu and other language groups' culture, knowledge, and sovereignty.
Pictured: Anna Durward, ABV Senior Program Manager; Sharon Bienundurry, Martu woman and member of the Marra Worra Worra board; Natascha Wernick, ABV Program Facilitator Community Development.
Pictured: Patrick Green, Bunuba man and director, Marra Worra Worra with Nat and Anna.