Max Weidenbach and Clinton Scobie packing and (below) slicing fresh baked bread.
By KIERAN FINNANE
The Aboriginal community of Hermannsburg (Ntaria) is once again baking its own bread – an example of small business enterprise on remote communities that is so often talked about. For the last 10 months or so a bakery at the back of the Finke River Mission store has been producing loaves and rolls, building up to production of 100 loaves a day, sometimes more.
It provides a healthier product and it creates local employment, says store manager Selwyn Kloeden.
Darren Clark of Wicked Kneads in Alice Springs has delivered training and guidance; Finke River Mission provided the funds to install new ovens and other equipment, some of it computerised, four months ago; FaHCSIA paid for a power upgrade to allow it all to happen. Further government assistance is being sought to help with future training.
“We want to be able to train 10 people at a time in certificate courses in retail, bakery, food handling and workplace safety, allowing us to employ properly skilled people” says Mr Kloeden.
At present the bread – white with extra folate, wholemeal and sourdough – is sold only through the store. Over the year bread sales have grown by “at least 10%”, says Mr Kloeden.
Once their processes are perfected, they are looking to expand both their range of products and their outlets, in Hermannsburg and in other communities.
“It is economically viable, it’s got to be in order to keep providing work for local people,” says Mr Kloeden.
Their own pies and buns are on the agenda, but meanwhile the bakery is also value-adding by making sandwiches as well as hot meals, cakes, and fruit and salad boxes for take-away sale.
Baker Rodney Malbunka was away when we visited, doing training in Darwin to become a Lutheran pastor. Max Weidenbach was standing in. He came to the community from Hobart in 2013 for his ‘gap year’ and has decided to stay on.
“He’s a long way from home,” commented local man Clinton Scobie who started “a few weeks ago” as baker’s assistant, his first paid job.
Gone are the break-of-day starts for baking, says Max. The “beauty” of the computerised prover is that it can be set to do its thing overnight.
“We walk in at 8.30 in the morning, turn the ovens on and throw in the first batch.”
Early trade is done with the leftover loaves from the day before, while fresh bread is ready by about 10am, allowing time for it to cool and be sliced.
In the kitchen, food preparation was over for the day and the three young women employed had moved to other roles – cleaning, serving customers, doing paperwork.
Rachel Kantawara has been on staff for just a couple of weeks after a spell of illness, while Valerie Moketarinja joined in April last year. They’re both very happy with the job, working 8.30 to five, five days a week, with an hour for lunch, and two fifteen minute breaks for morning and afternoon tea.
From left, Anna Schmidt, Rachel Kantawara and Valerie Moketarinja in the kitchen.
The mornings – when they have to meet that deadline for lunchtime sales – go very quickly, they said.
Anna Schmidt, a backpacker from Germany, has been helping out around the store for the last six weeks and “loving it”.