Hermannsburg making its own bread again


Max Weidenbach and Clinton Scobie packing and (below) slicing fresh baked bread. 

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”.


  1. Awesome real productive progress. Well done Hermannsburg community, and to Finke River Mission and Wicked Kneads.
    This engages people and their self worth in terms of contributing to others and them selves. Take note Giles and Co, this is the sort of initiatives you and your [fellow ministers] should be initiating!
    Once again private industry has embarrassed you. Just think, the annual wages of one “of your mates” or the annual costs for one year of the outrageous Chief Ministers Office in Tennant Creek could have paid for the “one off” cost in establishing this bakery – or other like minded industry, with a community.
    No wonder your own indigenous members want to break away from the CLP. Forming their own party actually has merit!

  2. Too wicked, as they say.
    Selwyn leading the way, as usual; he is truly an invaluable asset to the community.
    Congratulations also to Darren, Rodney, Max, Clinton, Valerie, Rachel and everybody else involved in this great initiative.
    One question: when will these products be on sale in Alice?
    The truck could bring a batch of loaves in to town on its grocery runs perhaps?

  3. Well done to the Hermannsburg community, you should all be very proud of your own bakery. Great. What a good story.

  4. Thank you Kieran for this encouraging story. The fact that the venture is almost a year old gives me the impression that it might here to stay. Hopefully its life will not depend on an individual, or individuals, for its continued existence but on a plan that provides longevity. I hasten to add that there is no intention to reflect negatively towards those who have got the exciting project started.
    It has so much potential for the community. The obvious work/training opportunities, work experience for school students and tourist trade for starters but also inspiration for other small business ventures. Community pride has to be a growth area too!

  5. @Aaron. You draw a very long bow! The last thing we need are race-based parties! What a disaster that would be! Goodness, governments need to set direction and provide support BUT the work needs to be done by people and small business. Without knowing you Aaron, but based on your comment perhaps you have been on government largesse too long to imagine any other way.
    Finke River Mission has stood by residents of Ntaria since the earliest mission days while communities have been the play-things of governments and land councils. Local community councils too have often lost the plot and been instruments for advancing one or two family interests at the cost of the other residents. Nepotism has been no stranger at Ntaria either. Well done to Selwyn Kloeden and his tireless team who have worked against stifling bureaucracy thrown at them from all levels. Selwyn has always tried to train-up Indigenous to become respected contributors to their own people at Ntaria. The real proofing of the dough will be whether the community can stand on its own feet when Selwyn eventually moves on. That is entirely up to the locals. Certainly they have not been keen to ensure the Tourist Precinct a working success over many past years.


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