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South Australian veteran and Ngarrindjeri man David Mallett is paving the way for greater First Nations representation in the defence sector, with his company Yanun Project Services playing a key role in the project management of a number of major defence projects.

One of only a few First Nations businesses in the state’s defence industry, Yanun specialises in project management, schedule and planning support and project controls services.

Since establishing in 2019, the business has grown, now employing seven people including a number of Aboriginal trainees, and is highly sought-after for its services by several major defence suppliers, despite enduring disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

With a military background, having served with the Australia Special Forces for seven years, and experience in project management, David was keen to leverage his skills and unique set of circumstances to take advantage of the growth in South Australia defence industry.

“I realised I was working in an industry that was growing and there was a lot of movement and progress in engaging with Aboriginal businesses and improvements with the Indigenous Procurement Policy,” he said.

“There aren’t many First Nations businesses delivering professional project management services and project controls in the defence sector, so I thought it was a good opportunity to grow a business in that space.

“I was fortunate to navigate the disruptions caused by Covid through establishing some good in-roads with some of our suppliers.

“When the business started it was very defence-centric, but it has evolved into supporting other industries.”

The company’s expertise is being utilised by key defence suppliers, including BAE Systems Australia, where Yanun has been engaged to deliver cost and schedule analytics services on the Hunter class frigate program. Yanun has also developed the Contract Master Schedule for ASC’s Life of Type Extension program for the Collins class submarine and is working with  the Australian Department of Defence on the Woomera Range redevelopment program.

At the time of establishing his business, David helped drive the creation of The Circle – First Nations Entrepreneur Hub, a partnership between the Australian and South Australian Governments. The Circle provides opportunities for First Nations entrepreneurs and businesses in South Australia to take advantage of services and support to help them grow, build capability and create connections.

Based at Lot Fourteen, The Circle supports businesses in a diverse range of sectors by providing access to new markets and networks, with the aim of strengthening and maintaining a healthy and vibrant First Nations business sector in South Australia.

David credits the success of his business to the help he received from The Circle and said it was an invaluable support mechanism when navigating the challenges of launching a new business.

“The relationship I had with The Circle was pretty strong from the outset, given I had been there from the beginning. They’ve been proactive in providing introductions with relevant clients in the market, co-ordinating industry days where we can meet the buyer or customers keen to engage with Aboriginal businesses. It’s also been great to meet other Aboriginal business owners.”

Yanun is now empowering the Aboriginal community by offering training and employment opportunities to younger First Nations people.

Through its First Nations Development Program, the company is providing young people with on-the-job training and mentorship in project management fields.

“The Circle has been helping us by reaching out to their broader networks for some First Nations trainees. We are passionate about creating training and employment pathways for First Nations people.”

To find out more about the First Nations Development Program visit the Yanun website.

To find out more about the First Nations Entrepreneur Hub located at Lot Fourteen, visit The Circle.