Jasmine Newman, Managing Director and Co-founder, Killara Services
How was 2021 for GJK Indigenous Solutions? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?
2021 was an exciting and busy year for GJK Indigenous Solutions. From being a certified joint venture in 2017 as GJK Indigenous Solutions (GJKIS), we have taken the next step and relaunched as Killara Services.
We also had a great year in terms of recognition of our services to our client partners. We were nominated for a Supply Nation 2021 Supplier Diversity Award, alongside our client partner BGIS, and are nominated as a finalist in three categories for the upcoming Defence Connect 2021 Defence Industry Awards. Excitingly, we are also a state finalist for the Telstra Best of Business Awards.
In addition, we also secured extensions on some of our foundation contracts that commenced in 2017. We’ve managed to grow and sustain these contract partnerships delivering an enhanced level of diversity, and reconciliation to our client partners and really assisting them in achieving their social inclusion objectives and targets.
As everyone would probably attest to, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has proven challenging in 2021. However, as a business Killara has been agile enough to ramp our cleaning services up or down depending on the clients’ requirements, and in addition, capitalise on market opportunities with new clients in the fight to eradicate COVID–19 and its spread.
The cleaning industry in today’s climate is more important than ever and our current and potential new clients are seeking our specialised cleaning services to assist them in ensuring they have clean, safe environments for their people.
We’ve enhanced our services by supplementing our regular cleaning methodology with innovative technology such as robotic vacuums and offer value-added services to our customers, such as extra touch point cleaning and sanitisation of workstations.
Is there an achievement you’re particularly proud of from the past 12 months?
Our Indigenous engagement and employment rates are what I am most proud about. We have continued to build on our strong Indigenous participation and engagement targets and have achieved fantastic results in 2021 with the following outcomes:
- 38 per cent Indigenous engagement company-wide (against a target of 30 per cent)
- 52 per cent Indigenous engagement on Defence NSW specific contract
- $200,000+ spent with Indigenous suppliers
I’m also proud we were one of, if not the first, Indigenous joint venture businesses listed with Supply Nation a number of years ago, and in 2021, we demonstrated, through annual auditing and governance, to have transitioned from a registered joint venture, supported by the JV sister company, to a Pty Ltd company in our own right, where we have demonstrated our independence in our company operations.
What led to the rebrand of GJK Indigenous Solutions to Killara?
Our rebrand to Killara empowers us to hold our own strong identity as an Aboriginal cleaning company. The word Killara was chosen with purpose, from my own traditional language of the Dharag people. Killara means ‘always there’, and we will always be there for our people, clients and communities.
I am thankful and grateful to George Stamas, director, GJK Facility Services and Killara Services. Without his continued support and belief in my vision to operate a true Indigenous business that creates real opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, GJK Indigenous Solutions would not have achieved the success that we have in our joint venture throughout the last four years.
What opportunities and challenges do you see for the wider commercial cleaning market in 2022?
It will be interesting to see how our clients view cleaning services post COVID-19 and what a ‘normalised cleaning service’ should look like. I’d like to continue to educate current and future clients in the benefits of engaging with an Indigenous supplier from a social benefit perspective.
Since the inception of the Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) by the Australian government in 2015, we are seeing more and more government and private sector clients wanting to engage with Indigenous business. The problem is that often these clients see engaging with an Indigenous business as a process or a KPI that needs to be met.
We would prefer to engage with clients and be seen as walking side by side with our partners on their journey to reconciliation, ensuring there is not only awareness but knowledge with a deep understanding of Aboriginal people’s culture and history. Building a shared culture across both organisations that fosters meaningful engagement with Aboriginal people and businesses.
It is important for clients to engage with Aboriginal people and business with purpose and as second nature, and not just to tick a box or meet a KPI.
I’m passionate about creating opportunities for Indigenous Australians and facilitating a pathway for them to gain access to sustainable employment opportunities and making a difference in their lives.
What is one issue you would like to see urgently addressed?
With the release of the Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) in 2015, and corporate partners making a bigger stand in regard to diversity and inclusion, we have seen numerous Indigenous businesses flood the cleaning and facilities market. Not all of these businesses are ‘true’ Aboriginal run businesses and therefore, black cladding is becoming a major issue.
I’m passionate that businesses classified as Indigenous are in fact that. Not just owned, but also run and the majority business owner in control of the business. I’d like to see procurement professionals undertake enhanced due diligence to ensure the authenticity of the Indigenous business before engagement.
What advice do you have for fellow industry leaders?
With business returning to normal, and many more cleaning companies out there dominating the landscape, winning work in 2022 will be driven by price.
As industry leaders we need to protect fair and equitable pay rates for our cleaners, and not engage in a ‘race to the bottom’ mentality to win business.
This article first appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of INCLEAN magazine.
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