Herb Smith founded Dreamtime Tuka to celebrate his Wiradjuri culture and create jobs for Indigenous people. (ABC Western Plains: Jessie Davies)
Five years ago, things couldn’t get much worse for Wellington in central-west New South Wales.
Nestled between two major urban centres, job opportunities were few and far between, and a drug epidemic had taken hold.
Nearing retirement, policeman Herb Smith saw unemployment as the main contributor to his hometown’s disadvantage, so he hatched a plan.
His new weapon? Cakes and slices. Thousands of them.
Dreamtime Tuka’s cakes and slices were inspired by Herb Smith’s Wiradjuri grandmother Bessie Daley. (ABC Western Plains: Jessie Davies)
The Wiradjuri elder launched Dreamtime Tuka — an all-Indigenous food company specialising in snacks sprinkled with native Australian ingredients.
“I’m a very proud Wiradjuri man. I’m very proud of my heritage and culture,” Mr Smith said.
“We were raised to respect our culture and most importantly to be proud of it.”
His company now supports more than 10 young Indigenous people.
He also recently partnered with other businesses in Wellington to inspire them to hire more Indigenous people.
“I want to be part of breaking the cycle where children do see their parents, their brothers and sisters all getting up and going to work,” Mr Smith said.
The key to stemming Indigenous unemployment, he said, was to provide “real jobs”.
“Aboriginal people are some of the most over-trained people in Australia,” he said.
“They are encouraged to do courses, they go to TAFE and get certificates … but all those certificates end up in a drawer. You need to have a real job at the end of the chain.”
Lasting impact on local lives
Like many of his peers, Jayden Moloney found it tough landing a job straight out of school.
He tried four different workplaces but struggled to feel invested.
Originally from Forbes, Jayden Moloney is now a baker’s apprentice. (ABC Western Plains: Jessie Davies)
Everything changed when he knocked on Uncle Herb’s door.
“The day I got this job I moved out with my aunty and it’s given me a sense of independence I haven’t felt before,” he said.
Jayden is now an apprentice at Dubbo’s Early Rise Bakery — where all Dreamtime Tuka’s products are made.
He has made his family proud.
“Herb’s program has given us a chance to prove there are some of us out there who are willing to give our time and do something we never thought we could do,” Jayden said.
Like Jayden, having a regular income has been a game-changer for Zeb Blowes.
Zeb Blowes swapped his job in the shearing industry to pack products at Dubbo’s Early Rise Baking Company. (ABC Western Plains: Jessie Davies)
As a shearer, Zeb’s pay was sporadic, and the work was back-breaking.
Now, he’s gainfully employed, packing all manner of sweet treats.
“Here, I get to work every week, Monday to Friday, and get a pay cheque every week so it helps to keep up with the bills,” Zeb said.
Deb Barwick, the chairwoman of the NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce, said strong business leaders like Mr Smith inspired their employees and made a lasting impact on their lives.
“The beauty of Herb’s work is he hasn’t left where he comes from, it’s still on his traditional lands and that’s where he’s having this impact,” Ms Barwick said.
Mr Smith was surprised how quickly his company took off.
He pitched his first slice to a major Australian airline in late 2014.
They placed an initial order of 120,000 slices over three months.
Cakes and slices are made in bulk batches at the Early Rise Baking Company in Dubbo. (ABC Western Plains: Jessie Davies)
Now, he’s supplying 450,000 slices each quarter.
“I took an idea and mixed that idea with lots of passion, lots of motivation and hard work,” Mr Smith said.
He plans to continue expanding the business to provide more jobs for Indigenous people.
“I firmly believe that if you’re going to close to the gap, if you want a vehicle to close the gap, a great job is the way to go,” Mr Smith said.
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