For Carol Vale, co-founder of Game Enough? – an Indigenous Australian bush foods and game meat company based in Brisbane, Australia – the Laikim Sister pilot program has deepened her connections with Papua New Guinea (PNG) both professionally and personally.

Game Enough? creates foods and beverages that adopt the flavours of the Australian bush.

The company has long imported crocodile from PNG, however, the Laikim Sister program has opened opportunities for Vale to export to Australia’s closest neighbour.

“We’re looking to export our products particularly Kangaroo and Emu to international markets, and this program has given me the opportunities and the connections to export to PNG which I hadn’t considered previously,” said Vale.

Laikim Sister is an Australian Government supported pilot program under the PNG-Australia Partnership that connects Indigenous Australian and PNG women entrepreneurs. TDi is privileged to be the implementation partner for this great program.

The program highlights that there are deeply embedded and long-standing connections between Papua New Guinea and Australia, and when highlighted, they create opportunity for business and industry growth.

“My first week [in the program was] absolutely amazing on so many levels. For me, [I got to experience] a 75-year-old story in my family that is very much a part of my father’s bloodline – our family’s service men and women’s cultural identity came alive for me here in PNG,” said Vale.

Vale's my great uncle’s grave site, Owen Stanley Ranges, PNG

Vale’s great uncle, Private Frank Richard Archibald, fought in the Second World War, and was killed on the Owen Stanley ranges of PNG. Before he died, he wrote home to  his mother (Vale’s great grandmother) and asked that if his sister Hazel (Vale’s grandmother) had a son, to name him Richard, after him.

Vale’s grandmother did have a son (Vale’s father) and named him Richard Owen Stanley.

“To go out and visit my great uncle’s grave site, to sit there and talk to him with my father and grandmother’s photos in front of me and remember the amazing story that comes from that is just something that I will be forever grateful for,” Vale said.

Through the Laikim Sisters program, Vale met Nellie Varmari, who runs a coffee wholesale business, Central Mamina Fresh Coffee.

Varmari sells coffee throughout PNG, which she sources from the Owen Stanley ranges. Varmari, who has worked in the coffee industry for many years, built Central Mamina Fresh Coffee 18 months ago.

“I was working for PNG coffee, and then superior coffee, and I thought to myself – I could do this, coffee grows in my region,” Varmari said.

Nellie's coffee business Central Mamina Fresh Coffee
Nellie started her coffee business Central Mamina Fresh Coffee 18 months ago.

“When I started, I didn’t have any money… I had to borrow money from my children, for my first 20kg. I would test it to see if it worked.  I went around to all the businesses in Port Moresby by foot to sell my coffee. I was working so hard – in the morning I would put on my Superior Coffee uniform and work, and in the afternoon, I would put on my Central Mamina uniform and work again. Eventually, my boss at Superior Coffee said to me ‘you are passionate, you must pursue your business’,” Varmari said.

Ms Vale, who had been searching for a coffee line for her business for some time, was moved by Nellie’s story of hard work, and the fact that she sourced coffee from the same place as her great uncle served in the war.

“When Nellie told me she doesn’t have a car and catches a bus to meet people and sell her coffee, her story of determination resonated with me. I’ve decided I want to import coffee from Nellie, from the Owen Stanley ranges because of the story and the connection of that place, which is about our place. And to hear from the Papua New Guinean sisters about the significance of the Owen Stanley ranges, just made this week even more special. They spoke about how it’s such an important part of their cultural identity and I thought – what a nice thread,” Ms Vale said.

A part of Vale’s long-term goal for Game Enough? is to have a coffee line as part of their offerings. She will source Varmari’s coffee which will underpin Game Enough’s new coffee line Callie’s Coffee. Incidentally, Callie is the nickname that Carol’s grandmother gave to her and thus the connection between two Laikim Sisters.

The Laikim Sister cohort will meet in Cairns, Australia for part two of the program in February 2020.

The focus will be on formalising trade and collaboration connections that the women have begun to form through the program. For Ms Varmari, she sees this as an opportunity into the Australian market.

“I am working hard to source enough coffee to take with me to Cairns.  I want to make Carol happy but also, we will have a market as part of the program and I hope to sell some there,” Varmari said.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Laikim Sister program or the businesses involved, please email info@tdi.org.au