Carol Vale is a Dunghatti/ Gumbangirr woman who co-founded Game Enough? – an Indigenous Australian bush foods and game meats company based in Brisbane, Australia.
Nellie Varmari, is owner of Central Dakis Mamina Trading – a wholesaler who buys green beans from the mountainous region of Goilala – Central Province, processes and sells the coffee to retailers in the National Capital District.
While it seems like these women live separate lives in separate parts of the world, they are in fact, connected by a deep thread uncovered during the #PNGAusPartnership Laikim Sister pilot program.
Laikim Sister is an Australian Government supported program delivered in partnership with TDi, that connects Indigenous Australian and PNG women entrepreneurs.
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 Ms Vale.
Carol’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 (Carol’s great grandmother) and asked that if his sister Hazel (Carol’s grandmother) had a son, to name him Richard, after him. Carol’s grandmother did have a son (Carol’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,” Ms Vale said.
Through the program, Carol met Nellie Varmari, who runs a coffee wholesale business, Central Mamina Fresh Coffee.
Ms Vamari sells coffee throughout PNG, which she sources from the Owen Stanley ranges. Nellie, who has worked in the coffee industry for many years, built Central MaminaFresh 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,” Ms Varmari said. “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’,” Ms 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.
Carol will import Nellie’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.
It’s deep threaded connections like these that the Laikim Sister program aimed to uncover, as we know that trade is built off the back of strong person-to-person relationships like this. If you are interested in knowing more about the Laikim Sister program or the businesses involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org