Brian Devonshire

Brian Devonshire

Moving from CDEP to Sustainable Enterprises: Inspired in the Kimberley, Western Australia

In the Kimberley, anything is possible. Well that is the overwhelming feeling you get from spending some time in the Kimberley, Western Australia. The people, the places and the culture culminate this sentiment. Brian Devonshire is one of these people. He moved to Broome four years ago from Newcastle, and recounts a story of how he chose to share his passion for hairdressing with Aboriginal people in the remote Kimberley communities.

Brian Devonshire is a young Aboriginal man who grew up in Newcastle, northern New South Wales. He was adopted by a non-Aboriginal family and has recently reconnected with his Aboriginal mother and father. His family are from the Finke River in South Australia. He is a confident, ambitious young man and sees the potential in the people he works with, Broome and the surrounding communities. He loves Broome, “especially the wet season” he adds. 

“I came up here to get away from a few things in Newcastle.” Since arriving in Broome he has settled in well and enjoys not being the minority race. In Newcastle he grew up with people calling him names and being bullied. “It’s not like that in Broome. I am part of the majority up here.” 

Brian started working almost as soon as he arrived in Broome with Kullarri Regional CDEP. He wanted to share his international hairdressing skills with Aboriginal people in the remote areas along the Dampier Peninsula. Kullarri was an avenue that enabled this. He saw a gap and spoke with the elders in the communities. Initially, mainly the women were interested in hairdressing. He worked with the women to train locals in hairdressing to receive their Certificate 2 and eventually establish salons. They have been successful in setting up two salons, one in One Arm Point and the other in Bidydanga.

The local women now run the salons, however they are still funded by Kullarri Regional CDEP. Since setting up the hairdressing-training program, he has noticed, “it has really changed the dynamics of the community. With the hairdressing salons set up in the women’s centre, we are starting to see a lot of men in there, getting their hair done and interested to find out more about hairdressing.” The next major step he envisages for the salons is to set them up as sustainable self-funded businesses. This is the plan over the next twelve months. The foundations for this are in place.

Hairdressing is only part of the work Brian is doing. Working for the Government in a not-for-profit Aboriginal organisation, he is responsible for other certified training and engagement programs. Kullarri Regional CDEP is managing several programs including Building and Construction, Horticulture, Media, Hairdressing and Art. The plan for these certified training programs is aimed at getting Indigenous people job-ready and to establish jobs within the communities. Sustainable businesses are starting to evolve with the introduction of the two salons over the past eighteen months. 

The aim for Brian and Kullarri Regional CDEP is to link the media program into the work the salons are doing. With the help of the newly trained apprentices, use their skills to market the salons in One Arm Point and Bidyadanga as businesses. Creating portfolios for the hairdressers will be a key outcome for the media trainees as well as promotion for the salons in the communities to help build their enterprise

It may be the moist air or the many years of cultural connection to country, or simply the beautiful landscape, which inspires the people of the Kimberley. Whatever it is, this place is magical. It most definitely is an area where culture is strong in Aboriginal communities. Individuals are keen to learn and develop sustainable enterprises that protect and nurture country, people and culture. Brian’s passion for Broome is to set up a social enterprise, training local Indigenous people in hairdressing at a salon. Just like Goolarri Media Enterprises, a sophisticated independent media business based in Broome, Brian envisages a worldly salon for the Kimberley.

By Kate Sutton


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