From Indigenous Sawmill to Bushfire Safe Windows



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The search for an Australian timber for their Bushfire Safe window and door Range brought Paarhammer to a remote corner of the Northern Territory.

Here the Gumatj Corporation, an Indigenous Corporation of the Yolngu people of East Arnhem, mills Darwin Stringybark.

Traditional owners are planning ahead for when mining royalties from the Rio Tinto bauxite mine end.

Gumatj Corporation was established already in 2007 to offer training, create jobs, provide resources for remote living, and is taking steps towards the economic independence of the Yolngu people. A part of this overall vision and the wide range of businesses now owned and operated by Gumatj is also a sawmill.

In the Yolngu tradition, stringybark trees were felled to create space for ceremonial grounds, this story depicted in a bark painting ‘Gundimolk’ by Yilpirr Wanambi which now holds pride of place at the Paarhammer showroom.

Timber suitable for Bushfire Safe Windows

Darwin Stringybark (Eucalyptus tetrodonta) is a small to medium sized hardwood tree with pale reddish-brown heartwood and contrasting yellow or light-brown sapwood. The timber has a fine and even texture. Select trees are harvested and taken back to the sawmill where the timber is cut mainly for use as roof trusses and decking, and some homewares, furniture and cultural instruments. The bark often gets set aside for traditional bark paintings.

The sawmill and workshop, which are operated by Yolngu men, supplied latticework and vertical supports for a large heat mitigation project as well as much of the timber for the Visitor Centre at the Botanical Gardens in Darwin. Timber has also been sent to other projects interstate and is now finding its way into high performing windows and doors for discerning clients Australia-wide in a laminated form (engineered timber). Paarhammer is in the process of getting their products made of Darwin Stringybark certified for use in their windows and doors for building in high bushfire-prone areas. It can also be used for maintenance free timber frames that age to a distinctive silver-grey colour.

The density of Darwin Stringybark is 1170kg per m3; this is denser than Spotted Gum or Redgum. Its stress grade is F27 when unseasoned and achieves the highest rating of any timber with F34 when seasoned. Its durability is classed as 1.

Reforestation is a high priority for Gumatj, starting by collecting seeds and operating their own plant nursery to be able to get the very same variety and mixture of plants and trees that have grown in this area for hundreds or even thousands of years.

Gumatj Corporation

At a recent visit to Nhulunbuy on the Gove peninsula, Tony Paarhammer was able to learn about the vision, mission and workings of the Indigenous Gumatj Corporation. The timber harvesting, milling and manufacturing arm of the Corporation offers training and employment to local Indigenous people living in an isolated community thousands of kilometres from major industry hubs.

Gumatj Corporation additionally implements an education program for low-risk Indigenous prisoners, providing connection to land as an important element in the healing process, thereby helping offenders to reintegrate into the community and to achieve sustained employment.

Looking forward, the Gumatj Corporation is about securing a better future for Indigenous people by building businesses that support the community and give everyone purpose.

For more information

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