It may be the smallest in an often overlooked group of islands, but the Tiwi ladies of Bathurst Island are full steam ahead in the electronic commerce field.
Bima Wear Association Inc. is a fabric printmaking and clothing business based at Wurrumiyanga (formerly Nguiu) on Bathurst Island in the Tiwi Islands off the north coast of the Northern Territory. Although Bathurst Island is the smallest of the Tiwi Islands, Wurrumiyanga is the largest township with approximately 1500 of the Islands’ 3000 residents.
Established as a Tiwi women’s association, Bima Wear provides services to improve the lives and wellbeing of Tiwi women and their families. They produce paintings, prints on paper and fabrics, garments and homewares as well as items for ceremonies and funerals.
Bima Wear has been operating since 1969 and provides employment and training opportunities to Tiwi women and girls. Mrs Noella Babui is a traditional owner of this area and has been working at Bima since 1976, not long after leaving school.
“I have been working at Bima Wear for many years and I really enjoy working here. Some of the other ladies and I have worked here for more than 30 years,” says Mrs Babui.
Local Tiwi people shop for their clothing at Bima Wear and proudly wear the beautiful vibrant designs to special occasions including religious and cultural ceremonies, football matches and for shopping trips to the mainland.
“We make the clothing for special ceremonies and funerals for the Tiwi people – men, women and kids,” says Mrs Babui.
Being so remote, Bima Wear does not receive many direct retail sales through the island shop so they rely heavily on their web presence and uninterrupted email contact via a cloud server. Bima Wear promotes their services through electronic newsletters, a blog, Facebook, and the e-commerce store to maintain communication and sales. They developed their website using Skype for meetings and tutorials.
The Bima Wear women have also used the internet to develop their education program due for release in September 2012. The program is an animated cartoon which delivers educational messages.
“I use the email to answer enquiries about sales and send our newsletters out,” says Mrs Babui, “and many of us do our banking online almost daily. The younger people who live on the Island go on Facebook and use it as the main way to stay in touch and up to date with family news.”
At times, connection to the internet can delay normal work. Since Bima Wear has upgraded from dial up to ADSL, their working day has been halved due to less waiting time. Once the NBN arrives with greater speeds, the ladies anticipate even more benefits for their business and community.
“There are not many computers or access to the internet on the Tiwi Islands, no library or internet café and only a few Tiwi people have computers at home so many of the community come to Bima Wear and use our computers. It will be better and allow more people to use it once we get the NBN.”