• Torres Strait Islander man, Mick Davis from Warialda Engineering (warialda engineering)Source: warialda engineering
This Torres Strait Islander businessman has become an inspiration with his innovative ideas that continue to help Australian labourers.
Laura Morelli

16 Feb 2017 - 3:11 PM  UPDATED 16 Feb 2017 - 3:11 PM

As Mick sat in the audience and listened to the Prime Minister of Australia address the nation, he never dreamed his weird, wacky and wonderful inventions would lead him to be a representative for recognising and celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professionals.

In the wake of Closing the Gap, Torres Strait Islander man from the outskirts of Inverell in New South Wales, Mick Davis, was invited by PM Malcolm Turnbull on behalf of successful Indigenous businessmen, to attend the speech and represent remote talent that is innovative, unique and making a difference for the people now and for future generations.

"Being selected to represent Torres Strait Islander professionals makes me a proud role model."

What was once just an idea for the tool shed has now become an award winning engineering device for farm labourers.

But his journey didn’t start here…

Hard labour:

Back in the days of the early nineties, farming meant subjecting yourself to dangers in the workplace that could have been easily avoided.

Mick, the founder of Warialda Engineering & Welding, witnessed these dangers first hand and made it his prerogative to create an essential change.

“When we started we were actually cutting firewood and the log kept jamming - you want the gap to open up, not close up, and if it’s not elevated it can basically throw a chainsaw at you and virtually cut your hand off.”

So with the hope of keeping both his hands where they belong, Mick decided to think about The Davis Starlifter.

"The idea just came to me and I thought 'why haven't we made this yet' so we decided to just do it."

The Davis Starlifter is an award winning, dual purpose agricultural tool that revolutionised the farm industry and took the Australian agricultural world by storm. The device is a simple yet effective, dual-purpose tool designed to lift logs off the ground to a stable position, for a clear cut and thereby avoiding chainsaw damage, as almost witnessed by Davis himself.

Mick went about developing a new, cost-effective agricultural tool to not only significantly reduce the risks of hazardous work, but also save his customers time and energy.

"I looked at manufacturing and an extra way to make a dollar so when I developed the machine and realised how much demand it had, I decided to put a patent on it because it was something that would become a huge deal," he said.

"We've got a great team with 80% being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and boy are they hard workers."

“We’ve got the ability and equipment to service the needs of the agricultural industry by manufacturing from start to finish in a short amount of time.”

Soon enough, with his innovative product, an enthusiastic group of clients swarmed in to see what all the noise was about. Most of which, liked what they saw. 

Initially Davis produced between 10 to 20 units per month, all from the back of his own garage, and handled every aspect of the transactions himself. With a product that served a purpose, The Davis Starlifter was born and it was only the beginning of great things. 

Team work:

Currently the company boasts a team of more than 20 staff with more than 80 per cent being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage. Mick's own family have a keen interest in the business, his wife, two sons and his daughter all share the same enthusiasm, aspirations and commitment as Mick, but it wasn’t always that way.  

“My wife initially said that I was mad,” he laughed as he remembered starting off the company.

“My family have backed me 100% and now we look at each other as a unit and know that after one invention, there’s more to come.”

Not only his immediate family but other relatives have joined in the business too. His cousins fly in and fly out from the Torres Strait and continuously work on end for short periods of time.

"We've got a great team with 80% being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and boy are they hard workers."

The team take immense pride in their remarkable workmanship; with over forty years of combined experience, they know the demands of the world of agriculture and they know just how to deliver. 

So what exactly makes a successful business?

"Honesty, commitment, integrity and professionalism - there just some of my old-fashioned values on which Warialda Engineering & Welding bases its impressive growth and success thus far," Mick says proudly. 

Engineering with a difference:

Warialda Engineering & Welding has grown to become an industry leader both regionally and internationally, recognised for a range of products and services that include design, repair, metal fabrication and steel products for agricultural and related industries.

The list of services continues to grow with Mick’s well fuelled ideas, his latest invention being “The Ropey”.

One of his bestselling products, yet another device that was created out of a necessity. This one he calls ‘the mother of all inventions’ as it saved him time, money and effort.

They usually say a skilled man can’t blame his tools, but in Mick’s case, he certainly can. His inventions have been widely recognised, not just by loyal customers and people in need of a mechanic hand, but also by Australian Government bodies at state and national levels with a number of accolades such as:

1997 - Winner of the Farm Inventor of the year – AG-Quip "the Davis Starlifter"
1997 - Runner up of the Orange National Farm Inventor of the year "The Davis Starlifter"
1998 - Admission to the Australian Technology Showcase – the first Aboriginal business admitted.
1999 - Winner of the Farm Inventor of the year – AG - Quip "The Davis Bagmate"
1999 - winner of the Orange National Farm Inventor of the year "The Davis Bagmate"
2000 - Orange Society for Engineering in Agriculture Award of excellence in Engineering & Design
2000 - Runner up of the  BHP Steel Awards -"The Davis Starlifter"
2014 - Winner of the Fraser & Old Sohns Ag-quip Farm inventor of the year “The Ropey”
2014 - Winner of the Beefex IAP Innovators awards “The Ropey”
2014 - Top 4 finalists in the Ethnic Business of the year Awards
2016 - Runner up of the Beefex IAP Innovators award "The Cable Coil"  
2016 - top 4 finalists in the Ethnic Business of the year Awards
2016 - Winner in the Ethnic business of the year Awards 

Mick is chuffed about being recognised in the agricultural industry for continuing to make a difference.

“These are very prestigious awards, they’re outside the box for our own people, our people are sheltered from that side of production,” he said.

"People start looking up to you and as a Torres Strait Islander man, it goes back to being able to be that role model to work hard and provide people with a smarter and better product.”

Looking back at his long list of achievements, the modest handyman struggled to find a way to sum up how he really felt about his designs. Speaking from the heart, he divulged into the importance of being a role model for other Torres Strait Islander men. 

“My innovations have put me on the map, the recognition gives me a great insight into the agricultural business," he said.

But that wasn't the only reason he felt proud.

"People start looking up to you and as a Torres Strait Islander man, it goes back to being able to be that role model to work hard and provide people with a smarter and better product.”

Beefing up the business:

Based in Warialda, rural New South Wales, Warialda Engineering & Welding Pty Ltd is central to the beef industry across Australia.

“We are at the forefront of innovation and product development for agriculture, manufacturing an impressive range of agricultural tools to improve both safety in the work environment and the overall experience in the field,” he said.

“Our services range from the on-site manufacture of feedlots, pouring concrete slabs, feed bunks and tilt panels, to engineering heavy duty trailers and producing innovations such as the “Davis Star Lifter”, the “Davis Bagmate” and the all-new “Ropey”.

For Mick it's about being the fix-it man. He wants to help people solve their problems and be at the front of designing new things in day to day operations within the agricultural industry.

"Looking at the production and manufacturing side of things – we find different ideas and save money with unique designs.”

Becoming a fix-it man:

For some people, they spend their whole life trying to think of new ideas and create something on their own. Take certain brilliant artists - some can take several decades to launch a new album, meanwhile there are scientists who spend almost an eternity trying to generate new answers; but for Mick, it was bound to happen.  

“My designs and ideas – they just come naturally.”

"I stand back and look and think about my dad, he was my biggest influence. He said to me whatever you do in life son - get a trade."

Mick took his father's advice and decided to get three trades under his belt - but one in particular shone out the brightest to him. 

"When I turned 10-years-old, my dad bought me a gear box and spanners – so straight away I got down to business, pulling apart things and putting them back together. But I got to a stage where I couldn’t fix one of the issues. I went up to him and said: 'Dad I can't solve this'... he looked at me and said, 'you’re not old enough son, but when you are, you’ll figure it out'".

"Nine years it took me, but I did it. I continued to work on the same gear box, I kept trying and trying and trying and I finally did it.

"Never say you can't do it - that's what I say it to all my boys and employees still to this very day."

Innovative Ideas:

Cattle Cable Coils

The cattle cable coils are an effective simplified way to secure cable, run cable and repair posts. These coils are highly beneficial as they eliminate the possibility of cable wearing/cutting into posts/tags, it is substantially faster to install it also allows cable to be easily replaced or repaired and is manufactured from high tensile steel double that of the cable to ensure lasting wear on all sides.            

Feedlot Building

Start to finish on-site concrete pouring to produce feed bunks, trough slabs, feed bunk slabs, tilt panel, commodity and hay sheds.

Direct importers

-          Posts

-          Cattle Rail

-          Pipes

-          Fencing

-          Stay-Tight cable

-          With access to more

Custom Trailers

Created to suit your needs, from cattle carts through to heavy-duty trailers

The Ropey

An award winning device used to assist in the securing and tensioning of cattle cable, thereby eliminating turn buckles and rope Ds.

The Davis Starlifter

An award winning, dual purpose agricultural tool that revolutionised the farm industry and took Australia by storm. The Davis Starlifter is a simple yet effective, dual-purpose tool designed to lift logs off the ground, to a stable position for a clear cut, thereby avoiding chainsaw damage, and to effortlessly remove or adjust steel posts.

The Bagmate

The Davis Bagmate can be safely attached to the bladder of one tonne bulk bags to enable the safe, quick and controlled release of the contents allowing less wastage.

"We’ve just purchased a flip former (pictured above), and it’s going to increase our monthly income by three fold providing the work is there. Indigenous Business Australia Leasing helped make this possible with their support and funding." 

Looking back at the business he has created he’s come a long way.

"You get a hunger in your belly, very humble in what you’ve achieved but you always do strive to do your best, you get involved in your own business and the best thing to do is always take opportunities when they present themselves." 

Mick says it's not just about his new designs and innovative tools - it's about the whole team. 

"I’m very lucky to have such a good team, we’re probably currently running at about 80 per cent of Indigenous based employees and they’re loving every bit of their job. Six Torres Strait islanders fly in and out to help with the engineering and it makes me proud to see those statistics," he said.

"The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ones were the boys that actually wanted to work and could handle the extreme jobs – but we're always open for workers, Indigenous or non-Indigenous, but these are the ones taking a shining to the industry and to the work."

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