‘As a small business, it’s the best thing we ever did’

YOU can feel the pride booming down the phone line as Jacqui Hikuwai talks about her three employees.

At times she is rendered speechless and struggles to put into words how much these people have helped her and her husband Wil's business - Hervey Bay Eco Tourism.

But when she can, she sums it up pretty simply.

"As a small business, being able to hire these three people has been the best thing we have ever done," she said.

"But we could never have done it without some financial assistance."

She's talking about the Queensland Government's Back to Work program that supports Queensland businesses to hire those who have been out of work for a period of time to get them back in the workforce.

"We're basically a start-up and started running these tours in September last year, so as any small business owner knows, when you're starting up there are a million costs involved," Jacqui said.

"So while we were benefiting by having some financial support which meant we were able to hire staff, it helps the jobseekers as well."

One of her office administrators Christie has proven a shining star and Jacqui said she couldn't be happier having her on the team.

"Christie hadn't worked for about three years so we were a little nervous in the beginning, but I take people on face value and she's just truly proven herself to me," she said.

"She is so grateful to have been given a go and always goes over and above and I see that in her every day.

"She's honest and trustworthy and reliable and even on her days off she'll text me saying I've got an appointment and I'll have to force her to take a day off for goodness sake!"


Hervey Bay Eco Marine Tours owners Wil and Jacqui Hikuwai could not be more pleased with the Back to Work program.
Hervey Bay Eco Marine Tours owners Wil and Jacqui Hikuwai could not be more pleased with the Back to Work program.

Christie has been in her role since February this year and is looking to extend her skills and training to be able to drive the boat.

Jacqui said she ensured her staff were able to further their skills while on the job, including Tahlia, another employer found through the Back to Work program.

"Tahlia is great. She is currently in admin, but we're going to mix it up and have her hosting on the boats, as well as learn the marketing side of things," she said.

With an indigenous heritage, Tahlia is able to share her culture with guests, which Jacqui said was invaluable to their business.

She encouraged other business owners and operators to consider the Back to Work program when looking to employ staff.

"The incentives are fantastic and you're essentially changing people's lives," she said.

"I honestly can't even describe how that makes me feel. It's great for us, great for jobseekers. It's just great."

The Back to Work Program is available to all Queensland businesses that hire someone who has been out of work for an extended period of time and offers up to $20,000 a year for eligible employers.

Eligibility criteria apply.

For more information on the Back to Work program, head HERE