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The owners of a highlyregarded building firm that began by working out of a caravan and now employs 47 staff have never forgotten how they started.

And that inspires Michael and Jessica Buckley to give young Territorians a chance at Darwin-based M&J Builders.

They have four carpenter apprentices: Hamish Reilly and Coby Goody, and Indigenous Territorians Kain Fuller and Brett Wilson.

And Kalliopi Kalitsis, the daughter of one of the company’s trusted subcontractors, has been given the chance to train as a safety officer.

“She was sitting at home after leaving school,” says Michael.

“We saw potential in her and gave her the opportunity to get into a good, well-paid profession. And she is doing great.

“OH&S is a great role in our industry as it offers the strong prospect of career advancement, offers varied career paths and capacity for significant earning potential.

“We remember how we were given a chance and want to do that for young people. My advice is always the same: grab your opportunities.” General manager Sonia Malady has been a part of M&J’s extraordinary success story since the early days.

“Recruiting staff is expensive,” she says. “We prefer to ‘grow our own’ whenever possible.”

The firm is a multi award-winning business and a leader in the industry for quality, honesty and integrity.

“We’re a growing business,” says Michael. “We started building houses for first-homebuyers and housing developers out rural, but with the challenges faced within the industry over the years we have evolved the team, ensuring diversity.”

M&J’s point of difference is a simple word: innovation.

For instance, it used Aboriginal craftsmen and artists when it fitted out the NT Indigenous Business Network’s office in Darwin.

Indigenous-owned Manapan was contracted to carve a beautiful boardroom table and Aboriginal artists were brought in to print artwork on fabric for furniture and create a dramatic kitchen splashback.

M&J has been innovative on many other projects.

The company used Venetian plaster for the walls of one property.

“The plaster looks beautiful and wasn’t that much more expensive than traditional feature wall treatments,” says Michael. “It was an experiment and worked very well.

“These kind of innovations show that our industry in the NT can achieve what our southern counterparts are achieving in the bigger cities.

“As an industry, we as professionals should look outside of the box and not stick with what we are used to.

“Innovation can unlock productivity, efficiency, safety benefits, greatly improved work flow, optimise resource management and enable faster project delivery.”

A challenging project was designing and building seven homes for high-disability residents for Somerville Community Services – five in Katherine and two in Palmerston.

“It was a very interesting and rewarding job that was one of the first in the Territory.

“We had to meet very high standards. Everything had to be exact, down to the last millimetre. We were awarded awards both in HIA and the Master Builders Excellence for these houses, which we and the team where very proud of as it was an extremely challenging project.”

M&J specialises in complex commercial projects, insurance, Defence and government work.

Recent projects include building the multi-purpose Gray community hall in Palmerston and working on the highlypraised revitalisation of Cullen Bay in Darwin.

The company carries out a lot of work for insurance companies – no matter the distance. For instance, a team recently rebuilt a house destroyed by fire at Hermannsburg, 1620 kilometres south of Darwin.

It has also worked at the Kangaroo Flats military training ground as a subcontractor for Sitzler and renovated the community swimming pool at Wadeye.

Jessica and Michael Buckley were struggling in their home state of Victoria when they decided to put the kids and their scant belongings in a car and drive 3750 kilometres north to Darwin.

“We had nothing,” says Jessica, whose heritage is from the Murri region of south Queensland. ‘We literally were borrowing from the kids’ money boxes to pay the rent.

“We moved to Darwin for work opportunities and the great lifestyle.”

M&J gives back to the community in many ways, including supporting the Humpty Dumpty Foundation since it began in Darwin, and sponsoring Banks football and netball clubs, and the TV Jets basketball team, as well as other major events throughout the year and individual participants in supporting achievements.


M&J Builders

98 Coonawarra Rd, Winnellie NT 0820

(08) 8998 9669