Media Release, 02 August 2012

A Hahndorf drilling business established fifty years ago that numbers some of Australia’s biggest miners among its clients has been named the 2012 Telstra South Australian Business of the Year.

John Nitschke Drilling Pty Ltd also won the Commonwealth Bank Medium Business Award and the Regional Business Award. It was joined by Port Adelaide workforce health service Sitemed, Tanunda-based tourism business Tour Barossa, and SA’s e-waste pioneer E-Cycle Recovery Pty Ltd, of Gepps Cross, as winners of the 2012 Telstra South Australian Business Awards.

The 2012 SA Business of the Year was launched in 1962 when John Nitschke borrowed $35,000 and bought a truck-mounted drilling rig to meet the high demand for drilling water wells in the Adelaide Hills.

Five decades on, John’s son Jonathon, a former driller’s assistant, is CEO and the company has a fleet of 17 rigs used for coal exploration, coal seam gas, iron ore, mine service holes and water well drilling across Australia from its bases in Hahndorf, Newman in WA and Moranbah in Queensland.

In the past year, the business has experienced a growth spurt, tripling its workforce to about 160 while using its research and development into safer and more efficient equipment as a competitive advantage.

Jonathan Nitschke said: “Competing against larger, multi-national drilling companies can be a challenge. Partnering with our clients and providing a safe and professional service has allowed us to grow and win long term contracts with major mining companies.”

Telstra Business Group Managing Director and Telstra Business Awards Ambassador, Will Irving, said John Nitschke Drilling had many attributes that made it a stand-out among the 23 finalists in 2012.

“Judges were particularly impressed with the excellent strategies of the business, its health and safety innovation in the drilling sector, its excellent teams and support in remote regions and its product development. Its clients recommend them over international contractors,” Mr Irving said.

The Telstra Australian Business Awards were launched in 1992 to recognise the achievements of small and medium businesses and to encourage strategic planning for business growth.  

“I’m pleased to see that each year we uncover exceptional small and medium businesses, such as John Nitschke Drilling, and I encourage all South Australians to nominate businesses now for the 2013 Awards,” he said.

Matt Comyn, Executive General Manager of Local Business Banking, Commonwealth Bank, said: “Small and medium businesses are fundamental to the overall strength of our economy and these awards reflect the diversity and breadth of entrepreneurial talent which exists in Australia. One key characteristic evident among all finalists was their ability to adapt to the ever-changing business landscape. John Nitschke Drilling in particular demonstrated a commitment to innovation and success, and this Award is testament to that.”

The winners of the 2012 Telstra South Australian Business Awards announced in Adelaide are:

Telstra South Australian Business of the Year

John Nitschke Drilling Pty Ltd, Hahndorf


HTC Start Up Award

Sitemed, Port Adelaide   
The mining and construction boom and work health safety changes opened the way for the launch of Sitemed which delivers workforce health services with a highly trained and experienced team of paramedics, nurses, doctors and allied health professionals to projects such as the Adelaide Desalination Plant. Judges said Sitemed was a true entrepreneurial business, innovative in medical advancements with highly skilled staff.

News Ltd Micro Business Award 
Tour Barossa, Tanunda                                   

With tour operators reluctant to accept bookings from very small groups, Tour Barossa filled the vacuum offering tailored bus-style tours for one or more visitors on a budget. The family-owned business owns seven vehicles along with 14 self-catering properties that provide a customer base. Judges praised Tour Barossa’s  passionate commitment to its customers’ experience and its collaboration with other local businesses..

MYOB Small Business Award

E-Cycle Recovery Pty Ltd, Gepps Cross

Formed in 2005 to recycle the rapidly increasing amount of electronic and electrical items discarded each year, SA’s first e-waste service separates materials to downstream recyclers, diverts hazardous materials from landfill and allows allowing non-renewable resources to be reused in manufacture of new items. Judges praised the focus, vision and quality of its management and business systems and its future viability.

Commonwealth Bank Medium Business Award

John Nitschke Drilling Pty Ltd, Hahndorf


Regional Award


John Nitschke Drilling Pty Ltd, Hahndorf                                                    

1300Australia People’s Choice Award

Mining Family Matters, Aldgate


Personal experience led Alicia Ranford to establish Australia’s first online community to support families involved in the mining and resources industry.  Mining Family Matters offers free professional services and support, including Q&A access to psychologists, an online chat forum and testimonials on key mining towns.

Open to all entrants in the 2012 Awards, the People’s Choice Award is decided by a public vote, allowing customers, staff, suppliers and colleagues to show their support for their local businesses.

The winners of the Telstra South Australian Business Awards will be judged against category winners from other states and territories in the lead up to the national Telstra Australian Business Awards to be announced in Sydney on 29 August. Winners of the 2012 Awards receive a share of $500,000 in cash and prizes and become part of an exclusive national business alumni.

For more information about the Telstra Australian Business Awards, visit