Juggling a football career and starting a new business would be a challenge for anyone, but that's what Ben Rioli is doing, with the help of Ventia's Venture Smart team in Perth.

Ben, 28, is from the famous Rioli Indigenous family who have played in both the Australian and West Australian football leagues.

The sport brought him to Perth in 2020 to play back pocket for South Fremantle in the West Australian Football League.

He is a semi-professional player, but has recently turned his talents to running a traffic management business to shore up his future once he finishes his sporting career.

He got into the traffic management industry after meeting Robbe Bryce, Managing Director of Advanced Traffic Management (ATM), who was a South Fremantle sponsor.

ATM is a contractor for Venture Smart, Ventia's joint venture with Johnson Controls, which manages Main Roads Western Australia's Statewide Electrical Infrastructure Contract. 

Robbe helped Ben set up his business two years ago, and Venture Smart Project Director Mick O'Bradaigh wanted to provide Ben with the traffic control work he needed to have a viable business.

Buy local, live local 

Mick said Venture Smart was committed to providing sustainable jobs for First Nations people and investing in Indigenous companies to help close the gap.

"Venture Smart prides itself on our 'buy local, live local' approach and we are proud to create new jobs, particularly for people from diverse backgrounds, and make a positive contribution to the WA community and economy," Mick said.

We had a target of 3% direct Indigenous employment in 2018 when we won the Main Roads WA contract, and Aboriginal people now represent 12.5% of Venture Smart's staff.

"When the opportunity came up to provide Ben with his first start, we were keen to be involved, as I was really impressed with his work ethic, enthusiasm and what he had achieved in football.

"We now use his company Rioli Traffic Management for most of our major traffic management jobs, and I look forward to continue working with him and watching his business grow."

Ben said he was really enjoying taking on a new challenge in his career.

"I love my footy, but I didn't think it would be possible to have my own business," Ben said.

Venture Smart was the first company to give me the opportunity, and I can't thank them enough. They have opened so many doors for me and been very supportive and we work as a team.

Ben said the world is now his oyster, thanks to the backing of ATM and Venture Smart.

"I can do whatever I want with the help of ATM and Venture Smart, and I can hopefully get back to community soon to give away footballs to kids in remote areas," Ben said.

"I'm not sure what the future looks like, but it will be very exciting."

A diverse background 

Ben was born in Darwin, but grew up on the Tiwi Islands where his paternal grandparents and dad came from.

The name Rioli doesn't sound like a traditional Tiwi name because it isn't.

"Both my paternal grandparents were part of the Stolen generations," Ben said.

"The Italian nuns gave many of the males at the Garden Point mission new names as part of their regime to deny them their traditional heritage. 

"So, a young boy whose surname was Tippakalippa became Cyril Rioli.

"In later years Cyril changed his surname to Kalippa in recognition of his family."

Ben's mother has Scottish ancestry and his parents met when she left Sydney and ventured to the Tiwi Islands to take up a teaching job.

"The Tiwi Islands is just a completely different world," Ben said.

"I see why Indigenous people get so homesick when they go to the big smoke, as the change is so massive.

Connection to home and knowing where you're from is the most important thing for Aboriginal people.


In the spirit of reconciliation Ventia acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.