Empowering Indigenous Communities for a Brighter Future

As part of our vision for reconciliation, WSP exists to create equitable, inclusive and sustainable societies for today and future generations.

Photo courtesy of Level Crossing Removal Project

 

At the World Engineers Convention (WEC) held in Melbourne between 20-22 November, we have six presenters who will share their insights about the importance of empowering indigenous communities for a brighter shared future.

 

We employ over 3,200 staff and have over 1,000 active projects, across every state and territory in Australia. Each of these projects exist on a First Nations country, and we seek to connect the work that we do today to the enduring culture and history of our First Nation’s people and country.

 

“WSP was the first engineering consultancy to established a Reconciliation Action Plan in 2010. We have an important and continuing role to play in promoting and protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples. We have a responsibility to include and consider Indigenous Peoples’ values and knowledge in the work that we do, in the design and development of place,” says Julia Carpenter, Director of Indigenous Participation.

 

Since then, we have strived to embed the principles of Relationships, Respect and Opportunities in our business, and to engage our people, clients and partners in the journey of reconciliation. Our commitments through our RAP includes involving Indigenous communities in infrastructure projects and stimulating growth for local Indigenous businesses to help create strong and culturally respectful relationships with their people and connection to the land. WSP is currently working closely with Reconciliation Australia in developing our new Elevate RAP.

 

In July, we joined our clients, industry colleagues and fellow Australians in recognising the importance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart to Australia’s First Nations people. We accepted the invitation to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.

 

“Given all engineering projects are built on Aboriginal lands fostering meaningful relationships between these Aboriginal communities, the projects stakeholders and projects potential environmental, economic and societal outcomes is a challenge that seems to sit outside the scope of the projects works. We found that through implementing these Indigenous design principles that the Aboriginal community were empowered both culturally and economically while the community were still able to enjoy positive outcomes,” says Michael Hromek, Technical Executive of Indigenous Architecture, Design and Knowledge.

 

WSP has conducted inclusive, Aboriginal-led co-design methodologies on major infrastructure projects such as the Southern Program Alliance (SPA) and the Echuca-Moama Bridge in Victoria. Allan Murray, Principal Consultant of Aboriginal Affairs has been integral in driving cultural awareness at SPA.

 

He explains “I’m proud to have helped more than 230 people working at SPA expand their cultural awareness and understanding of Aboriginal history and values, and to advance their cultural competence. This is happening at the same time as local community residents are demanding more cultural design packages and opportunities to see more Aboriginal values represented in overall package designs. This process pays homage to 50,000 years of Aboriginal history. We aim to create forever stories and legacies beyond those currently imaginable.”

 

In shaping our future places, a diverse and inclusive workforce is critical. WSP is collaborating with industry and government to empower education and employment pathways for Indigenous Australians. In Brisbane, we have partnered with the Queensland University of Technology’s Oodgeroo Unit, to establish the Science and Infrastructure Development (SID) School to close the gap in education outcomes for Indigenous students. The SID School, a free five-day experiential program, helps Indigenous students build career pathways by providing them with the opportunity to get a glimpse of tertiary education, STEM careers and workplaces whilst maintaining a strong connection to Indigenous culture.

 

“Supporting the young leaders of tomorrow in STEM education and careers, particularly those from Indigenous backgrounds, helps public and private sector participants in industry lay strong foundations in designing integrated, inclusive and diverse communities and workforces of the future,” adds Gerard Ryan, WSP’s Queensland Regional Director.

 

The South Australian Governor’s Aboriginal Employment Industry Cluster Program is a collaboration between the South Australian Government (Department of Industry and Skills) and industry partners including WSP, to create education and employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians. The program has established clusters in ten industry sectors and has led to approximately 1,200 jobs for Aboriginal peoples since its inception in 2010.

 

David Cruickshanks-Boyd, National Director of Sustainability says, “The cluster program clearly demonstrates how industry and government can mutually benefit from collaborative approaches that create economies of scale to pool resources, establish peer support networks and share lessons and experiences in creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce for the next generation.”

 

Hear more from our presenters about reconciliation in action at WEC at the following sessions:

WEC Presentation

Speaker

Role Title

Session

Aboriginal Design in Transport Infrastructure: Empowering communities through the inclusion of cultural design knowledge into project solutions

Michael Hromek

Technical Executive, Indigenous (Architecture), Design and Knowledge

Wednesday 20 November: Capacity building (Indigenous focus)

Enabling Aboriginal participation in engineering education and employment

David Cruickshanks-Boyd

National Director, Sustainability

Wednesday 20 November: Capacity building (Indigenous focus)

Aboriginal Design in Transport Infrastructure: empowering communities by including cultural design knowledge into project solutions

Allan Murray

Principal Consultant, Aboriginal Affairs

Wednesday 20 November: Capacity building (Indigenous focus)

Cultural awareness and curriculum development

Brad Bown

Civil Engineer

Thursday 21 November: Blended learning and interdisciplinary

Indigenous languages matter for development, peace building and reconciliation – WSP’s role as a global engineering professional services firm in promoting and protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples

Julia Carpenter

Director of Indigenous Participation

Thursday 21 November: Engineering a sustainable future

Industry and education collaboration is empowering the careers of Indigenous students

Gerard Ryan

Regional Director, Queensland

Friday 22 November: Industry-education collaboration

 

 

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