“I would like to think that one day our workplace can reflect what I see in my backyard,” says a hopeful Jake Berry.

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A mechanical engineer in our Adelaide office, Jake is a proud family man whose origins are an eclectic melting pot of Indigenous, Irish and Tongan blood. He says, “My mother is Indigenous and my father was the son of immigrants to Australia, so diversity is a topic that’s extremely close to my heart. When we have our family get-togethers it is amazing to see how everyone has come together and interesting to see how many shared commonalities exist between cultures.

 

“The stories that are told by my elders and the lives they have all lived has put a lot into perspective, and it is hard not to be inspired by them.”

 

Jake’s ties to country are strong and explains why he is so invested in forging a career in sustainability. His mother’s side of the family are the traditional owners of the Mutawintji National Park located north-east of Broken Hill in remote NSW.

 

“I’ve always felt a strong connection to country which I think has manifested itself into me becoming an engineer. How can we make our built environment perform better socially, economically and environmentally so that we can preserve the land Australia is known for and still thrive as a society?”

 

Since joining the firm in 2016 as an intern, Jake began working full-time in 2018. “As a consultant, there are huge opportunities to design and create innovative solutions to our clients’ problems,” he says.

 

“Working with the firm has meant I can work closely with communities on projects that will help them thrive. Since starting, I have worked on landmark projects in South Australia including Tonsley, Australia’s first innovation precinct, and Lot Fourteen, which have both become highly acclaimed, award winning developments.”

 

With ambition to develop his career in sustainability, Jake is determined to drive change at the community level. He adds, “To me, sustainability is a cause everyone needs to champion. Sustainable societies not only mean being environmentally friendly but also having the diversity of thought and skill to represent all walks of life in the way we design places and essential infrastructure.”

 

Outside of work, championing a level of change with the Indigenous youth community is close to Jake’s heart. He works for the Department of Education and Child Development on a contractual basis. Through this, he also mentors and co-ordinates the Young Aboriginal STEM Thinkers of South Australia (YASTSA) group.

 

“The motivation to be involved in these groups is to give back to the community and to help inspire the next generation of STEM thinkers,” explains Jake. “There aren’t enough STEM mentors or role models who can help guide Indigenous kids into the industry. Traditionally role models have always been cultural influencers, sports stars, doctors and lawyers.

 

“Increasing Indigenous participation in STEM isn’t so much about removing barriers of entry rather it is more about providing the opportunity and encouragement to pursue these careers and role models is a powerful way to do it. I want to show the younger generation the links between STEM and culture and show them that they can do incredible things for society by sharing and applying indigenous customs and practice to these fields in unique and exciting ways.

 

“By championing this kind of step change, I’m hoping to help influence the workforce in a way that better reflects society. I would love to see STEM reach a point of organic diversity where the amount and spread of graduates from these fields naturally represent the community.”

 

In his downtime, Jake enjoys spending time playing sport (Rugby Union or Thai Kick Boxing are his favourites) as well travelling and camping. He is also keen to explore our global reach and hopefully travel to one of our Canadian offices to develop his skills on projects over there.

 

WSP Diversity and Inclusion

 

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