Allan Murray, proud Dhudhuroa-Yorta Yorta man, plays a facilitator role within projects, working with the designers and building relationships with the Traditional Custodians of the land on which projects are located.
Allan’s from Dhudhuroa Country, in the high country of Wodonga. His mother grew up in Yorta Yorta Country. Allan’s mother and father met on the same mission. In the 1970’s his Dad took a job on a roads project and the family moved to Albury.
Traditional Yorta Yorta lands lie on both sides of the Murray River roughly from Cohuna to Albury / Wodonga. They include towns such as Echuca, Shepparton, Benalla, Corowa and Wangaratta and extend northwards to just south of Deniliquin.
“I have a background of ten years in government, three years in politics and also working in the elite sports sector,” explains Allan. “I come from a co-design policy environment setting. With these technical skills, I take the lessons learnt in my other work experience and apply these tools when delivering our Indigenous Specialist Services.
All projects are being developed on traditional lands ... Our ancestors of course were the first engineers.
“I was invited as an external advisor on WSP’s Reconciliation Action Plan and this gave me an insight into the firm. I liked the core values of WSP and was given the opportunity to bring my experience in methodology and framework into the team.
“If we can influence the design of a project by what we do – landscaping, urban environments, parks, open areas– by putting the cultural narrative at the forefront, we can provide a journey of Aboriginal awareness for WSP and our clients.”
Allan strongly advocates on behalf of the Traditional Owners which he deeply respects and values from both a personal and cultural perspective.
“Traditional Owners are usually under-resourced and time poor. To be their voice and their champion is a humbling role.
“In return, WSP put a lot of faith in what we do – to embed the stories of our Country in the projects that we are developing.”
Why is it important for WSP to connect to Country?
“Because all projects are being developed on traditional lands,” says Allan.
“By including the Aboriginal understanding from 60,000 years of knowledge, of cultural values, stories and lore, we share stories of how our ancestors engineered water and fire, for example. Our ancestors of course were the first engineers.”
What has been your standout moment working for WSP?
Allan nominates an On Country experience with the Southern Program Alliance (SPA) Leadership Team.
“The Traditional Owners spoke about the cultural values and why the land on which the project was being constructed is so important to them – the history, knowledge and understanding of the Country.
“This deep engagement with Country was a ‘penny dropping’ moment for the SPA Leadership Team.
“I know that this experience changed the way they viewed the land and therefore the totality of the project. By thinking about it in a different way, they realised the importance of Country and how they had the ability to do things a little differently.
“The outcome greatly increased the overall value of the project to the community without necessarily costing any more to achieve this greater value – thereby creating a legacy project for the community, project team and the individuals who were involved in its development.”
This was a very proud moment for Allan. The Southern Program Alliance project has laid the foundation for future WSP projects on how to achieve a greater outcome by including elements of Indigenous culture on Country.
What is one thing we all can do to understand Country in the context of place?
Allan’s response is, “Be curious and come on the journey.”
“Acknowledge Country. Take a moment to respect our Elders, past, present and emerging. As an individual, by honouring and respecting the Traditional Owners, you go on a journey of discovery and understanding.”
Allan describes Aboriginal people as educators. He says that by starting the journey of understanding about Aboriginal culture, you will gain knowledge and awareness.
Find out more about the Indigenous Specialist Services team.