Julia Carpenter is 100 per cent committed to closing the gap and reconciliation. “We can learn so many things about living well and sustainably from Australia’s Aboriginal peoples, they’ve done so successfully for at least the last 60,000 years!
“The divide is not OK. The disadvantage is not OK. To just assume that someone else will fix it, is not OK. We have to proactively find a way to bring all of us together, to learn better ways and do things more sustainably.
“I am very social justice orientated. I value diversity, uniqueness, learning and understanding.
“Engineering plays an enormous role in creating place, so we need to do it better and do it sustainably. I have always believed in stepping up if I want something done – doing the do – not just talking about it.”
In her role at WSP, Julia provides the strategic leadership on major projects with the Indigenous Specialist Services team. “All our projects are built on Aboriginal Countries; I look at how we can respectfully build relationships with the Traditional Owners and co-design accordingly. I look at how our Indigenous Specialist Services team can get involved as early as possible, and see these services incorporated from a whole-of-project perspective.
Thought, experience and culture is going to bring a better outcome for our clients around the world. Losing cultural knowledge is not a good thing for our world. For its liveability and sustainability.
“13 years ago, I came into the business to run the Remote Essential Services Program, keeping power and water running in 90 remote communities. This led to my involvement with WSP’s Reconciliation Action Plan and asking ‘how can WSP as a design house, lead in our industry? What role can we play to drive reconciliation?’ This led to the creation of the Indigenous Specialist Services team.”
Julia develops the strategy that enables the creation of co-design opportunities and provides for the inclusion of Indigenous culture that is valuable for all of Australia. With the aim of bringing these opportunities to life, Julia’s focus is on achieving successful outcomes for projects across the multiple Countries on which WSP works and celebrating these achievements.
“It was interesting how the team was formed. I originally heard Dr Daniele Hromek speak at an international conference on the Aboriginal co-design process, recognising that this was what we needed for WSP. Through Daniele, I met Michael and Sian Hromek, who now both work for WSP.
“We actually have another brother / sister duo within the team, with Jacob and Ashleigh Hyland, and it is wonderful to experience what these two unique relationships bring to what we do and achieve. All the Aboriginal people within the team wear at least two hats – a technical discipline and as subject matter expert of their Aboriginal Country.”
Why is it important for WSP to connect to Country?
“Cultural knowledge, thinking and experience is going to bring a better outcome for our clients around the world,” says Julia. “Losing cultural knowledge is not a good thing for our world. For its liveability and sustainability.”
What has been your standout moment working for WSP?
Julia nominates having Michael Hromek, Sian Hromek, and Allan Murray join WSP.
“Getting Michael’s technical knowledge into the Indigenous Specialist Services team was the start of our new chapter in incorporating Indigenous knowledge and culture in the design of infrastructure and built environment projects for our clients. Then to be able to support this expertise with a researcher with the skills of Sian, complemented and enhanced our offering.
“Sitting in a room and seeing all the ‘lightbulb’ moments created by the team is something really special to experience. Michael as he tells a story to a client; Sian speaking to major project executives about connection to Country; and Allan Murray, Senior Manager Indigenous Participation & Outcomes, speaking about Aboriginal lore and cultural load.”
What is one thing we all can do to understand Country in the context of place?
Julia’s response is, “Learn about the Country on which you live. Be curious and respectful and don’t be scared to learn.”
In seeking how can we contribute to building a strong cultural legacy, Julia asks us to learn about where we live from a both a historical and truth telling perspective, as well as the contemporary cultural context.
Find out more about the Indigenous Specialist Services team.