North East Link Program - Social Outcomes - ISCouncil

North East Link Program – Social Outcomes

Friday, 6 October 2023

Describe WHAT you have done and HOW you have done it.

The North East Link Program (NELP) has adopted a comprehensive approach to incentivise and drive positive social outcomes. This submission describes two initiatives that have promoted excellence in social outcomes, i) the Wurundjeri Partnership, ii) and ii) the North East Community Fund.

i) Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Partnership

In 2018, for the first time, in recognition of their inherent custodianship of Wurundjeri Country, Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation was been invited to participate directly with the Victorian Government on what will be the largest road infrastructure project in Victoria’s history and the largest ever undertaken on Wurundjeri Country.

NELP has implemented a program-wide design philosophy and approach that seeks to recognise, protect and promote indigenous cultural heritage values. To achieve this, the project has engaged in a multi layered partnership approach with the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation (the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung) which:
• Facilitates active participation in the development and planning of the project
• Enables Wurundjeri to have an informed voice when providing comment on parts of the project
• Represents the interests of the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung as the Traditional Owners of the land
• Supports the protection and enhancement of Wurundjeri traditional knowledge and values

The collaborative process and involvement of the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung has created the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the project’s Environment Effects Statement, Urban Design Strategy, Cultural Heritage Management Plan, and cultural values mapping exercises. Indigenous design themes developed and being implemented with Wurundjeri Elders have formed the basis of the overall design vision for the project.

ii) North East Community Fund
The North East Community Fund is a $10 million grants and partnership program providing funding to improve community connectedness and cohesiveness during construction and operation of NELP. It also seeks to enhance community participation and access to local programs and services.

Funding is available to local not-for-profit organisations and community groups to support, grow and enhance communities in Melbourne’s northern and eastern suburbs.

The fund will be available throughout the construction of North East Link until project completion and the program will prioritise its support to those most impacted.

What were the OUTCOMES and how were those outcomes shared?

i) Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Partnership

The outcomes of collaborating with the Wurundjeri are captured and shared in various planning and approval documents such as the NELP Urban Design Strategy, Cultural Heritage Management Plan, Environmental Effects Statement, Cultural Values Assessment, Wurundjeri Themes, and Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Report.

Wurundjeri have worked in collaboration with NELP on the development of its Urban Design Strategy (UDS) and on the identification of cultural themes which will be ‘brought to life’ through the various stages of the project. This represents an exciting opportunity to share precious Wurundjeri knowledge and culture and to allow shared histories to be told through design. Structurally embedding recognised Traditional Owners in both the governance and lifecycle of projects supports two-way learning and is delivering richer outcomes for partners and the broader community.

During the engagement process with the Wurundjeri, fifteen cultural themes were identified, some of these included:
• Art and interpretation
• Ceremony
• Story telling
• Indigenous architecture
• Country and natural resources

With the support of an indigenous architect to help translate Traditional Owner characteristics language, history and identified themes into project design.

These include:
• Project designs include a newly developed Cultural Landscape Precinct which will embed indigenous authenticity into the design and re-naturalise the previously degraded landscape. These new wetlands with paths and trails along the Yarra River (Birrarung) in Bulleen will re-establish a significant cultural landscape for the Wurundjeri Woi wurrung people and create an indigenous knowledge sharing precinct for Melbourne (see figure B below).
• Ventilation structures at Simpson Barracks (figure C) and the Yarra Link green bridge in Bulleen have taken inspiration from the fluid forms of Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung eel traps.
• Traditional Owners were also engaged throughout the design and construction of Bulleen Park and Ride. Opened in April 2023, Bulleen Park and Ride incorporates local indigenous plants along its green roof to better blend in with the existing landscape (figure D).

ii) Community fund
In 2022, a total of 52 projects were awarded more than $1.8 million in grants for projects to support the local community as part of the inaugural round of the North East Community Fund. Recipients included Watsonia Tennis Club to support accessibility upgrades (see figure E), Yarraleen Preschool in Bulleen for native garden planting, Banyule Toy Library in Rosanna, and funding to numerous sports clubs and schools for various projects including tree planting, supporting school fetes and new sports equipment and uniforms.

In addition to the community fund, twenty schools, kindergartens and early learning centres closest to tunnelling works were also gifted vouchers to support more green spaces. As part of the Greener North East program, Yarra View and Bushland Flora Nursery provided the vouchers for trees, plants and supplies. The nursery is Australia’s leading social enterprise nursery, employing 135 staff, including 85 adults living with a disability.

Describe WHO benefited from your initiative, innovation, or approach?

i) Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Partnership
The project’s Traditional Owners, the Wurundjeri, and the NELP project team both benefitted from partnering with each other during project design phase and developing NELP strategies and processes. As the NEL project will stretch over and beneath Wurundjeri Country, and will nilim nugal-nganjinu bik (significantly impact Country), this partnership ensured a respectful and genuine process was adopted to embed indigenous knowledge and values into the project.

The partnership also fostered better relationships between indigenous groups, state agencies and construction partners. Stronger relationships between these groups will encourage positive Traditional Owner participation and contribution on future infrastructure projects.

Through the use of indigenous planting, signage and markers, as well as asset design and shape, NELP will enhance Traditional Owner benefits, as well as enhancing the project’s social and cultural resilience through carrying forward the wisdom and traditions of indigenous people.

ii) Community Fund
The Community Fund has already benefited numerous local community members spanning school children to sports players, through provision of funding to not-for-profits and community organisations near North East Link construction. The North East Community Fund allows organisations to focus on delivering valued services to community members. Without the support from the North East Community Fund, many of the initiatives and projects underway would have gone unfunded, and the many social benefits unfulfilled. Figure G shows Yarraleen preschool students exploring their new nursery.

What LEGACY and UN SDG CONTRIBUTION was achieved?

NELP seeks to create a lasting legacy for both transport users and people who live and work in the north-east. This legacy will be realised through the construction and operation of North East Link where actions are already being taken now to minimise disruptions and create lasting social value to Traditional Owners and the north east community.

With an operational life of 100 years, the decisions made during the design and planning phases of North East Link will influence not only the completed project but will also help shape Melbourne’s ongoing understanding and integration of indigenous values and knowledge into contemporary culture. The project’s partnership with the Wurundjeri has seen the intrinsic connection between land and indigenous people acknowledged and implemented in design and planning, and in final project delivery via the Bulleen Park and Ride completed in 2023.

The NEL Community Fund will provide a lasting legacy to in-need community groups through the provision of ongoing social outcomes; such as accessibility enhancements, provision of green spaces, as well as building social connections and physical health benefits through better access to sport and recreation activities.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were developed in recognition that the elements underpinning sustainable development and functioning societies are all interlinked, with the 17 SDGs serving as a blueprint for countries to work towards. The discussed NEL initiatives proudly align to the following SDGs:

o SDG 10 – Reduced inequality
ii) The Community Fund is helping to reduce inequality by providing support to not-for-profit organisations who assist vulnerable or disadvantaged groups, including people with a disability and from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

o SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
i) The partnership with the Wurundjeri called upon the services of the Corporation to participate and be involved in project planning and design which fosters inclusion and economic growth for indigenous services and skills.

o SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities
i) The partnership with the Wurundjeri supports the SDG sub-target 11.4 to “strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage”.
ii) Sustainable cities and communities are underpinned by strong social cohesion and resilience, where all members of society can feel valued and participate in day-to-day activities. The North East Community Fund provides important social outcomes and expands the ability of disadvantaged and underprivileged groups to participate and feel valued in society, helping to build social cohesion and resilience in our city and local communities.