Promoting Indigenous Engagement and Reconciliation at Western Sydney International Airport - Social Outcomes - ISCouncil

Promoting Indigenous Engagement and Reconciliation at Western Sydney International Airport – Social Outcomes

Friday, 6 October 2023

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

CPB and ACCIONA Joint Venture (CPBACCJV) secured the Bulk Earthworks Contract (BEC) for the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport (WSI), marking it the largest civil earth moving project in Australia. Given its magnitude, CPBACCJV embraced strategies that addressed crucial industry and community concerns, with a particular emphasis on Indigenous engagement and reconciliation.

The WSI site holds immense Aboriginal cultural significance for the Dharug People. Recognising the importance of the landscape, its history, and heritage values, the project sought to preserve and enhance these aspects through collaboration with the First Nations Community.

The project established Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) as a guiding framework, assisting the team to implement several key initiatives, including:

  1. Employment and Education:

• Indigenous Workforce and Contracts: To bridge the employment gap, strong workforce targets were established and embedded in procurement contracts. Ongoing tracking and reporting of Indigenous workforce participation ensured targets were exceeded. Indigenous-owned and operated businesses were prioritised in procurement processes.
• Indigenous Career Days: The project facilitated numerous career events for young Indigenous Australians, offering mentoring, leadership opportunities and cultural activities. The aim was to support their educational journey and successful transition into further study, training, or meaningful employment.

  1. Cultural Enrichment:

• Archaeological Investigation and Salvage: Prior to commencing major earthworks, an extensive Aboriginal heritage salvage operation was conducted.
• Celebratory Events: The project team celebrated NAIDOC Week, Reconciliation Week, and other significant Aboriginal events, fostering respect for First Nations cultures and histories. Smoking ceremonies and similar events were also held throughout the project's duration. Events were always interactive to maximise engagement.
• WSI Geoglyph: In collaboration with the local Aboriginal land council, CPBACCJV established a temporary geoglyph as a tribute to National Reconciliation Week and the launch of the WSI RAP. The geoglyph, inspired by artwork from local Indigenous artist Rhonda Sampson, depicted white kangaroo tracks moving forwards and backwards, symbolizing the importance of understanding shared history and to forge a future together.
• Acknowledgment of Country and Cultural Awareness: The project team made authentic and genuine Acknowledgments of Country, conducting cultural awareness sessions to educate staff about the significance of Acknowledgment of Country and Welcome to Country protocols. Audio-visual acknowledgments were incorporated into inductions, meetings, and presentations. Acknowledgment of Country signage, featuring the RAP artwork, was displayed around the CPBACCJV office compound and entrances.
• Cultural Awareness Training: Regular inductions and accredited training sessions aimed to cultivate increased respect and understanding towards First Nations peoples, their culture, history, knowledge, and rights. A yarning circle was established as a safe open space for these discussions.

  1. Collaboration with First Nations People:

• Ongoing consultation with key Aboriginal stakeholders ensured the preservation of significant cultural values on the site. Collaborating with First Nations people is crucial in creating a future site that respected the region's rich Aboriginal heritage and the findings of the archaeological program.

Through these initiatives, CPBACCJV demonstrated an industry leading commitment to Indigenous engagement, reconciliation, and cultural preservation, setting a positive example within the industry and fostering meaningful relationships with the local community and First Nations peoples.

What were the OUTCOMES and how were those outcomes shared?

The WSI RAP was established to support national reconciliation and address inequality through the project's organisational structures and diverse spheres of influence. The RAP will have a lasting positive impact on the cultural heritage of the airport site and the stories of the Country, people, and place.

One of the key outcomes of the project's Indigenous engagement and reconciliation program has been the creation of opportunities for First Nations people and businesses in the Western Sydney community and beyond. This has led to more positive socioeconomic outcomes, particularly in the areas of employment and education.

The project has made significant progress in Indigenous workforce and contracts. 4.7% of the workforce for the BEC package identified as Indigenous, surpassing the national Indigenous population percentage of 3.2%. Moreover, 12.03% of BEC contracts (19 contracts) were awarded to Indigenous businesses, twelve times the national average for Indigenous business participation which is less than 1%.

To inspire and guide First Nations students in their career choices, two Indigenous Career Days were facilitated, showcasing various job opportunities available to individuals with secondary education or specific tertiary qualifications. The events received positive feedback from Indigenous students who expressed their newfound interest and career aspirations.

“First of all, I wasn’t interested in machinery… but now I’m here I wanna be part of this project” Samuel Griffith, Indigenous student.

“You don’t have to get a university degree, you can just go straight into the trades and work your way up through hard work” Genevieve Brodie, Indigenous Student.

Indigenous community leaders such as Dean Widders (an Indigenous former NRL player and coach) were engaged to help facilitate the events to further engage and inspire attending students.

Coverage of these events by 9 News further raised awareness about career possibilities within the construction industry among a wider Indigenous audience.

Cultural enrichment has been a significant focus of the project, with events like NAIDOC Week and Reconciliation Week incorporating First Nations guest speakers, catering with traditional foods and interactive cultural activities. These activities, including dances, smoking ceremonies, artwork, fire making, ochre harvesting and spear throwing, have engaged attendees and fostered a deeper understanding and respect for First Nations culture. The project has shared its approach to celebrating cultural events with other industry projects, encouraging them to enhance their participation in events like NAIDOC Week.

A highlight of the project's cultural enrichment efforts is the engagement of Rhonda Sampson, a Kamilaroi artist, to create a contemporary Aboriginal artwork for the project. The artwork, which represents the journey of developing Sydney's new airport and the project's reconciliation journey, has been incorporated into various mediums such as uniforms, geoglyphs, and signage. This investment in a project-specific Indigenous artwork has strengthened the partnership with the local Indigenous community, promoted respect for Aboriginal culture, and conveyed the message of reconciliation. The geoglyph was featured in a news segment by 9 News, reaching a wider audience.

Archaeological investigation and salvage have played a crucial role in preserving Indigenous culture and heritage. The project conducted a comprehensive archaeological program, resulting in the recovery and analysis of 38,922 artifacts. The program involved 134 Aboriginal field officers representing various stakeholder groups, creating job opportunities while shedding light on the past Aboriginal occupation of the area. The findings provided a greater understanding of the area's Aboriginal landscape use and its significance as a focal point for cultural exchange and movement over time. These findings have been shared through a salvage and interpretation report, educational tools such as digital displays at the airports experience centre, a showcase of artifacts, community information sessions and internal workshops.

Ongoing consultation and collaboration with First Nations people has lead to the protection and preservation of several culturally significant finds from the archaeological program. This has included protection of culturally significant topsoil, grinding grooves, and a scar tree. Consultation is ongoing to determine the permanent keeping place for the 38,922 artefacts.

In conclusion, through establishing a RAP framework, the project have made significant impacts promoting reconciliation, creating opportunities, and preserving Indigenous culture and heritage. The project's Indigenous engagement efforts have resulted in positive socioeconomic outcomes, educational initiatives, cultural enrichment activities, and archaeological investigation that has enhanced understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal history and culture across Western Sydney.

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

Australia’s First Nations people are the primary beneficiaries from the CPBACCJV Indigenous engagement and reconciliation programs. A discussion on each of the key initiatives and how First Nations people and others benefit is described below.

Indigenous Workforce and Contracts: The unemployment rate for Indigenous Australians is 3.8 times the rate for non‑Indigenous Australians (19% compared with 5%, respectively). The project has established Indigenous workforce and subcontract engagement goals to help close this gap:

• Overall workforce who identify as Indigenous on BEC = 4.7%. Whereas the overall population who identify as Indigenous = 3.2%.
• BEC Contracts awarded to Indigenous businesses = 12.03% (19 contracts). Whereas Indigenous business nation wide is less than 1%.

Indigenous Career days: The two Indigenous career events aimed to encourage and inspire approximately 50 First Nations students to find career opportunities that are the right fit for them. A key focus of the event was to showcase a variety of jobs and pathways that are available to those with secondary education and others where specific tertiary education would be required. Showcasing a range of opportunities that can be entered after completing a variety of educational levels assists Aboriginal people set and achieve realistic or aspirational career goals.

Celebratory Events: CPBACCJV celebrated significant Aboriginal events such as NAIDOC Week throughout the life of the project. Celebrating such events helps build wider community respect for First Nations cultures.

WSI Indigenous artwork, geoglyph and signage: Investing in the project specific Indigenous artwork created a positive commercial partnership with a local Indigenous artist. The artwork itself has been used to help celebrate and in turn create respect for Aboriginal culture.

Cultural Awareness training: Cultural learning sessions were rolled out to grow value and respect for First Nations, increase understanding, and provide recognition of the contribution of First Nations peoples and cultures, histories, knowledge and rights.

Archaeological Investigation and Salvage: The archaeological salvage excavation fieldwork was undertaken with registered Aboriginal stakeholders. 134 individual Aboriginal field officers representing the various registered stakeholder groups were involved in the salvage excavation activities. Not only do salvage programs create job opportunities, but they also play a significant role in retaining Indigenous culture and heritage and reveal past communities’ way of life. “I think that’s really important to show not only the younger generations, but also everyone else these tools to get to know a little bit more about us and our culture,” said Aboriginal Field Officer James Davis.

What LEGACY and UN SDG CONTRIBUTION was achieved?

The work of CPBACCJV in the Western Sydney Airport project has left a significant legacy and made contributions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly in the areas of Indigenous engagement, reconciliation, and cultural preservation. Here are the key aspects of the legacy and UN SDG contributions:

  1. Indigenous Workforce and Contracts: By establishing strong workforce targets and embedding them in procurement contracts, CPBACCJV has made significant progress in closing the employment gap for Indigenous Australians. This initiative aligns with SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) by promoting inclusive employment practices and reducing inequalities in the workforce. The work will leave a legacy in this space through the connections made between the Indigenous Community and greater construction industry.
  2. Indigenous Career Days: The project's career events for young Indigenous Australians have provided work experience, mentoring, and leadership opportunities. By supporting their educational journey and successful transition into further study, training, or meaningful employment, CPBACCJV has contributed to SDG 4 (Quality Education) by promoting equal access to education and vocational training. This legacy promotes empowerment and equips Indigenous youth with the necessary skills and opportunities to thrive in their educational pursuits and future careers, ultimately creating a more inclusive and equitable society.
  3. Cultural Enrichment: Through various initiatives such as archaeological investigation and salvage, celebratory events, educational cultural activities and the WSI geoglyph, CPBACCJV has fostered a deeper understanding and respect for First Nations cultures and histories. This commitment aligns with SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) by promoting inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable communities that value cultural heritage.
  4. Collaboration with First Nations People: The ongoing consultation with key Aboriginal stakeholders and collaboration during the project has ensured the preservation of significant cultural values on the airport site. This aligns with SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions) by promoting inclusive decision-making processes and fostering partnerships for sustainable development. The legacy of these efforts is a society that values and celebrates the diverse traditions, histories, and contributions of First Nations peoples, ultimately fostering a more harmonious and culturally rich environment.
  5. Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP): WSI’s establishment of a comprehensive RAP demonstrates the project’s commitment and nationwide movement towards national reconciliation and addressing inequality. The 78 deliverables identified for implementation in the RAP aim to have a lasting positive impact on the cultural heritage of the airport site and wider community, contributing to SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities) by promoting social, economic, and political inclusion.
  6. Positive Socioeconomic Outcomes: The project's initiatives have created opportunities for First Nations people and businesses, leading to positive socioeconomic outcomes, particularly in the areas of employment and education. This aligns with SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) by promoting poverty reduction, inclusive economic growth, and sustainable livelihoods.

Overall, the lasting legacy of the CPBACCJV at the WSI project will be one of Indigenous empowerment, cultural preservation, and reconciliation. Its impact will extend beyond the construction phase, leaving a positive and enduring imprint on the local community, the construction industry, and the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The efforts align with several UN SDGs, particularly those related to reducing inequalities, promoting inclusive communities, providing quality education, and fostering sustainable economic growth.