[by Chris Leslight]
Inland Rail to develop new generation of Aboriginal railway workers
The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) launched its Indigenous Participation Plan (IPP) in order to share the long-term benefits of Inland Rail with Aboriginal communities along the route.
ARTC Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer John Fullerton said many of these communities have a long, proud history of working on Australia’s railways and Inland Rail represents a new opportunity to create lasting benefits for Indigenous communities.
“Many of the people we have spoken to have had parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles who have worked on the railway in the past,” Mr Fullerton said.
“Inland Rail is a catalyst for positive change in our regional communities and there is a shared excitement between ARTC and the potential participants around the development of a new generation of Aboriginal participation in the railway industry.”
“We have spoken directly to many leaders and Elders on what is important to them and how we can work together to create positive social and economic change,” he said.
“We have also looked at other companies and programs that have had success and then taken a conscious approach to think long and hard about how we implement this plan.”
Long-serving ARTC employee and current Indigenous Participation Advisor Wally Walker was enticed out of retirement to facilitate communication with local Aboriginal groups.
“I have spent 41 years working in the rail industry and loved it,” Mr Walker said.
“I retired earlier this year, but eight weeks later Inland Rail approached me to be involved with the Indigenous Participation Plan.”
“I know a lot of people in the communities they are aiming to recruit in and I knew I could help turn the current excitement about this project into results,” he said.
“Not everyone will be suited to working on building infrastructure, but I want to help people think broader than that. There are opportunities in administration, technical jobs and support services to consider. I want to get people to open their eyes about the options and find people a purpose to get up of a morning and go out to do some rewarding work.”
Mr Fullerton said Inland Rail will set high, but achievable targets for Indigenous participation which would be reflected in the procurement and contractual management of the delivery of the project.
“Demographics and need vary significantly from community to community along the route and we have deliberately built in flexibility to our approach to enable us to adapt to the unique aspects of each town and create sustainable outcomes for each community,” he said.
“For our Parkes to Narromine project our construction contractor, INLink, has a workforce target of 50% local employment including a 10% Indigenous employment component.
“We are also working closely with INLink and their contractors to maximise local participation in specialist areas. There will be many, more jobs in the future as we progress construction on other sections across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.”
Inland Rail Chief Executive Officer Richard Wankmuller said the IPP would create new training and business opportunities for local indigenous communities.
“We have consulted widely within Indigenous communities and we are hearing the same message time and time again. They want Inland Rail to enable meaningful change in their lives by creating a pathway to support longer term employment outcomes,” Mr Wankmuller said.
“We are already working with potential participants to identify ways for them to be job-ready when opportunities come to their area.”
“We are doing this by providing people with the tools to succeed. ARTC, in collaboration with the Australian Government’s Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, has a team on the ground coordinating access to training for people to attain certification to work in the rail corridor, identifying paperwork that needs to be filled in and facilitating medical checks,” he said.
“We are also working with Indigenous owned and run businesses to ensure they are prepared for Inland Rail, so they can seek to develop partnerships with other contractors to create meaningful and lasting opportunities for their individual community.”
INLink Project Director Gerard O’Connor said Indigenous and community participation is very important to us at INLink.
“We are already working together with local communities, through employment, engaging with local businesses and educational institutions, and will to continue to do this,” Mr O’Connor said.
“By INLink having a dedicated Human Resource and Indigenous Participation Training Manager and Community Relations Team who work closely with Mr Walker and the local Wiradjuri Elders, will ensure we succeed in our pursuit of Indigenous and community participation, and we will endeavour to exceed our targets.”
More information on the IPP can be found online at https://inlandrail.artc.com.au
ARTC Indigenous Participation Advisor Wally Walker alongside the rail line this week. He has a focus on turning the current excitement around Inland Rail into results for Aboriginal communities along the route. Image: supplied
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