We execute programs that focus on minimising these disruptions to our communities, and employ qualified and experienced stakeholder and community relations professionals, who act as the conduit between the communities and the project teams.
Our Community Engagement Managers actively engage local community groups and stakeholders (including local residents, property and business owners, and transport users) to provide timely and adequate notification of planned on-site activities, key dates for the commencement and conclusion of on-site activities, associated impacts on stakeholders and the community, and our strategy for minimising those impacts.
This includes coordinating and facilitating meetings and forums, taking part in education presentations and community engagement events, and sharing information and materials that ensure our communities are fully informed about the impact of our activities, and our projects’ objectives, benefits and expected outcomes.
We also proactively look for opportunities to improve local communities and leave a positive legacy. Our people are the thought leaders of their industries, so one of the most valuable commodities we can give our communities is our knowledge and experience.
Downer’s Infrastructure Projects team is delivering a series of train station upgrades around Sydney under Transport for NSW’s Transport Access Plan (TAP), which delivers a better experience for public transport customers across New South Wales by providing accessible, modern, secure and integrated transport infrastructure.
The team has a tradition of holding ‘Community give back’ events, where they donate their skills to improve local facilities in the communities they work in. The team delivering upgrades to the Mascot and Turrella stations held a give back event, which included a weekend working bee to complete a makeover of the outdoor area at the South Eastern Community Connect centre in Eastlakes. The upgrade included the addition of outdoor seating, aboveground vegetable and flower beds, shade and a 24/7 pantry cupboard for the community to access emergency items.
Our inhouse design team volunteered their time to develop the concept design and our contractors donated plant, materials and labour.
As well as skilled volunteering, the team also engages with local communities by donating their time for local events like clean-up days. In May, the TAP team took time out to work with PCYC NSW to host a Paddle Against Plastic event on the Cooks River. The river runs along the many of the suburbs that our team is delivering projects in, and acts as a trash catchment, collecting litter and debris with devastating effects on the marine ecosystem. Two volunteers from all of our project sites jumped into canoes and helped remove litter with other community volunteers. In total, 38 Downer people volunteered 114 hours, removing 140kg of litter from the waterway.
In Australia, Downer operates across hundreds of sites, covering all corners of the country.
Our operations are deeply embedded in local communities, and we are committed to developing genuine long-term relationships and working closely with Traditional Owners to ensure we respect their traditional lands that we work on. Downer’s experienced Indigenous Engagement team not only brokers relationships with Indigenous partners, but also works with operational and bid/tender mobilisation teams to develop and implement Indigenous engagement and participation plans to meet customer requirements and Downer’s objectives and targets.
This team works closely with community to deliver social procurement and employment opportunities to build capability in the communities we operate in.
To celebrate Indigenous Business Month in October 2021, Downer held a ‘Meet the Buyer’ roadshow at Tauondi Aboriginal College in Port Adelaide. This event was an important opportunity for Indigenous businesses to have face-to-face conversations with various teams from across Downer, including representatives from Downer’s Rail and Transit Systems, Road Services, Facilities and Infrastructure Projects Business Units, as well as our Keolis Downer joint venture.
The event also offered Downer teams the opportunity to learn more about the local area’s history and significant artefacts displayed at the Tauondi Heritage Museum. After a short presentation on Downer’s services and customers, the Indigenous businesses were invited to pitch their goods and services directly to the various Downer teams in an informal setting. The session was well received, with the local Indigenous community and Government agencies acknowledging the value in attending these events.
Downer understands that the preservation of Indigenous cultural heritage is imperative to project success and we implement detailed Heritage Management processes on all our projects to limit the impact of our operations on heritage sites.
Our Indigenous Engagement team is also responsible for ensuring that our site-based teams work in a way that protects cultural heritage.
As a large organisation with a broad geographic footprint, Downer often works in regional and remote locations.
We are continually working towards creating culturally appropriate and successful relationships, and we are committed to enabling Indigenous communities and peoples through strategies and programs that focus on social responsibility, local and Indigenous employment, cultural heritage identification and management, business incubation and stakeholder engagement. We approach every Indigenous interaction with the objective of enabling people by creating lasting, sustainable employment and economic growth opportunities.
As an example, Downer’s Infrastructure Projects team is delivering the Eyre Peninsula Link project in South Australia, and we have worked collaboratively with the Barngarla people, the Traditional Owners of the land on which the project is based, to develop an on-site cultural heritage monitoring program. More than 120 local Aboriginal people have been trained as heritage monitors on-site.
Downer works closely with the Barngarla People Aboriginal Corporation to manage the process of monitoring ground disturbance across approximately 200 kilometres of power lines.
Before any ground disturbance is done onsite, it must first be inspected by a Barngarla heritage monitor to ensure our works do not disturb or encroach onto a heritage site.
Downer’s extensive experience and understanding of the need to protect Aboriginal heritage and culturally sensitive areas will be utilised to ensure safe and compliant operations around any identified sites.
In New Zealand, Downer’s approach to cultural engagement is industry-leading. Our Te Ara Whanake Māori Leadership Program has been particularly effective in ingraining Māori culture within the business. It gives our people a deeper understanding of Māori history, and helps us develop meaningful cultural engagement plans.
An example of Downer’s approach to cultural engagement in New Zealand comes from the Cobham Drive Bay Connection, a beautification and community program funded and developed in partnership with Waka Kotahi and Wellington City Council.
The walking and biking improvements along the seaward side of Cobham Drive form part of the plan to turn the coastal recreation area into an eastern gateway for Wellington.
Importantly, the project team successfully engaged local Iwi and developed plans to protect little blue penguins and other Indigenous New Zealand species around the project site.
Downer has a long-standing and successful partnership with multi-award-winning Indigenous business, Bama Services. Downer has partnered with Bama on a range of projects and initiatives since 2014. In 2020 we formed the Bama Downer Joint Venture. The partnership has delivered more than $30 million worth of major road and associated civil infrastructure on the Peninsula Developmental Road in Cape York, Far North Queensland. The Downer-Bama partnership is improving the accessibility, safety and reliability of transport infrastructure for the local communities of Cape York, which positively contributes towards local Indigenous employment and economic outcomes. It is also about Downer helping to develop the skills, capabilities and experience of the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce, leading to a greater sense of empowerment and broader employment and training opportunities. Downer’s support of Bama Services has also seen the achievement of a Department of Transport & Main Roads R2:B2 rating. Bama is the only wholly Indigenous-owned business to hold this prequalification level. The partnership between Downer and Bama has also seen an ISO-accredited Health, Safety, Environment and Quality Management System, as well as a Federal Safety Commission certification.