This week is National Reconciliation Week – a key movement to encourage and support how individuals, organisations and government agencies can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. In conjunction with this significant event, Design & Build speak to one of our clients BY Group – an Indigenous–owned national contracting business that focuses on providing secure sustainable employment for Indigenous Australians within the construction industry. Since its inception in 2014, BY Group has worked tirelessly to become a leading Indigenous owned and managed business within the industry. A key part of this has been developing and maintaining sustainable business practices, including the way that they recruit and retain their talent. Today, we speak to BY Group Human Resource Manager Melanie Champion, to discuss why fostering and developing Indigenous talent within the construction industry is so important and how sustainable employment is integral for creating a diverse and inclusive workplace environment – especially for marginalised groups. Read her answers below:
Why do you think fostering and developing Indigenous Talent within the construction industry is so important? (Especially considering the struggles the construction industry has had with diversity overall).
Obviously, as an Indigenous-owned and staffed national contracting business, developing Indigenous talent is very important to BY Group. Our commitment to increasing Indigenous participation is not just a function of doing business, it is our business.
On a broader level, fostering and developing Indigenous talent is important as it provides opportunities for Aboriginal Australians to thrive and succeed and the flow-on effect on their communities is of great significance.
More specifically, having delivered successful government, corporate, and community projects since 2014, BY Group acknowledges the impact the construction industry has on the community and the environment. Working within construction, we recognise our privileged position in being able to enact positive change that will benefit both society and the planet for generations to come. As part of our commitment to building a better world, we always strive to meet and exceed our social procurement responsibilities.
Two key values of BY Group are inclusion and respect (which also heavily factor in BY Group’s Reconciliation Action Plan). How do you think organisations can best foster a culture of inclusion and respect for all employees – especially their Indigenous staff?
Our core values guide us to work cohesively within our team and within the communities we deliver our projects. For BY Group, respect is far-reaching. Our employees must be respectful of culture, colleagues, suppliers, clients and our environment. This is reflected in our employees, who focus on open and honest communication with each other and our key stakeholders and delivering on our commitments. BY Group's business practices also revolve around inclusion. In everything we do, we aim to be inclusive of all cultures, and genders and to encourage diversity within the construction industry. We also aim to provide exceptional customer service and deliver to the highest standard for all stakeholders - no matter who they are or where they come from.
For other organisations, a great starting point for fostering a culture of inclusion and respect is to have an open and transparent recruitment policy, which provides opportunities for people from all backgrounds. And of course, it's important that organisations invest in training and policies that foster an environment where all cultures are respected and welcomed.
What projects do you feel have been the most defining for BY Group’s development/ the projects the organisation is most proud of?
Two significant projects BY Group have been privileged to be a part of are the construction of Wununbiri Preschool and the development of Oxley Park.
This was an exciting community project to be involved in. We achieved 70% Indigenous Engagement and 9 out of the 13 trades and services engaged were Aboriginal-owned companies. To learn more about the project, you can click here:
BY Group built 4 x double-storey townhouse accommodation for the Aboriginal Housing Office. Being able to build in this landmark project was exciting for BY Group because we were actively contributing to the creation of more affordable housing options for Indigenous Australians. To learn more about the project, you can click here:
BY Group has also completed the following Defence Projects which have been instrumental in growing our business and helping us to achieve our overarching objective of being a leading Indigenous owned and managed business within the construction industry:
HMAS Creswell Living in Accommodation - To learn more about the project, you can click here:
HMAS Albatross - To learn more about the project, you can click here:
HMAS Creswell Fleet Services Building - To learn more about the project, you can click here:
A key principle of BY Group is sustainable employment and social procurement – can you expand on what this means and how this is reflected in BY Group’s Business practices?
BY Group is focused on providing sustainable employment opportunities for Indigenous peoples. To us, this essentially means ensuring that we are helping Indigenous people secure employment that is long-term, where they can develop and maintain rewarding careers.
For example, this year we are excited to celebrate the 5 year anniversary of our first-ever Indigenous employee who commenced as a Cadet and is now nearing the completion of his Apprenticeship with us. During his time with us, he has gained valuable work experience within the construction industry and has worked his way up to the role of Foreman. To further support his professional development, he has been provided with mentors that have worked with him to set clear personal and professional goals.
Professional development plays a key role in ensuring our staff remain engaged and motivated throughout their careers, so our senior managers work closely with our junior staff to mentor and train them toward long term careers within the construction industry.
BY Group also actively:
Prioritise the employment of Indigenous peoples
Engage local Indigenous suppliers in our project delivery that are verified by Supply Nation or the NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce
Hire subcontractors from the communities in which we operate
For younger Indigenous Australians looking to pursue a career in construction, what are BY Group’s tips for getting started in the industry?
For younger Australians BY Group recommends the following:
Commence a Construction Management Degree or a construction-related trade certificate at TAFE
Network with Supply Nation registered organisations
Apply for Apprenticeships or Cadetships
Find an organisation that aligns with your values, respects and understands your culture and is committed to providing you with support and training
Be passionate about pursuing a long-term career in construction
Looking forward, what are the key goals for BY Group for the remainder of 2022?
Since the re-opening of Australian state borders, we are excited to be taking on our first job interstate for a multi-national organisation. We will also be continuing to tender and work on a range of Defence contracts.
This year’s theme for Reconciliation Week is ‘Be Brave. Make Change’. What does this mean to BY Group and how will they be acknowledging/commemorating Reconciliation Week this year?
BY Group is consistently working to close the gap (achieving equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health and life expectancy within a generation) and create change within the construction industry. We bravely made it our mission to prioritise the employment of Indigenous Australians by providing them with long term career opportunities. Every day we look to engage Indigenous-owned suppliers in our project delivery. We offer a unique way to partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to make a tangible difference to the lives of current and future generations.
To find out more about BY Group and the career opportunities available, or alternately how BY Group can help on your next project, click here: