Reconciliation is all about Torres Strait Islander peoples and Indigenous peoples and non-indigenous peoples. Getting the best opportunities that we can possibly provide. The department's got a long reach. We've got 100 locations across the state. We've got 80 different workgroups and we're basically a $10 billion business. That is charged with getting a single integrated transport network accessible to everyone, and we can't do that by ourselves, and First Nations people are a key part of that.
There's a lot going on at the moment around constitutional recognition, sovereignty where that stands, Queensland Government has their own treaty process unpacking that. If we can get those things right and we have the conversations happening with the right people.
Then it puts us in a very strong position as a government.
20 years is our relationship, and you know this camp here or you know, starting to turn into a community. It's basically formed by the road works through permit.
Right of entry from main roads. Set up this camp to build and construct a Georgina River Bridge. I think if they maintain on the course, you'll probably find that over time there will be, you know very competitive Indigenous company tendering for Main Road works and civil works and expanding out. You know 'cause you know the whole beauty of TMR Main Roads is that there's a pipeline of works and they actually involve you in that pipeline of works. So it's not about, you know, getting other people into do works in remote Australia. The whole reason behind what Main Roads do is the fact that you've got local people, local resources, local knowledge pretty well on their doorstep and if you want to value add projects well that’s how you do it.
We partnered through one of our entities, Bama Services with TMR for since 2015. So 6 years now and that has been a journey in itself. A journey of growth together.
In partnership, in collaboration and learning along the way a bit about each other and how we could improve not only the relationship but more importantly the outcomes for people in Cape York on projects and really about creating jobs.
We’ve been partnering with TMR for the better part of 6 years.
We started working on the PDR when the state announced the regional infrastructure program, so there was some money allocated to build a National Highway from Cairns up to the tip of Cape York. And we were fortunate enough to be a part or living on the PDR and able to get some, gain some contracts and employment.
I'm really lucky in my space to see just how much change TMR contracts can make.
So a success story that I'm happy to share about was in 2007, the community of Coen were impacted by the Aboriginal Corporation dissolving. Now through TMR contracts on the Peninsula Development Road and through the Cape York Regional Package, we've seen a return of Aboriginal families back to that Coen community.
And through that their engaging, inspiring not only the Coen community, but they further outreaching to Laura and Weipa to try and not just support our contracts with TMR but other industries that are starting to prosper through the increased transport possibilities as well as the tourism that's starting to gain momentum in that area as well.
I think what the PDR project or the regional infrastructure investment in Cape York is provided was an opportunity for Indigenous people or First Nations people of Cape York to be a part of the real economy. To be a part of something to grow our communities, create employment and training opportunities. Having First Nations People, Traditional Owners sitting around the table with Director Generals, and Senior bureaucrats and an also Ministers and trying to navigate away of how we can together, how we can all build a better, safer roads for the people of Cape York whilst respecting our traditional ownership of the land. I think the biggest difference between. In Aboriginal Organisation and Aboriginal non-profit organisation building roads is that you can draw a line from investment in Brisbane to meals on tables in Cape York.
We want to try and create as much opportunities and up skills as many people with the support of TMR playing that enabling supporting role.
[Richie Ah Mat]
I don't think I could put a value on the relationship. I really don't think I could, personally, you know. There’s always been a massive acceptance of Cape York Land Council and Balkanu Cape York Corporation. When we go to 1 William Street to talk to DTMR at the highest levels. There's never been any blockages.
Never and you know, as a black fella. It makes you feel like you’re wanted. I mean the relationship and the friendship, and the trust has been built up since 2015. You just.
You can't put a value on that. Forget about the money. You can't put a value on the relationship that is being created which has never happened before.
Across the sector, I think you’ll find a lot has changed. But a lot hasn't either. The concepts and some of the issues were still talking about today in 2021 have been around since the 80s. If you like. You know, growing recruitment, growing career pathways, those sorts of things, breaking down systemic racism within organisations.
So those things are still there and they’re still a challenge for, particularly for First Nations people today as we walk between what we class as two worlds. If you like it's our own community and aboriginality or Torres Strait Islander nationality and the world of the public service and the government in general.
We have made quite a bit of progress where people are a lot more open to growing their own cultural knowledge now. Particularly non-Indigenous Australians, they want to know more, and you see that a lot within our younger generations coming through there's a level of understanding there that they need to know more need to know the history of this country and the history of our people, which is great.
It is great to be able to share that and have people keen to ask questions and keen to grow their knowledge, and that's how we break down the silos and barriers through education.
[Richie Ah Mat]
And that's why I'd like to see all the agencies within Government work with Indigenous organisations because that's the only way we're going to, you know, actually help one another. The buzzword in Australia these days is Closing the Gap, CTG. Well, it's not working! DTMR has played a massive role in closing this gap.
Why it’s so important to actually have Indigenous organisations like Bama Services, on infrastructure, road projects. Is, we know how to employee Indigenous people, and we know how to incubate and support other indigenous businesses.
It's just a good way to work, in partnership. It's, it's sort of, I mean, having been assigned to a community would sort of imply that yeah will go out there and we’ll say, well, this is what we need, but it's it's not like that at all. It's our invitation comes from the community and the work that is required is what they tell us, not sort of the other way around.
And we're just getting better results working that way as you do in all partnerships. And then the benefits that flow into the community are a really great as well.
I've learnt that you treat your partners with respect. You don't smash them.
You know, you can, you can. You can really put your point across while working hard and working with them.
And I think it's a two-way relationship. You know, if our if our people actually take on board.
You know what Main Roads wants to do and have the ability to do it, then it’ll work. You know if you don't have the ability and the resources.
With our group. We got to have skin in the game and if we haven't got skin in the game, well then it's just a one-way street. Main Roads is happy to kind of partake in that, but you got to be able to deliver. That's one of the things about it, and if they do that, you know your relationship is always sound.
Certainly we are more aware of how we should engage with the First Nations people.
It's, it's given us an opportunity to understand their culture and the importance of the land to them. When we've been out there looking at future alignments of roads or even current alignments of roads, how to engage with them with accessing water or gravel.
Just understanding the cultural value, the cultural importance and talking to them about what to lookout for has been very important.
It's also increased our knowledge of how to preserve cultural heritage and also to make sure that we protect for future generations to come.
Look I see a future with TMR and Multhana Property Services and other Indigenous businesses. I think, there's a lot of projects that are happening especially in Southeast Queensland, especially with a lot of the infrastructure projects.
I think it's very beneficial that you know we get, Traditional owner groups and other Indigenous people from the community to be involved. Unemployed. You know, my passion and desires is to to look at, you know giving additional opportunities for school leavers that are coming out of year 12 and also the mature age workers on some of our projects that we currently work on now. We have a lot of single mothers that work on our projects.
You know we're very lucky to have our Director General who's very focused on advancing these opportunities. So I think you know, will probably go from strength to strength. To be perfectly honest, but. It would be great to get to a place where it’s just natural. This is how we do business and regardless of who people are, people are employed on merit, and they do a great job and that's what you hear from the community as well. They don't want to be sort of treated as the poor cousin. If you like and given these opportunities just because of who they are, they need. They want to be competitive, and they want to have they want to determine themselves for themselves.
[Richie Ah Mat]
You know? Every single staff member, manager, whatever, in DTMR. I want to say thank you on behalf of Cape York.
But especially to Neil Scales because Neil, is an icon for us. A true gentleman.
And I hope our relationship gets stronger and stronger because you know, without Neil's initiatives and forward thinking, we would not have got this far.
He asked me for some advice once and an, you know, the only way that you can get things done and stay on the road. If you go off and follow bullshit tracks.
And, you are trying to create your own. It will never work and it's like going from you know a destination to a point.
If you want to go the long way around and end up in all the potholes, will then do that, but if you stay on the road you'll always get there.
There's a lot of contributions from partners we've been working with our partners for decades and going ahead on the same road.
And reconciliation is a bit like a road, really. It's got to be built from both ends. What we're trying to do is contribute to that.