My name is Sanjay Ram, I’m the Regional Director for North Queensland, for Transport and Main Roads.
[How long have you been working in TMR?]
I've been in TMR for nearly 26 years, started as a graduate and I'm currently in the program delivery area. I have my background is in program delivery and project delivery ranging from some major projects in South East Queensland to now in Far North Queensland.
[What does your team do?]
So I'm the Regional Director for North Queensland, I look after all infrastructure upgrades, capital works, engagement with stakeholders in Far North Queensland. My area goes from north of Bowen all the way to the Cape York.
[What are some of the projects you are currently working closely with First Nations businesses and groups on?]
So in my area in North Queensland Region, we've got a number of Aboriginal Torres Strait councils that we work with very closely with, however one of the main projects that we've been working is up in the Cape York on the Peninsula Development Road. The PDR is about 600 kilometres long and we are progressively sealing it. The project includes working with local Indigenous businesses, local individual, individuals trying to get them opportunities to work on those projects and, and build capability in, in developing their own businesses.
[Have you seen any success stories from your work?]
We have, there's a couple of good examples I'll talk about. The first one is when we were progressively sealing the Endeavour Valley Road, there was a couple of young fellas who were working with RoadTek as partnership with Hope Vale Council, got the opportunity to work and learn on a trainer grader we call it, so it's a grader that has got two seats, where they sit next to each other with the trainer and learn how to operate a machinery, like the grader. These two young fellows, after the project has finished, has been able to then take that experience and build on their own business and has gone and bought plant, which they now subcontract to councils like Cook Shire Council. The other success story on the PDR project, as part of the Indigenous and use agreement, we've got a scholarship program—and the scholarship program allows the young people of the cape to explore the opportunities in education in both secondary and tertiary. One of the success stories has been a gentleman called Mitchell Michael, he's recently graduated with a Bachelor of Environment I understand, and recently was back working in TMR in Cloncurry district, so that to me is a great success story where we've seen someone who's come through the program and has ended up working in TMR, and has seen the benefits of it.
[How does building these roads and infrastructure help support communities?]
Yes the roads have helped them a lot. What it means for them is the liveability has improved. They've been able to access facilities like education, hospital services and stuff so instead of taking 10 to 13 hours a day to travel to destinations, they now can access those services. Their, their health has improved in the communities, they've been able to get goods to those communities quickly and also obviously build on housing and local infrastructure like playing grounds for the kids, swimming pools and things like that—so generally, you know whilst the roads have contributed a lot for them, the liveability in their own communities has improved and they're much happier.
[What changes have you seen in how TMR partners with First Nations communities and businesses?]
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, and the importance of the land to them. When we've been out there looking at future alignments for roads or even current alignments 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 look out for has been very important. It's also increased our knowledge of how to preserve cultural heritage and, and also to make sure that we protect for future generations to come.
[Where do you see the future of TMR’s partnership with First Nations business and peoples going?]
I think as I said with the PDR scholarship program I think that's a good start. I think our future engagement will be in building capability and capacity of these Indigenous businesses in the in the cape and across the state. I think we should encourage more engagement with them through partnership and projects, not as a main contractor but maybe as a subcontractor so that opportunities we should be exploring.