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Corporate partnership key to bringing cultural healing to indigenous land

On 9 September 2011, the Bana Yarralji Bubu Indigenous Ranger Base at Shipton’s Flat, near Cooktown, Queensland was officially opened. On this project, Aurecon partnered with Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT) and Engineers without Borders Australia (EWB) to assist the indigenous social enterprise Bana Yarralji Bubu Inc (BYB), established by Kuku Nyungkal People of the region, to realise their vision of bringing cultural healing to the land.

The new Ranger Base will be home to an on-country Indigenous Ranger and Conservation programme which is currently underway with ten Aboriginal rangers.

The new facility includes power and water supply, an environmentally appropriate wastewater treatment system, office facilities, communications systems and an ablutions block containing composting toilets, showers, storage and laundry on a site that previously had basic shelter and limited facilities. Future plans for the site include setting up land management practices and other social enterprise initiatives.

On ground Aurecon worked collaboratively with project leader CAT, a national indigenous NGO, who provided project management from Cairns and maintains a community development mentoring role with BYB.

Aurecon provided a project manager, Nick Macdonald, to coordinate the engineering design and construction undertaken by EWB volunteer engineers, as well as enlisting senior staff as mentors, certifiers and technical advisers to the team.

Trevor Sharrock, Aurecon Project Coordinator said: “The project scope expanded after commencement to include the statutory and environmental planning required to re-zone the land for habitation and future commercial use. These local, state and federal approvals stretched the project timeframe to over two years. These services, along with geotechnical and electrical engineering were all done pro-bono by our staff.”

“As well as developing the design together with CAT and EWB, Aurecon was responsible for the construction management and site safety during construction of the new amenities block and pre-fabricated office facility for the ranger programme,” he added.

“We are grateful for all of the time donated by Aurecon to ensure that complex planning hurdles could be overcome with some of the industry’s best professional assistance,” said Marilyn Wallace, Bana Yarralji Bubu Chief Executive Officer, in thanking Aurecon.

CAT’s Project lead, Andre Grant also thanked Aurecon for its assistance in the planning process.

Andre said: "Aurecon has set a precedent with this project, with so much achieved beyond the construction phase that will have far reaching benefits. If it wasn't for Aurecon raising awareness of issues and challenges of planning regulations for local indigenous development, many of these critical issues would never have been brought to light. As a result of their work, many of these issues have been brought to the forefront of the council’s agenda on behalf of the local indigenous land trusts."

While Aurecon was the lead corporate partner, CAT and EWB also sought the assistance of several organisations to help bring the project to fruition. What evolved was a multi-stakeholder partnership, with CAT leading the project by raising and managing the funds. EWB coordinated the technical support from corporate sponsor, Aurecon, and volunteers sponsored by Arup and SKM. BYB assisted with fundraising, supplied labour, catering and cultural mentoring and experiences. Indigenous Community Volunteers supplied two trade persons and local building company Bryant Constructions provided in-kind technical support.

Ms Wallace further added: “CAT, Aurecon and EWB’s unwavering support has given us the opportunity to create a sustainable ranger service business. This has reshaped the lives of our rangers and other Nyungkal people at the right time to give us the strength we needed.”

The project demonstrates the best of corporate social responsibility in practice. The on-going Aboriginal community’s input and involvement in the building of their own infrastructure were key drivers in the success of the project. The local Kuku Nyungkal and Bana Yarralji Bubu staff supervised and supported the ongoing works through activities including cooking and cultural events. Local Kuku Nyungkal carpenter, Patrick Nandy, also played a crucial role in the construction works.

Through in-kind and volunteer support, the project has seen its value tripling in dollar value. CAT was instrumental in securing the $150,000 funding from both the Australian Government and Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management to help kick start the programme.

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