Western Sydney Airport’s Aboriginal engagement masterplan

Western Sydney Airport Nancy-Bird Walton

by Maryanne Graham, Executive General Manager of Corporate Affairs at Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport.

An Indigenous advisory firm will guide Western Sydney Airport’s comprehensive masterplan for Aboriginal engagement – the first of its kind for a major infrastructure project in Australia.

For several years now, our nation has experienced an extraordinary infrastructure boom.

With cranes dominating the skylines of our major cities, the delivery of new rail lines, roads and tunnels, hospitals and learning centres is happening at an unprecedented pace.

As a greenfield airport, Western Sydney Airport is leading the charge. With 22 million cubic metres of earth to be moved, we have embarked on one of the nation’s biggest ever earthmoving projects – and that is just the start.

Building an airport that will transform what is now hilly paddocks into an airport city, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, generating the development of new communities, industries and untold economic and educational opportunities, is a historic, once-in-a-generation prospect.

With it comes great expectations for improved social inclusion and sustainable prosperity for the people of Greater Western Sydney.

That is why we’ve partnered with Aboriginal advisory firm, Enable, to assist us in delivering our targets and setting new benchmarks for Aboriginal engagement across the project.

A masterplan for Aboriginal engagement

Enable is the brainchild of businessman and Sydney Swans legend, Michael O’Loughlin, and his mentor and long-time friend, James Gallichan. The pair also co-founded the GO Foundation in 2009 with 2014 Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes.

While the GO Foundation focuses on empowering young Aboriginal Australians to achieve their potential by providing mentoring, leadership, networks and support, Enable is about creating meaningful engagement between Aboriginal Australians and corporate and government entities in order to create opportunities for collaboration across all aspects of business and community.

While it is now a requirement for major infrastructure projects to have employment targets for Aboriginal workers, Western Sydney Airport is taking the unique step of creating a business-wide masterplan for Aboriginal engagement across all aspects of the project.

We will be working with Enable to ensure that all pillars of our business – from jobs and procurement, to airport design and consultation – are undertaken in a collaborative and considered way with Aboriginal Australians.

This partnership will be critical as we work towards achieving the targets of our Indigenous Participation Plan and as we develop and implement our Reconciliation Action Plan.

Ensuring meaningful community engagement

Greater Western Sydney is home to one of the largest Indigenous communities in Australia and we have strong targets in place to ensure our first Australians have the opportunity to help shape Western Sydney Airport.

Enable will work with the local Darug people as well as other Aboriginal stakeholders to coordinate Aboriginal engagement across all aspects of the company including cultural heritage, employment, training, education, sustainability and reporting.

This comprehensive masterplan is the first of its kind for a major infrastructure project in Australia – we are setting a new standard for how Aboriginal Australians should be engaged.

WSA is an Australian Government-owned company and the collaboration with Enable reflects the Commonwealth’s position in relation to Indigenous targets and supporting Aboriginal Australians. The Commonwealth has already committed to a 2.4 per cent Indigenous employment target for all construction projects in the Western City District.

More specifically, in relation to the Airport, at least three per cent of all contracts during the construction of the airport will be with Indigenous firms. The alignment of the Commonwealth and WSA reflects the commitment to engagement with the Aboriginal community, not only with the development of this airport but broader construction across Western Sydney.

Building new pathways for Indigenous Australians

Aboriginal stakeholders have already had close involvement in the project throughout the development of the Airport Plan and Environmental Impact Statement process and have undertaken the first stage of surveying and salvaging artefacts from the site.

The Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities and Western Sydney Airport have held regular Aboriginal Stakeholder Engagement forums and we are delighted to be working closely with the local Darug people who performed a smoking ceremony on the airport site to help prepare it for construction last year.

A lot has been done to build a respectful, long-term partnership to engage the Aboriginal community with the airport project and ensure Aboriginal cultural heritage is represented and respected.

Our commitment to leading meaningful participation, building new pathways for advancing Aboriginal engagement and providing meaningful educational and career opportunities is in its infancy but we will be striving to set a new benchmark and look forward to seeing the evolution of our approach over the next decade and beyond.

View more information about Enable here.

1 Comment
  1. Mata 2 months ago

    Fantastic initative!

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