Work on Country, for Country, with DDR

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Work on Country, for Country, with DDR

DDR was built upon a vision to provide long-term employment opportunities to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Three key DDR players discuss turning that vision into reality.

When Dundee Rock’s Tom Hutcheson and Duratec’s Phil Harcourt first established DDR Australia, it was clear that both directors were dedicated to providing employment  opportunities to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Fast forward five years and the company has had success in its mission, however, there is still room for improvement. 

That’s where general manager Shane Katauskas and Aboriginal engagement & mentoring manager Peter Cox come in. Recently, Tom, Shane and Peter have been discussing DDR’s approach to Aboriginal engagement and what needs to be kept in mind when providing training and employment opportunities.

When talking to all three, you can tell there is a genuine desire to expand DDR’s engagement with Indigenous communities, whether it be by providing job opportunities; assisting with apprenticeships; supporting Aboriginal businesses; or sponsoring events. DDR already has a 20 per cent First Nations employment rate and while that exceeds government guidelines, it  doesn’t quite meet its own high targets just yet.

Shane is quick to remind us, though, that employment opportunities are not one-size-fits-all solutions.

“People need to be doing something they like – you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole,” he said.

“If you’re going to provide an opportunity, then it needs to be viable – there’s no point telling a sparkie to be a concreter, when all they want to do is be a sparkie.

“They might try their guts out but they won’t have any passion for it.”

Tom agrees, which is why he thinks a flexible approach is best when it comes to providing opportunities. As founder and director of the company, Tom is – and always has been – open to new ideas.

He operates collaboratively and is a ‘teams person’. If someone has a ‘light bulb moment’, then he’s the first to listen. And that applies to both business opportunities and ways to engage Aboriginal peoples.

“We’re a good company to come to if you want to start or reset your career,” he said.

“We’ll help you find a position and, as you progress, you’ll work out which direction you’d like to go in next.

“We’re there to direct you and help you achieve your goals. Whatever you’d like to pursue, we’ll do all we can to assist you.”

Recently, Shane and Peter have been talking to universities about career pathways for Aboriginal students and ways in which DDR might be able to assist. This is something they want to do more of – build relationships so that DDR knows the best kind of support to offer and Aboriginal peoples are aware of the opportunities.

Peter, a proud Noongar man with connections throughout the Wagyl Kaip region, has already made inroads in this area but says there is more work to be done.

“We’re a small community so the main way to pass on information is via word-of-mouth but this can take time,” he said.

“Relationship-building is key.”

Peter says that it’s heartening when you see referrals from within the company. He tells the story of a Perth-based DDR employee who recruited his cousin from up north. Up until then, he had been washing buses.

DDR wants to encourage more of this but Tom, Shane and Peter know that it will take not only time, but also consistent effort to nurture existing relationships and establish new ones. The good thing is – they are all equally committed to making it happen.

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