Ngarda Civil & Mining

In a Good Cause

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-By John Boley

Australia in general and WA in particular is not short of indigenous contracting companies, but Ngarda is unusual in being bigger. Ngarda Civil & Mining is the largest Indigenous owned and operated contracting company in Australia.

Ngarda retains its traditional links through its shareholders such as the Pilbara-based community foundation, Ngarda Ngarli Yarndu Foundation, and Indigenous Business Australia. Ngarda also benefits from its relationship with Australia’s largest contracting company, Leighton Contractors. This creates great synergies for Ngarda’s own operations.

General Manager Darren Lundberg told us: “Being a mining and civil contractor sets us apart from other indigenous contractors. We have about 330 employees at present – just under half of them are Indigenous.”

It is difficult to recruit staff. “It’s the same for us as for others. We have the same frustrations; we aren’t any different although our first port of call is aboriginal employment – we have some successes and some failures and we keep moving on. There are finite numbers of Aboriginals, they are a small group, so everyone is competing for the same people. There are a lot of Indigenous people out there that are very capable but they are in great demand.”

Ngarda’s goal is to ensure that local Indigenous communities are given maximum opportunity to participate in the economic development activities within their regions. The company is widely recognised as an industry leader in recruiting, training, employing, and retaining local Indigenous people within its workforce and provides its employees with training to develop their capacity to improve workplace prospects and gain broader benefits in their lives.

The company has trained hundreds of Indigenous men and women who are now working with Ngarda, or with many of its major clients and elsewhere in the industry. In addition, there is a local industry participation policy that targets local contractors who are keen to become involved in Ngarda’s projects; this policy played a major role in the establishment of the Pilbara Aboriginal Contractors’ Association of which the firm was a founding member.

“We are not profit driven by any means,” explained Darren. “We have to be commercially successful but we do have a purpose – our shareholders have given it to us and we have to live by our values and our purpose, which is to improve the lives of Aboriginal people through employment and wealth creation. That’s our charter – Aboriginal employment, development of Aboriginal people and of other Aboriginal businesses” as well as all the other things a contractor has to do.

Major community initiatives include “Kicking Goals” and “Shooting Goals” involving a joint venture between Ngarda, BHP Billiton, the Pilbara Development Commission, the Swan Districts Football Club, and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. Both programmes are run in conjunction with Pilbara senior high schools with the aim of engaging local Indigenous youth and encouraging greater attendance, participation and learning outcomes within a school environment.

They also encourage personal development and assist students in realising their full potential in both the sporting and educational arenas. The ‘Shooting Goals’ program has a specific focus on Indigenous young women while the ‘Kicking Goals’ program has a specific focus on Indigenous young men.

Ngarda also provides significant support for a number of local Indigenous youth to compete in the ‘Western Desert Shield’ which is a major football event held at Subiaco Oval in Perth every two years. Ngarda actively recruits Indigenous youth to play for the Ngarda Goannas in the event that is attended by AFL and WAFL selectors to recruit potential talent for the major clubs. In addition, Ngarda sponsors and supports many other community projects including the National

Aboriginal and Islander Day of Celebrations, local cultural events, local Indigenous women’s projects, and local educational and training initiatives, providing ‘in-kind-support’ to many Indigenous communities throughout the Pilbara region.

Darren said Ngarda is looking for more telecommunications work, following a successful project installing fibre-optic cable from Perth to Geraldton with Vision Stream, and to expand into building services.

“We are a growing company, we have a good strategic plan going forward; this year we expect to achieve $140-150 million turnover and in the next three years we hope to get up to about $250m. The plan is to expand within WA, but also Northern Territory and South Australia are expansion zones in the next few years.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

August 19, 2018, 7:50 AM AEST