Remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory will have access to increased job opportunities thanks to a partnership with Telstra.
A pilot program for local Indigenous people to train and gain employment with organisations contracted to clean and maintain grounds around key Telstra communication network facilities was announced in Darwin today.
The pilot program is running on the Cobourg and Cox peninsulas in the Northern Territory, working with the Northern Land Council’s ranger program. A similar pilot was recently announced in The Torres Strait and the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA).
Telstra NT Area General Manager Brian O’Keefe said the aim was to expand the program to communities across Australia.
“This program will help bring sustainable employment and training opportunities and business skills into remote Indigenous communities located near Telstra’s infrastructure,” Mr O’Keefe said.
“We are also working with the companies we contract to undertake this work, to upskill their workforce and assist them to increase their ability to tender for other non-Telstra related work.
“We have a large network of key facilities across regional and remote Australia including radio towers, mobile base stations and exchanges.
“Grounds maintenance for these facilities is as critical as it is challenging because they’re so remote - vegetation growth can make it tough for our technicians to get to key communications equipment needing maintenance or repair, it can grow over crucial solar panels and transmitters, interfering with signals, and snakes and vermin can also take up residence at our sites. The point is this is important work that will help keep the communications network in the area going” said Mr O’Keefe.
In the Northern Territory, the NLC’s Kenbi Ranger Group are among the first of the ranger groups to begin work under the program.
Last week, the five-strong group, led by ranger co-ordinator, Steve Brown, began work at the Telstra receiving station site at Mandorah, which is a 15-minute ferry ride across Darwin Harbour on the Cox Peninsula. The Kenbi Ranger Group is based at Belyuen on the Cox Peninsula.
Mr Brown said: “The main benefit of the work is that it gives the community where the rangers come from aspirations to become rangers themselves.
“This work also expands our skill sets, such as operating ride-on mowers, weed-spraying, and maintaining over-growth.
“At the receiving station at Mandorah, we slashed, mowed, whipper-snipped and sprayed weeds along the fence line and put in a firebreak around the site.
“At the Telstra tower at Wagait Beach, we removed several termite mounds, did a general clean-up of the block and also put in a firebreak.
“We’re also engaged by NLC to work at sites along the Arnhem Highway, including those at Marrakai and Shale Ridge. We’re just keen to expand our area of operations.”
Mr Brown said the work with Telstra doesn’t interfere with core ranger activities that include culture-based work and practices.
Telstra’s Indigenous Directorate General Manager Lauren Ganley said the partnership was the latest example of Telstra’s commitment to Indigenous Australia.
“Partnerships such as this and the pilot in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area are sustainable in the long-term, to make a positive and lasting difference for Indigenous communities and help strengthen people’s connections to their community,” Ms Ganley said.
- Telstra has a significant number of network sites (Telstra assets) located in regional and remote areas across Australia, including radio towers, mobile base stations and exchanges.
- Many sites are challenging to service regularly due to their remote locations.
- This can results in uncontrolled vegetation growth which impacts service delivery by preventing service personnel accessing the site for maintenance and/or fault restoration.
- The vegetation can grow over crucial solar panels and transmitters, blocking signals.
- Snakes and vermin also take up residence in the vegetation and our sites, causing damage.
- Long dry grass presents a fire hazard to our assets and an eye sore to the communities.
- Telstra is seeking to partner with local Indigenous groups in the Northern Territory and Torres Strait to undertake grounds maintenance of Telstra assets under an agreement with a third party organisation.
- In the Northern Territory Telstra is partnering with the Northern Land Council, and in Queensland the North Queensland Commercial Consultancy Services (NQCCS) and Roy Boiiz Cleaning to run training courses to train and mentor Indigenous businesses focused on grounds maintenance and cleaning.
- The training and mentoring provided via these business organizations will assist them to successfully tender for other non-Telstra related work, maximizing the impact of the program.
- The agreement will comply with Procurement and OH&S guidelines and be commercially robust.
- The proposed solution will provide ongoing jobs for Indigenous people living in remote communities and provide Telstra with a solution to ground maintenance issues.
- To date Telstra has rolled out pilot programs in the NT to ten sites across Cox Peninsula & Coburg Peninsula and has announced a pilot program across Queensland at 20 sites in the Torres Strait & nine sites in the Northern Peninsula Area.
- The programs partner with organizations which provide appropriate governance and training for Indigenous groups to be able to undertake the scope of work.
- The scope of work for the pilot project is negotiated with the organisation, along with timings and pricing.
- Long term, Telstra is proposing to roll the program out across other regional and remote areas throughout Australia.