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Two of Us – using projects to change lives

Tuesday 17 November 2020

Randwick Campus Redevelopment sits on the traditional lands of the Gadigal and Bidjigal people of the Eora nation. This $780 million Health Infrastructure project offers significant opportunities to create positive outcomes in partnership with contractor, Lendlease.
HI Project Director Simon Brender and Lendlease construction worker Nikita Whirisky share their two sides of this life changing story. ​

Simon Brender, Health Infrastructure Project Director​​​
Simon Brender says he is proud to be part of a team that is committed to supporting Aboriginal participation in construction through a number of skills development and training opportunities.
“Together with our principal contractor Lendlease, the Randwick Campus Redevelopment is committed to delivering opportunities to improve skills and training, and increase industry diversity,” says Simon.
“It is a privilege to work on complex major hospital redevelopments but what I really value is knowing that these projects can really change lives, when we have the mandate and support for these types of initiatives.
“Since commencing on site in 2018, the team has facilitated core training programs to support Aboriginal participation in construction and the Infrastructure Skills Legacy Program. This includes providing opportunities to support apprentice programs to encourage career pathways and campaigning for increased participation of women in the construction industry.
“We have supported various Infrastructure Skills Legacy Programs to meet future demands of the industry and promote workforce diversity, with the aim to improve the engagement of community in infrastructure projects whilst achieving strong economic growth.”
Nikita Whirisky became a full time Lendlease construction worker earlier this year after participating in the project’s training and development initiatives. ​
"Nikita joined the project in 2018 through a labour hire agency. Within a short time, Lendlease site management noticed a real point of difference and dedication to the tasks undertaken by Nikita. She also naturally became an unofficial mentor to other indigenous workers on the project," says Simon.
This has translated to Lendlease offering upskilling opportunities including first aid training and traffic control work training, which resulted in Nikita securing full time employment with Lendlease.
"We have found that through a genuine investment in Nikita’s skills and career pathway, not just job placement, the opportunities we offer through construction are transformative for both the individuals and the culture of the project," says Simon.
In partnership with TAFE NSW, Lendlease is establishing a Skilling and Employment Hub to provide an ongoing touch point for industry partners, training organisations and prospective job seekers to come together and explore opportunities throughout the project. 
“Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the go live date for the hub has been deferred, but once up and running, the hub will provide tangible outcomes in line with item 10.2 of the NSW Government’s 10-point plan.​”
Simon says the project’s commitment to Aboriginal participation in construction is a multi-faceted approach.
“This is definitely something that HI doesn’t do alone. We have to be willing to take a partnership approach and tap into the expertise people like Nikita and our partner organisations have. It’s when we combine our different skillsets that we can really deliver positive benefits.
“We are focussed on supporting ‘pathways to employment’ programs through registered training organisations and indigenous owned and operated recruitment firms including iTradies and CareerTrackers, that provide skilling and training opportunities for members of the local Aboriginal community."
To date, 57 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been inducted onto the project site, and this number is expected to grow as the workforce peaks at 550 workers per day in early 2021.
Nikita Whirisky, Lendlease Construction Worker
Since joining the Randwick Campus Redevelopment team in a cleaning and support role in 2018, Nikita quickly became an important member of the team.
“Being given the opportunity to work on this project was a big change at first, but I enjoyed the work and the team environment,” says Nikita. “I wanted to expand my skillset so I could progress into a more permanent position.”
Through the training courses and her experience of working on site, Nikita became a full-time employee as a Lendlease construction worker earlier this year.
“The special thing about projects is everyone working together for a common goal and I’m so thrilled to be a part of what we’re achieving at Randwick,” says Nikita.
“I am extremely proud to be working in a non-traditional role as a female Indigenous woman on such a large and important project. This opportunity has also resulted in me now being the primary provider in my family, enabling my partner to focus on completing a trade qualification at TAFE NSW.”
Nikita has also become an informal mentor to others on the project, supporting Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal members of the workforce.
“I really enjoy supporting other people on the project,” says Nikita. “I’m now looking to complete a mentoring program to further formalise my skills with the help of the project team, so I’m excited to see what the future brings.
“This project has given me such a great opportunity that I want to return the favour and see what I can give back to others. I can see that if I bring what I have learned and work together with Lendlease and HI we can help even more people through these projects.”
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