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Campus Estate at the University of Canberra exceeds Indigenous supplier targets

Elly Mackay

18 February 2020: Campus Estate management at the University of Canberra have more than doubled the Indigenous supplier procurement targets outlined in the University’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

The plan outlines a target of two per cent of non-salary spend across the University to be with Indigenous contractors and businesses. In 2019, Campus Estate spent five and a half per cent of their budget with Indigenous business – a feat achieved across several projects including the front of house upgrade to the Refectory and upgrade work to campus lighting. In addition, campus cleaning supplies are now being provided by an Indigenous-owned business on an ongoing basis.

The RAP states that using procurement to provide opportunities for Indigenous Australian-owned businesses and other businesses leads to an equitable University community and a strong relationship between the broader Australian population and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Associate Vice President Campus Estate, John Owens, says his team is very proud to have achieved the spend targets.

“We’ve worked with Rork Projects, Affinity Constructions and Arrow Project Management over the past two years who are all Indigenous owned,” he said.

“This year we are hoping to continue the push and have a three per cent spend with Indigenous businesses across Campus Estate.”

Rork Projects co-owner John Paul Janke has worked with the Campus Estate team on several projects throughout the University.

“We are proud to work with organisations that empower Indigenous business,” he said. “Working at the University not only enriches Rork Projects but it enriches the Canberra community.”

“It’s great to work with the University of Canberra because we know the work we’re doing will empower students and make a difference in the education space.”

Mr Janke believes that other institutions should follow in the path of the University.

“The University is really leading the way with the commitment they’re making to Indigenous business and I think really setting an example for other educational institutions.”

Although spend targets are in place, Senior Project Officer of Campus Development Ethan Althofer is of the belief that the Indigenous-owned companies used on campus are the best for the job.

“It’s important to remember that the companies that won these projects won them on merit. They went through the full procurement process that the University has in place and were successful,” he said.

For Mr Owens, the concept of supporting Indigenous businesses is not new. He was previously the CEO of Australia’s only Indigenous-owned full-service property management company and was the Chief Strategy Officer for an Indigenous construction and cleaning company.

He says that using procurement opportunities to support Indigenous businesses “goes so much further than just supporting a business”.

“Indigenous-owned businesses are 100-times more likely to employ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees,” he said.

“Indigenous procurement is key to empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, because it gives them more employment opportunities.

“This cycle means that wealth can be built within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, which typically hasn’t been seen in previous generations.”

Mr Owens won the Reconciliation Action Individual Vice Chancellor’s award in 2019 for his work with the Indigenous community at the University and across Canberra.

“As a University, we want to provide opportunities to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to work with us across a whole range of areas,” he said.

“By engaging Indigenous businesses, we can provide a much wider range of employment opportunities than we could if we only focused on employing those people directly to the University”.

Other Campus Estate initiatives that support Canberra’s Indigenous community include the commissioning of Indigenous-made artworks across campus and the installation of carpet in Aboriginal prints.