“I am stoked that we are talking about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, community and engagement on an authentic level. It is more than just professional growth, it is a personal journey that speaks to the heart of who we are as Pensarians, and more importantly Australians.” #pensarculture – Chris McGregor
Australia is home to the world’s oldest continuous living culture – something we can all take pride in as a nation. As the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the land upon which we live and work today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples maintain deep connections with country. The traces of these ancient cultures can be observed to this day all around us.
Pensar is committed to proactive and constructive Indigenous engagement and cultural heritage management. Indigenous communities play an active role in caring for the natural environment and landscape, particularly so in the regional and remote locations where Pensar does much of its work.
A springboard for shared success
Pensar recently received formal endorsement of its inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan. Careful consideration and planning have gone into developing the plan. From the Managing Director and office staff to work crews onsite, the RAP has focused and united the organisation in articulating its commitment to the national reconciliation movement. Pensar Managing Director Karl Yunker sees such reconciliation action plans as fundamental for organisations like Pensar and for Australia to reach its full potential. “By appreciating the values and knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, we are forging an inclusive and respectful workplace and work practices. That extends to our project teams and project delivery. “The very nature of the work we do and the places we work see us engaging with Traditional Custodians and potentially culturally sensitive sites on a daily basis. We build trust and shared success by being collaborative and open. Our RAP, and now the appointment of a dedicated Indigenous engagement team member, are testimony to our continued commitment.”
Also in 2021, Pensar created the new position of Indigenous Engagement Coordinator. The newly appointed Chris McGregor says he will be working on both internal and external engagement to build a platform for successful engagement. “I’m rapt to join Pensar and be part of an organisation that works for communities all over Australia. I’m big on not being the only face of Indigenous relations. My goal is to empower our people and the organisation to build rewarding relationships between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians. That’s the essence of the Reconciliation Action Plan. “I’m keen to connect with local schools where we work and create pathways for Indigenous students and apprentices. I will also be on the ground to provide a bridge between Pensar and local Indigenous communities, connecting our work with Country. We’re building our capacity and building on the RAP to create an organic process to deliver mutual outcomes.”
Making friends and building bridges
For the Pensar crew, Indigenous engagement and cultural heritage management is more than just ticking boxes and satisfying development requirements. It’s an opportunity to become part of a community – an experience that often yields surprising rewards. Pensar Regional and Offshore Project Manager Jeremy Goodacre grins as he recalls working on a water reticulation project on Hammond Island for Torres Strait Island Regional Council. “Working and living on an island in such a small community, you have the benefit of getting to know the locals. And they’re keen to get to know you and what you’re doing – and to understand what goes on when you turn on the tap. “When we went back to Hammond for a maintenance visit months later, we were greeted like old friends. They remembered us. They remembered our names. We were all happy to see each other again. It made our day! “The work we did on Hammond was close to significant culturally sensitive sites – from shell middens to burial sites. We worked closely with Council’s Cultural Heritage Liaison Officer and Elders to steer clear of these areas in our works. It was great to finish the job with a happy client and a happy community. “Through our work, we have the opportunity to go places and meet people we never would otherwise. We get to experience a side of Australia that few Aussies do.”
If you missed the first instalment, where we uncovered the unexpected in Walgett and shared our work with the Quandamooka people on Stradbroke Island, you can find it here
Featured artwork – Pensar’s Connection to Culture and Nature by Elaine Chambers-Hegarty, artist and graphic designer with proud links to the Koa (Guwa) and Kuku Yalanji peoples.