Once a fortnight at Lot Fourteen, tools are put down at 10am and construction workers file into the open courtyard or an empty room, where they hear from Aboriginal leaders, educators or anyone with a story to share. The talks are no longer than a smoko break (10-20mins), making them easily digestible; then it’s back to work – with plenty to think about.
While the former Royal Adelaide Hospital site is a hub for the wide range of entrepreneurs and the emerging future and creative industries it houses, it’s also the workplace of many construction workers and sub-contractors employed on the next big projects there, such as the Australian Space Agency, and soon the Aboriginal Arts and Cultures Centre.
Designed to build a greater understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultures, the Toolbox Yarns series was built specifically for this group, after stemming from discussions during Reconciliation Week – “why do we only talk about reconciliation and race during this week?”.
The short fortnightly sessions, a partnership between Aboriginal civil and construction company RAWsa, an Aboriginal civil construction company; Lot Fourteen; the SA Government and the Kaurna Nations Cultural Heritage Association, are open to all construction workers and subcontractors onsite, offering the opportunity to learn about Aboriginal culture and history at work.
“We’ve had people come in and talk about the repatriation process, preserving cultural heritage, but even just people talking about their experiences growing up on Country; all kinds of things,” said Shane Newchurch, a Kaurna man who works onsite at Lot Fourteen with RAWsa to ensure cultural heritage is preserved through taking site surveys, undertaking cultural mapping, cultural heritage, repatriation and cultural awareness training.
“It’s a good way for people to get to know others onsite that they might not otherwise. It also gets awareness out about what the Kaurna people have gone through from the White Australia Policy right through to getting our native title determination on 21 March 2018. We even had the Premier Steven Marshall come to a recent session!”
Simon Jackson, who used to work onsite for Lendlease and was instrumental in setting up the program, agrees that while cultural awareness is the goal, relationship building is an important byproduct.
“Honestly? I was sick of cultural awareness only at a person’s own initiative through Google; I wanted education by real people, getting to know each other through the process,” said Jackson, who’s since gone out on his own to work as a consultant in the area he’s most passionate about; creating opportunities for Aboriginal community members.
“Toolbox Yarns demystifies what can be heavy subject matter. It gives people the chance to talk through things that aren’t often discussed in our day to day. This idea could 100% be replicated on any site and in just about any industry.”