Building roads – building communities: Insights from Main Roads

25 October 2019

Building roads – building communities: Insights from Main Roads

Repairing and upgrading roads in remote Western Australia is a whole community undertaking.

Just how it happens was the subject of Maria Drysdale’s talk with a group of new employees to the public sector.

Network Manager at Main Roads in the Kimberley, Ms Drysdale spoke about two major projects – one in Bidyadanga after Cyclone Kelvin battered the northern coastline in 2018 and destroyed much of the road; and one in Broome where 90 kilometres of red dirt road will be sealed.

“Bidyadanga is home to the largest remote Aboriginal community in the State. After Kelvin, there was severe flooding and unsealed roads limited the community’s access to schools, work and medical services,” she said.

The Bidyadanga Access Road project upgraded six kilometres of road and a parking bay. While sealing the local airstrip was not part of the original plan, it became clear that access to the community by the Royal Flying Doctor Service was critical.

So Main Roads worked with the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services and Water Corporation – and 25 Aboriginal people in the local community and surrounds were also employed.

As with Bidyadanga, the Broome Cape Leveque Road upgrade involved local communities, workers and businesses.

“The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that Aboriginal Australians form 3.9% of the Australian population. In the Shire of Broome, it’s about 28.2%,” Ms Drysdale explained.

“So Main Roads has some ambitious targets for Aboriginal participation – and progress so far has been outstanding. For example, we set a target of 20% of the total construction value of the Broome Cape Leveque Road project be delivered by Aboriginal businesses. We are currently achieving 38%.

“Our approach has ensured the project provides direct benefits to the local economy. It has also up-skilled local workers in both road construction and maintenance techniques.

“I have heard wonderful stories about how this new source of income has allowed local families to make financial decisions that were not previously available to them. This includes being able to start up their own business, buy a new family car or give their children birthday presents,” Ms Drysdale said.

Take a look at a short video on the Broome Cape Leveque Road project.

The next public sector induction, run by the Public Sector Commission for new employees and those who want to refresh their understanding of the sector, is on Wednesday 27 November and you can register now.

Page last updated 25 October 2019