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Champion of Indigenous employment eyes interstate expansion

David Prestipino -

Business owners and governments that want to foster workplace inclusion and increase First Nations employment could look to South Australian-based RAW Group as a model.

The Indigenous-owned and managed company ethos 'Changing Lives Through Economic Independence and Empowerment' has rung true, no more so than this past financial year.

RAW Group founder and managing director, Allan Jones, believed employment equality was achievable with meaningful engagement and strong partnerships with stakeholders.

"As an Aboriginal man who has been involved in the education, training and employment arenas all my working life, I have committed to supporting my People achieve equality in the workplace," he said.

Indigenous workforce inclusion is at the core of RAW's operational entities, which originally comprised civil construction but has since expanded to traffic management, group training and labour hire personnel services.

He believed RAW Group's sustainable and significant growth was a by-product of forming economically-beneficial solutions and close relationships with industry leaders.

"We've got a pretty solid foundation, and now lots of wheels in motion, which is great," Mr Jones said.

"That solid base has evolved to a commercially-competitive model, which took a while to build but - now it is and easy to mobilise - we can start looking at other states."

Mr Jones cited his biggest success as aligning the philosophy of the Group with staff, and then stakeholders and project partners.

"The biggest achievement was bringing the Group together collectively to work for a common purpose, and that is to create economic and workforce participation opportunities for First Nations people," he said.

"RAW really caters for the whole community: from those finding it hard, right through to the high achievers."

Mr Jones said it was important to have a balance among the 150-plus permanent staff working across RAW's four entities.

"We've had people coming from incarceration, long-term unemployment, low socio-economic regions etc, right through to having Aboriginal engineers and state managers in our civil construction division, for example," he said.

"Fundamentally by addressing the workforce development challenges facing Aboriginal Australians, we go a long way towards creating an environment for industry and employers to work with a responsive and competitive workforce.

"A workforce where Aboriginal participation becomes the norm rather than the exception."

Results from the past financial year show the RAW model is working, with significant revenue growth, while also confirming the Group as an industry leader of Indigenous employment and champion of female participation across its sectors.

More than 70 per cent of RAW's workforce are Indigenous, while 30 per cent of its female staff are employed in non-traditional trades, well above industry benchmarks.

Its Civil and Construction division delivered more than $15m of contracted works in 2022-23, with the Group awarded the Civil Contractors Federation Employer of the Year.

RAW's experienced labour force included a talent pool of almost 100 qualified and reliable traffic controllers, 80 per cent of whom were Indigenous.

The Group also has 34 Indigenous apprentices employed via its apprenticeship program, which has changed the life of several young First Nations people, including recent graduate Jackson Viney.

"I really like the support I receive from Indigenous mentors, and knowing I have someone I can go to is very helpful," he said.

"The apprenticeship program has bridged a gap to opportunities and I now feel confident about different career paths I can pursue."

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