For the past 5 years, AW Edwards have been engaged in a series of concrete actions to integrate indigenous people and recognise their culture in the company’s day-to-day life.
A major apprenticeship programme has been put in place to help young Aborigines access a profession. The young apprentices we hire are accompanied by a mentor – also an Aborigine – to help naturally build a spirit of trust and understanding. This allows us to identify any personal difficulties that might affect their work, at an early stage, such as transport problems, for example, so we can help solve them. For instance, not having a driving licence is a real obstacle when it comes to getting to work. So we help them get one. When choosing partner companies, we also favour those in which indigenous people have a majority stakeholding. This helps boost their business opportunities, beyond AW Edwards.
And we learn a great deal too, new know-how and life skills… Last year, we participated in the annual “Bringing back to grassroots” day celebrating Aboriginal heritage. That was important for us. There were dancers, children’s games, painting and language workshops, etc. Every generation was there, intermingling and having fun… “We had a yan!”, as they say round here.
Knowing Aboriginal people personally really does change perceptions. People become more curious about one another.
The impact can be seen on a variety of levels. Human obviously, but also in terms of our company image, since we are demonstrating that we are working hard to improve things. All that is positive for everybody. What a great experience! Getting to know each other, by working together, talking together, on jobsites, at the coffee machine, day after day… everything becomes much simpler.
Letter written by a young Aboriginal apprentice carpenter at AW Edwards
Last night, I went home by car for the very first time. It’s a small, red car. I’ve just bought it. And it’s me who drives it. I love it! As I drove past the hills and through the bush, I felt the laughing spirits of our ancestors dancing. And I remembered my grandmother and the old proverb she so often repeated to me: “We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… And then we return home.”
If only she had known that one day I would have a driving licence, that I would come home from work in my own car and that I would take my parents off camping at the weekend… I like to think she can see me.
Facts & figures
AW EDWARDS Social cohesion & solidarity
- 12 Aboriginal carpenters hired in the last 5 years