ELEMENT A – Leadership investment to Inclusion &
At Downer, the words ‘Own Different’ are synonymous with diversity, and this theme underpins
Downer’s Inclusion and Belonging Strategy.
Downer’s Inclusion and Belonging (I&B) vision recognises the value of diverse experiences,
skills, knowledge, and strengths in making better decisions for our business.
To achieve our purpose, Downer’s senior leadership and Board supports and ensures:
- a diverse and inclusive work environment in which everyone is treated fairly and with
- a workplace culture that reflects the Downer Pillars: Safety, Delivery, Relationships and
- the ongoing attraction, selection, development, and retention of a diverse and inclusive
workforce from the widest possible talent pool
- an inclusive, high performing and engaged workplace, where all individuals are
recognised, developed, and rewarded
Downer’s business practices promote equality of opportunity throughout all aspects of the
employment lifecycle, and ensure that everyone enjoys a work environment free from unlawful
discrimination, harassment, vilification, and victimisation
diversity and inclusion are everyone’s responsibility.
Downer’s Board has set targets for female and Indigenous representation across our Australian
and New Zealand business (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Downer Board Inclusion and Belonging targets
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Planning to deliver ‘Own Different’, Downer characterised seven I&B focus areas structured
by seven pillars to ensure holistic and sustained delivery (Figure 2).
Figure 2 Inclusion and Belonging Plan 2022-24 Key Focus Areas and I&B Pillars that underpin the
tactical implementation plans
Downer’s Delivery Governance Leadership framework – historically used to vertically align
senior executives with frontline delivery staff – was expanded to measure, track, and
ensure the execution of the I&B action plan. Downer Defence’s I&B activity has been
focused on three of the I&B focus areas, outlined below, to assess the current state and
what a winning position would look like to characterise the relevant targets in our business.
- Gender – Downer Defence currently has 39% female workforce participation. What
does a win look like? Leverage and reflect Downer targets within the Defence
business, focusing on women in management positions. Downer’s Annual Report states
that we strive for 40% female participation and 25% women in management positions
- Cultural – Downer Defence currently has 3.97% Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
workforce participation, achieving above Downer’s commitment of 3% in line with
community numbers. What does a win look like? Goal set at a stretch target of 4%
Indigenous workforce participation by the end of 2023 in Downer Defence and then
reviewed for expansion.
- Disability – Data is not currently available. What does a win look like? Accessible
data to track and verify increase in this area.
Asset Management Excellence Awards – Asset Management Diversity Award 3
ELEMENT B – Innovative approaches to leveraging
individual backgrounds, perspectives, experiences, and
Downer Defence’s Inclusion & Belonging Plan has a multi-faceted approach. The elements of approach described here include:
- Celebrate Different – informing and baselining three focus areas of the Downer
Inclusion & Belonging (I&B) Strategy in Gender, Cultural and Disability elements.
- Supply Chain Social Benefit spend survey – for improving Downer’s effectiveness of
commercial benefit in the regions in where we operate
- Downers Thrive Program – for professional development of women in our organisation
- Darumbal indigenous ranger traineeship program – integration of traditional
practices into Land Management services on the Defence Estate.
The Department of Defence has set a goal for Defence Estate contract partners to collectively
generate up to 200 new jobs for people with disability and neurodiverse backgrounds.
To contribute to this objective Downer Defence commenced the ‘Celebrate Different’ Employee
Survey which commenced on 30 January 2023 aiming to inform our strategy toward making
Downer Defence an even better place to work, and one where people feel accepted, valued,
The survey feedback we receive from our people will help us to better understand the difference
and diversity that we have today, and the meaningful actions we can put in place as we seek to
attract the best people to work with us in the future.
- Ensure employees understand the ‘WHY’ – business wide communications plan to
increase awareness and invite participation
- Make it easy for everyone to contribute – local employee champions, two-week preview
campaign, paper and online options for survey response, incentives for workplaces/sites
that achieve +75% response rate (morning tea/uber eats vouchers/gift vouchers)
- Encourage greater levels of participation – goal is to achieve 50% participation
- Aligns with Downer’s broader business goals of Downer Defence as being an employer
of choice, a client partner of choice and a business contributing to society in a
Survey questions were targeted to the Downer Defence I&B plan to baseline gender, cultural
and disability perspectives. Initial information collated from 785 responses included:
- Age profile: largest cohort is 45–54 years
- 16.7% speak a language other than English
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- 5.98% are active Reservists
- 4.33% identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
- 3.95% identify has having a disability or neurodiverse
- Support and suggestions for further training
- Female workforce: 39.37%, 32.74% female managers and 20% female executive
Supply Chain Social Benefit spend survey
Downer reviewed opportunities to increase social procurement spend with Social Benefit
A survey was conducted across Downer Defence’s supply chain (575 suppliers in total) to better understand the social benefits they are providing through our engagement. The response rate was 57 per cent of the overall procurement expenditure and 39.8 per cent by contractor for FY22; to enable Downer Defence to better target opportunities for social procurement. Downer’s survey listed 26 questions related to five employee cohorts and questions related to the expenditure on Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) and Disability social enterprise goods and services procurement and staff training and education costs.
Survey data reported the following social benefits through Downer Defence’s procurement:
- A total for 30 social benefit suppliers as registered or certified by Supply Nation and/or
Social Traders were found.
- Women in construction roles: The survey listed a total of 1422 employed in some
capacity during FY22.
- Disability employment data: The survey listed a total of 113 employed in some capacity
- ATSI employment data: The survey listed a total of 656 employed in some capacity
- Veterans’ employment data: The survey listed a total of 171 veterans employed in some
capacity in FY22.
- Apprentices and Trainees employment data: The survey listed a total of 737 employees
engaged in a training pathway or work experience.
A total of 92 alternative social benefit suppliers were identified as compatible alternative options equated to $6.9 million that could be diverted to social benefit suppliers based on the spend data from FY22.
THRIVE is a collaborative leadership, professional development, learning, wellness, and
capability program that has the specific objective of cultivating and developing talented women at all levels across our business.
Figure 3 Thrive program banner
One example of Downer’s commitment to supporting our female cohort in STEM fields is
Natasha Salisbury Land Management Supervisor winning Rising Star in Australian Defence
Industry Awards Darumbal indigenous ranger traineeship program.
To provide meaningful work to Indigenous communities while sustaining the Defence Estate,
Downer created the Darumbal Trainee Ranger Project as a partnership to protect the
Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) environment near Rockhampton, Queensland. We
recognised that combining Indigenous land management knowledge with on-the-job training and certification would improve outcomes for the Estate and create employment opportunities for the Darumbal people as the Traditional Custodians. This framework is replicable to benefit other Traditional Owner groups in the areas in which we work.
Following many years of planning, the inaugural program launched in late 2021 to provide
training and opportunities for Darumbal in the land management, revegetation, and
conservation of a variety of ecosystem types across their Country at SWBTA, one of the
Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) prime training areas. Already completed by eight participants,
and now being delivered to eight Darumbal women as the second cohort, the program includes:
- face-to-face training and assessments
- Certificate 3 in Conservation and Land Management, delivered in partnership with
Downer and TAFE Queensland
- weed management in targeted areas, helping to control invasive species such as
lantana and weedy grass species
- support from a specialist environmental consultant, Ecosure, for technical training.
ELEMENT C – Opinion as to the positive impact to the
organisation, stakeholders, and the community
While Downer Defence has made progress in the Gender and Disability focus areas, our
biggest successes have been in the partnerships developed in the Cultural focus area with our Indigenous partners in Queensland. Such successes include the case studies below.
Cowboys House Townsville Downer is committed to being an organisation that demonstrates leadership and respects
Indigenous communities right across Australia. NRL Cowboys House provides supported
accommodation for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from some of North Queensland’s most remote and educationally disadvantaged communities, enabling them to access quality secondary education opportunities in Townsville. The facility is managed by the Cowboys Community Foundation, the charity arm of the North Queensland Cowboys NRL club.
In October 2021, Downer signed a partnership with NRL Cowboys House which has resulted in electrical apprenticeships with Downer and catering opportunities in collaboration with Compass for the Dream Believe Achieve program.
Multhana Property Services
Since 2021, Downer has engaged Indigenous-owned business Multhana Property Services to deliver cleaning and land management services across our Queensland EMOS region. Our contract with Multhana has reached an Indigenous employment rate of over 50%, creating sustainable employment, training, and career pathways for Indigenous Australians.
Figure 8: Multhana Grounds & Gardens staff at Gallipoli Barracks
Figure 9: Multhana Operations Manager Cam Johnson with EMOS Operations Manager Hannah Crossley. The artwork created by Shane ‘Woodend’ Wallace and titled ‘The Fish’, depicting the journey of Multhana’s commercial cleaning team and recognising the strong relationship with Downer.
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ELEMENT D – General comments
Darumbal inaugural trainee ranger program completion
Following the completion of the inaugural Darumbal ranger trainee program, we employed three full-time employees at Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) and have commenced the second year of the program with a 100% female cohort.
“This traineeship is an important partnership created to protect and sustain Defence land and provide meaningful opportunities for Indigenous communities on Country,” Jacob Bonisch, Head of Downer Defence, said.
“These 450,000 hectares are important to the Darumbal people, and this partnership has
demonstrated what can be achieved with the right intent.”
Darumbal Traditional Custodian, Malcolm Mann stated, “These are the sorts of commitments that give us an opportunity to advance our capability in land and sea Country management. We have a custodial responsibility to our Country and commit to look after our land and sea Country.” “It is a credit to all involved that 100 percent of the cohort are successfully graduating – not an easy feat”.
“The trainees have learned Downer Defence’s and the ADF’s ways of doing their business and applying their knowledge. We have found our partners at Shoalwater Bay Training Area equally eager to learn more about connection to Country that Darumbal people have had for over 2,000 generations,” Mr Mann said.
The first cohort’s graduation event included a ceremony on Country at SWBTA, attended by the graduates’ colleagues and families, followed by a welcome ceremony to introduce the next cohort – an all-female group – to the 2023 Darumbal Ranger Traineeship program.
“Downer Defence has spent years developing this program with Defence and the Darumbal
peoples, creating meaningful connection in our role managing Defence bases and estates with the Traditional Custodians of the Country on which we operate,” Downer Defence’s Jacob Bonisch said. “This traineeship proves that we can learn from each other, and we can keep working together to develop this kind of specialised capability across this area, and potentially across other Defence assets around Australia.”
Diane Lanyon, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Ecosure said, “It has been an honour to be part of this collaboration, seeing the graduates grow their knowledge over the last 12 months, and helping guide the training to ensure culturally significant and environmentally significant sites were worked on by the team.”
“The wonderful project of revegetating Munda Creek will ensure the new trainees have a site to nurture, grow and further develop – a wonderful handover between these cohort.