It’s all about culture - Glenda Merritt

Fostering Indigenous engagement

INT8580 IT Publication #4_Glenda_web hero

Glenda Merritt is a community leader, and Cultural Engagement Coordinator, working with International Towers.

Part of Glenda’s role is to mentor and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and foster a culture of inclusiveness and understanding.

I’m a Ngunnawal Elder, I have a daughter Renee and two grandchildren Jarrad and Kyesha. I was born and raised on a mission in Yass with all my mob and I remember moving into our own home in mainstream society. In 1980, I completed Year 10 and went straight into the workforce. At the age of 17 I left Yass and my very first job was working in a fruit and vegetable market in Western Sydney.

One year later, I moved back to Yass/Canberra and enrolled in a private business college and completed a secretarial and administration course. Whilst studying, I also worked part-time in a service station in Queanbeyan pumping petrol, checking oil and checking air pressure in tyres as they did in those days.

From 1982, I commenced my career with the Public Service and my initial department was the ACT Schools Authority. I worked there for 10 years before I became more interactive within the various Australian Public Service agencies. I worked in many other Government Departments for over 20 years and during this time I held senior and executive payroll positions, which also included working as a former member of Parliament’s payroll assessor, for MP Kim Beazley AC.

After leaving the Public Service, I was successful in attaining a position as the Regional Assessment Coordinator with Department of Environment & Climate Change and they also allowed me to study Conservation and Land Management and Community Facilitation, which enabled me to work on Caring for Country Aboriginal Projects for the NSW Lachlan Catchment Management Authority, which involved a lot of travelling for work, as it incorporated such a large area to focus on.

I then moved onto other projects and commenced work with ABIGROUP Construction back in Canberra as the Aboriginal Liaison Officer on the Bulk Water Alliance Enlarged Cotter Dam project and the Murrumumbidgee to Googong Pipeline Water Transfer Project. When these projects were completed, I then moved back to Sydney.

I was fortunate to commence work with Lendlease Building as the Barangaroo Site Administration Officer and was then given other opportunities, which enabled me to work as an apprentice mentor with the Barangaroo Skills Exchange.

Another opportunity for a new career pathway presented itself, to become the International Towers Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Engagement Coordinator. For the first couple of years I was seconded to the site’s contracting company Dimeo, that provides cleaning services for the three International Towers. My role included recruitment and retention strategies for the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander workforce.

My secondment from Lendlease was extended in early 2018, and I’ve now transitioned to the International Towers management team.

As the workforce is hugely diverse, and there is a large under-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the workforce within the CBD, part of my role is to mentor and guide the diverse team and foster a culture of inclusiveness and understanding.
Our goal is to create employment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Our culture needs to be understood by the wider community and this can sometimes be challenging in a traditional employment situation. As an example, we have NAIDOC week, which is an entire week of cultural celebrations. NAIDOC is an opportunity for the wider community to take the opportunity to become more educated in our culture and its diversity and what it means to us.

We are so fortunate that International Towers supports our need to take this time and celebrate our history and our future. But many within the community don’t understand what it’s about, so it’s engaging with the whole community, and educating them about things that are meaningful and important within our culture. It’s about people and the richness of cultures and we can work together within this one environment, feel valued, understood and appreciated, and have a place to work and feel safe.

We’ve come such a long way. There has been so much ignorance attached to the Indigenous cultures of our land for so long, it’s still taking time to dispel misconceptions and myths about our people and there’s still so much more educating that needs to be done.
Throughout my journey, gathering life skills and job opportunities my literacy and numeracy only progressed over many years from my own developments and willingness to learn, self taught. I have been able to identify my own weakness and challenges by breaking down my fears, overcoming barriers and becoming a successful Indigenous leader in my community and in the workforce.

Personally, for me this is a very special place to work, as I was a part of its growth. Barangaroo is named after a very powerful Aboriginal woman, this place is unique and the people here are so friendly, it’s really exciting to be a part of a new creative precinct for Sydney, especially when I was one of the first females to work in the construction zone on this site, to now being a part of the corporate environment.

Enhance your culture


The business of ethics

Interview: Maria Claudia, Samambaia, Florist and Owner, Samambaia flowers

Procurement - the what, how, where and why of buying goods and services - can play a significant role in the health and sustainability of communities, and the environment all over the world. An insatiable desire to prioritise quantity over quality, and a single-minded focus on cost reduction over the past several decades has created long-lasting, environmental and social effects all over the world, most often in communities that already struggle with poor living standards.

Thankfully, this is changing. As technology continues to shrink the global marketplace, and simultaneously improve the transparency and awareness about how things are made, companies and individuals are increasingly empowered to make better choices and insist that provenance and ethics are the solid foundation on which procurement decisions are made.

As is often the case, profound change often begins in small, simple ways; fuelled by a determination to do good. It was a small group of coffee-roasting entrepreneurs who began sourcing beans directly from farmers to ensure they received fairer remuneration that sparked consumer demand for ethically sourced product and the birth of Free Trade coffee, which is now a standard for major distributors all overthe world. This in turn has enabled increased investment in small farming communities through way of improved infrastructure, education and equipment; ensuring the long-term sustainability of thousands of micro- farms around the world.

The fashion, technology and food industries have had similar recalibrations relating to the role of ethics in recent years, as consumers collectively demand increased transparency in provenance, forcing global brands to take greater responsibility for supply chains and to improve the wellbeing of the millions of people tasked with making the things we
use and rely on every day.

“Change can only come about if we insist on it,” says Liam Timms, Fund Manager, International Towers. “If we only do business with people and organisations that share our values, and if we refuse to purchase from those that don’t, we’ll see changes in behaviour that will ultimately be better for everyone. Someone needs to be the first to take a stand before others follow.”

International Towers has been committed to the highest standards of sustainability, diversity and inclusion from the very beginning of operations. In fact, a Responsible Procurement Policy was developed well in advance of the community coming alive and outlines a detailed and robust commitment to the responsible and sustainable procurement of goods and services. The policy reflects the international conventions and frameworks, such as the UN Global Compact’s principles on Environment, to which a number of International Towers’ tenant partners are signatories, including Accenture, David Jones, Lendlease, KPMG and Westpac.

In the current globalised economy, it’s reasonable to assume that many products may have been manufactured overseas and that business standards can vary widely across Australia and internationally.

By asking questions of our supply chain, we aim to better understand and support suppliers who are committed to business practices which enhance the environmental and social outcomes that align with those of International Towers. These questions ensure the products we source are: responsibly produced and from socially sustainable sources; avoid contributing to or directly using forced, bonded or involuntary labour; provide workers with safe working conditions free from bullying, physical, verbal or sexual harassment; pay staff appropriately and in line with all applicable laws; ensure no child labour or illegal labour is employed in the business; remove any discrimination on the basis of gender, faith, ethnicity, age, disability, marital status or sexual orientation.

The policy also extends to supporting our local Indigenous communities. The long cultural tradition and heritage of First Australians has a deep influence on every aspect of life at Barangaroo and, as such, International Towers is committed to improving Indigenous participation in the workforce by either directly employing Indigenous staff, or sourcing goods and services from Indigenous-owned or controlled businesses.

In a tangible example of our commitment to support Indigenous communities, we commissioned Indigenous artists from the Northern Territory to create 44 unique Dilly Bags to adorn the lobbies of International Towers, Tower Two and Tower Three, during the festive period.

The installation brought the work of Bula’bula Arts Aboriginal Corporation in North East Arnhem Land, home of the Yolngu people, to Barangaroo, the traditional home of the Gadigal people.

Dilly bags were historically used by Aboriginal people to gather food, carry tools, babies and receptacles for various cultural purposes, but today have a more decorative purpose. The artists from the Ramingining community craft their work to convey the region’s ritual and spiritual significance.

The artists, who hail from clan families and language groups in the area, used natural materials - Pandanas leaf from the Screw Palm being the essential material. The Pandanas leaf is dried and dyed using pigments from the surrounding country, compounded and applied by the artists using ancient knowledge and techniques.

Celebrating stories of diversity

The story of Australia is inseparable from the story of migration itself

Australia is often described as a nation of migrants. Apart from First Australians -
our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities - our population has its origins
in a uniquely diverse mix of other lands and cultures. The story of Australia is inseparable
from the story of migration itself, a tale that marries despair with hope, struggle with opportunity, and oppression with freedom.

In their search for a new life in a better place, Australia’s migrants have given
so much more to their new home than they’ve received. Despite an enormous
diversity in language, culture and beliefs, there is a commonality amongst
all that have settled on this land: an inspiring determination to succeed,
an entrepreneurial work ethic, and an unblemished optimism and belief in the
moral value of a ‘fair go’.

Global fintech TransferWise was inspired to create a photographic exhibition to
celebrate the achievements of Australian migrants and their incredible journeys.

The exhibition, ‘Faces of Australia’ - a portfolio of 20 curated images by
photographer Kurt Tilse, displayed in the ground foyers of International Towers,
Tower Two and Tower Three - inspired a panel discussion event, held to give a
voice to some of the individuals featured in the exhibition.

Opening the event, Liam Timms, Fund Manager for International Towers Sydney,
stressed the importance of providing a platform to support the diverse networks in Australia, such as through the exhibition and its ensuing spotlight on the importance of  diversity.

“One person doesn’t do anything alone, corporate Australia has a big role to play. At International Towers, we are proud of the rich fabric of our community,” Mr Timms said.

Co-founder of TransferWise, Taavet Hinrikus said, “We believe being Australian is more about recognising where and who we are now and where we hope to go, as much as where we’ve
come from.”

International Towers General Manager Tony Byrne said the inspiring exhibition was as much about the stories and storytelling as it was about the exquisitely-shot images. 
“Diversity, in its truest word, means acknowledging all forms of background and identity. At International Towers, we are committed to celebrating the heritage, beliefs and values of our
diverse workforce and visitor base. We are proud to host this exhibition which shows on a macro level the contribution migrants make to Australia and, on a micro level, the diversity of
our own thriving business community,” Mr Byrne said. Many of the other exhibition subjects attended and shared how they were able to achieve their dreams, drawing on support
such as startup incubator Catalysr. Since its launch in 2016, Catalysr has helped 66 “migrapreneurs” start more than 15 successful businesses. Its professional community has more than 500 advisors and investors, who help these migrapreneurs with advice, support and forming valuable business connections.

Catalysr “graduate” Walid El Sabbagh founded vegan, Egyptian eatery Koshari Korner.
He arrived from Egypt in 2015 with experience as a marine engineer but couldn’t find work in his field. The change of course gave him a change to bring a piece of Egypt to Sydney. 

Faces of Australia is proudly being  exhibited at International Towers throughout summer 2018 /2019.