Interview with Kirsty Broderick

1. Tell us about your business

H.C Building and Construction (HCBC) is a building and construction company based in Cairns and servicing remote communities of North Queensland.  HCBC clients range from local business, government departments and remote community Councils and organisations. In the past year HCBC has completed new house construction, housing upgrades and property management upgrades to remote Cape York communities.  Our footprint has extended to see us complete work for the Department of Defence upgrading their training facilities in Bamaga, Horn Island and Thursday Island.

With a team of more than 70 skilled tradesmen and professional consultants supporting work in new construction and property management services we are on target to achieve our goals to provide real empowerment and opportunity across the region.  In addition to the delivery of construction projects, we provide labour hire in all trades and project management services to support remote communities in the delivery of projects within budget and at the HCBC standard that we are proudly recognised for.

HCBC provides the opportunities to support the local and long term unemployed. We employ apprentices from the Cairns region and in remote Cape York communities. 

HCBC support for our team is delivered through programs aimed at developing the individual to provide them with the tools to ‘walk in two worlds’ (supporting both cultural and corporate engagement), Nutritional support programs, budgetary support services, medical health check clinic support, and general mentoring.  We recognise that any opportunities we provide need to be long term solutions.  We walk with our team with career pathways to see them through training, operational roles and the development of senior positions and business development. As a social enterprise level, we also support local, remote indigenous businesses by accessing products including machinery, catering services, timber (decking and other materials). 

2. Why you got into business?

In recognising the need for opportunities in indigenous communities, HCBC was grown in a strategic manner, moving from local upgrades to the delivery of projects across the State.  Our team faces logistically challenging projects with the same determination our Directors faced building this business.  With determination, HCBC has moved from a small family business operating from home, to a prominent office location in Cairns Southern Industrial precinct and with additional offices across Cape York.  

Recent statistics from the Qld government Treasurer’s office show that the employment rates for Indigenous Queenslanders are at least three times higher and participation rates are lower than they are for non-indigenous Queenslanders. We started to ask the questions.  Why are we not seeing the opportunities in communities where these programs are taking place, why isn't local engagement working, why do we still have young people pleading for jobs.

We wanted to create change, we believe we are and we will continue to push the hard line to ensure that delivery of programs in remote communities doesn't just leave infrastructure, but it leaves a positive footprint.  That footprint must be powerful if we are to see our communities move from welfare dependency and into hope for future generations. 

3.How you do business?

We do business with one thing in mind.  A positive footprint.  We want to leave a legacy that contributes to change. 

Our business model is simple.  Delivery of projects, with a focus on remote indigenous communities, to the highest standard while creating change.  This change is based on opportunity.  Opportunities are jobs, training, support and mentoring. 

When commencing a project, we engage local authorities (corporations, elders, community organisation) to seek advice.  This ensures we have the best probability for engagement, development and mentoring.

In essence, we want to see construction projects delivered, community members supported, and future strong leaders grown.

4. What you see for the future for the Indigenous business sector in this country?

I believe the value of indigenous business is underestimated, but we are seeing signs that a movement is coming to really deliver partnerships and support growth.  Studies have shown that indigenous business are best placed for engagement and development of indigenous people.  Partnerships can see these eventuate.  

I would like businesses to be engaged for their capability to deliver/supply.  There should also be a requirement to demonstrate how you have previously delivered work in indigenous communities and met your commitments for local support.  Too often there is false hope, resulting in a lack of trust.  When working in some of our most disadvantaged communities, all business should come with an undertaking to support initiatives that look at long term solutions. 

5. How does your business assist in achieving that?

HCBC is committed to change.  This is seen in our local support and delivery programs.  As part of our project delivery, we look for extra ways of delivering.  Yes - this comes out of our margins, but this is done in the spirit of sharing.  By sharing our stories, knowledge, resources we bring each other up together.

Here are some examples:

- Support to local apprentices when needed - we bring our team to Cairns to stay with us during difficult times.  This opportunity removes our team from a difficult situation and provides them with additional learnings in our head office.

- Volunteer upgrade to the Lockhart River Church to support the elders to celebrate St James Day (July 2015).  This project saw us provide 8 tradespersons to deliver carpentry, plumbing, painting, electrical support to ensure the upgrade of the local church was completed in time.

- Record local economic spends - In completing the construction of 6 houses in Pormpuraaw, despite finishing 3 months ahead of schedule, HCBC was proud to boast that we doubled our predicated local economic spend (estimated to be $65,000) and actually spent $142,000 in the community through local purchase of equipment and resources.