The remote road project achieved a notable quinella – it supported 111 direct jobs, including 26 Indigenous workers, and improved access for communities and business, including a major new agricultural development.
The Keep River Plains Road delivers more than 27.7 kilometres of sealed road, from the Western Australia-Northern Territory border through to Legune Station, including two new bridges, over the Keep River and Sandy Creek.
The Bridge over the Keep River becomes the longest bridge in the Territory – at 210 metres. One of the parcels of land being opened up for agriculture by the Territory Government is along the road.
Darwin-based labour hire and recruitment company IE Projects received a Territory Government workforce grant of nearly $87,000 to upskill Aboriginal Territorians.
The Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics initiated the pilot program to engage an Aboriginal-owned labour hire company, which was later mandated as a subcontractor to the head contract with Exact Contracting.
The program was set to maximise Aboriginal participation via training, development and employment opportunities in roles from entry-level construction labour, plant operations, project management and supervision, concrete batching, geotechnical testing and bridge construction elements.
The workers started at various skill levels – some were working in civil construction for the first time, others needed upskilling to work machinery, such as excavators, bulldozers and front-end loaders.
Others needed their high-quality skills accredited, enabling advanced, sustainable future employment opportunities. Twenty-four gained qualifications and accreditation while working on the 12-month Keep River Road project.
Carey Training delivered Certificate IV in Civil Supervision and Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education delivered Certificates II and III in Civil Construction, as well as 75 machinery tickets.
There was a clear focus on developing employees with career goals in the civil construction industry or other relevant industries, to more highly skilled roles as the project developed, enabling long-term sustainable employment in the sector while also building a resource pool to support future major infrastructure across the Territory.
Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics General Manager of Transport and Civil Services Louise McCormick says the Keep River Road Pilot Indigenous employment program was a great success.
“This Indigenous employment pilot program provided strong pillars for the Territory’s ongoing and future ambitions to continue to improve Aboriginal participation on the Territory’s capital works projects,” she says.
“While the project saw some difficulties during the height of the covid pandemic and border closures for four months, the project realised considerable outcomes that would not have been the case without this innovative Aboriginal participation model.
“Learnings from this project model will assist in developing future NT Government policies for Aboriginal participation well into the future.”
IE Projects director Wendy Moulds says some of the Aboriginal Territorians worked on the project from start to finish.
“The whole program was fabulous,” she says. “There was a fantastic willingness to work on a largescale project such as this with the capacity to deliver training and gain great exposure and experience.”
Territory business Exact Contracting delivered the project, which was jointly funded by the NT and Federal governments. Benefits of the new road include:
• Increased route accessibility to support agricultural development;
• Improved freight capacity, through sealing of existing pavements;
• Improved flood immunity, through provision of new bridges over the Keep River and Sandy Creek;
• Increased regional productivity and economic development, through provision of year-round road access.
The Territory Government believes the road will not only improve road safety but also open up new diversifying industries. The upgraded road will help access to Legune Station, Spirit Hills Station, Cannon Hills Station, Kneebone Outstation and Marralum Family Outstation.
It will also strengthen transport connections for agriculture, resources and pastoral industries – creating opportunities for future investment and more jobs for the region, such as the $1.5 billion Sea Dragon aquaculture project.
The Keep River Road project is part of the Northern Australia Roads Program.