A Passion for the Land and the People

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-By Aleisha Parr

The Australian landscape is one of extreme beauty, but also extreme unpredictability. Today, some of the nation’s most remote locations are in high demand as the base for construction projects as both public and private sector clients alike try to carve out a little bit of Australia for themselves. It takes a special type of contractor to not only meet the ever-increasing project demands of a discerning clientele, but to also ensure that the natural environment and the communities involved are respected throughout the process. Ri-con Contractors Pty Ltd has been able to rise above its competition in this way, serving areas from the Kimberley in WA to the islands off the coast of QLD with dignity, respect, and above all, a passion for the work.

Because of its geographical specialisation, Ri-con has found it necessary to specialise in a broad range of services, offering both design and build expertise to ensure that a cohesive and cost-effective end product is achieved on every project. Although the company sees its fair share of iconic tourism and recreation projects throughout the stunning Kimberley region and the Great Barrier Reef, it also has become a go-to for government, helping to rebuild communities and improve housing standards for local people who have been devastated by natural disasters.

Mark Jensen, Ri-con’s Business Development Manager, says that the company excels at what it does largely due to its flexibility and rapid response via nationwide logistical networks. “Our pool of highly qualified subcontractors, tradesmen and labour are ready for instant deployment,” explains Mr Jensen, “ensuring outstanding results for our clients in remote locations. After Cyclone Larry hit north Queensland in 2006, Ri-con rebuilt both Dunk and Bedarra Islands resort facilities in an exceptionally short time-frame and during continuous bad weather.

“Most recently, Ri-con worked on rebuilding the Warmun Aboriginal Community, and successfully achieved what were deemed by many to be “˜impossible’ delivery targets. More than 90 per cent of the Warmun community’s homes were either destroyed or severely damaged and deemed unliveable. Immediately following the floods, Ri-con rapidly deployed our workforce to lend a hand with the clean up, assisting the WA Government and the Warmun community to restore basic services,” said Mr Jensen.

Ri-con immediately set about constructing a builder’s camp housing 100 men to facilitate the design and construct of nine new houses and renovation of 12 more – all in 3 months. Ri-con’s Managing Director John Jenkins said, “The priority for Ri-con was to get these people back into their homes as soon as possible.

“We don’t just like doing conventional stuff – we love a challenge!” says Mr Jenkins. “The company’s commitment to make a difference in regional and remote areas of Australia means that our teams often work in hot, wet, remote conditions including ferrying people across crocodile-infested waters.”

“The conditions are variable, extreme and unpredictable,” adds Jaco Botha, Construction Manager. “Detailed logistics and forward planning are vital. We place a high priority on putting the right people in the job. Our project managers are amongst the best in the country.

“We’re proud of our ongoing success and the people who work for us. It’s our people who make us who we are. The company is passionate about continuously investing in our people, fostering community involvement and respecting cultural differences. Our Guiding Principles are passion, respect, reliability, trust, dedication, professionalism and courage,” said Mr Botha.

“In addition to that, our best practise construction knowledge and ability to design and deliver high quality works for remote projects – including the logistics – results in cost savings for our clients. Adding to Ri-con’s success has been its migration to the “Lean” philosophy of business,” Mr Botha adds, saying that the company has been able to increase the level of value it provides to clients throughout the entire construction process from design to hand over.

While the company certainly is above reproach when it comes to assessing its operating principles, it also stands out for the incredible commitment at the heart of that work. Ri-con’s overarching emphasis is on creating long-term change in remote communities, which not only includes the end product, but also the positive impacts that strategic choices throughout the construction process can make within those communities.

Along with the company’s solid reputation of remote construction excellence, it offers wider benefits such as Indigenous skills training and employment and economic benefits such as jobs for regional communities. Where possible, Ri-con utilises local suppliers and tradespeople. Ri-con has an exceptional Indigenous Training Program which drives this commitment, by helping to provide necessary training and skills development as well as job opportunities for indigenous residents of the remote communities within which Ri-con works. As part of this program, all participants complete literacy, numeracy and aptitude assessments including drug and alcohol support.

Mr Jensen explains: “Our program provides local indigenous workers with the opportunity to gain entry level employment in the building and construction workforce, equipped with the knowledge, skills and understandings needed to gain and sustain employment and maintain social health and stability. A number of Indigenous trainees from the company’s pre-employment program were successful in achieving accreditation last year, with the trainees and mentor being highly involved in the successful delivery of the Warmun project.”

“A common goal of the Ri-con Indigenous Training Program is that after successfully completing the Program, the participants are equipped to move onto other building projects or may be able to establish small maintenance teams that can put into practice in their own communities the skills that they have developed in the Program, using the materials and equipment from the sites,” says Mr Jensen.

Furthermore, on every Ri-con project, the local community Elders are engaged by the company’s Indigenous Development Manager to collectively determine the specific needs of the community – including local employment issues and training requirements necessary to address skill shortages – and create a plan of action that is mutually beneficial. As an example of the firm’s determination to make an enduring, equitable and sustainable contribution to the regional communities in which it operates, Ri-con kindly donated the labour and raw materials to install new playground equipment in the Balgo community in WA, with the help of the delighted Wirrimanu children.

The company is also expanding its efforts to bridge the Indigenous literacy gap. For every five kids living in remote Indigenous communities, only one will be able to read at the minimum standard. Ri-con is working with the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF), an organisation working with Indigenous communities and schools around Australia to address the long-term disadvantages for Indigenous people due to the gap in early childhood to adult literacy and numeracy skills.

“We have a passion for the land and the people,” shares John Jenkins, “and a burning ambition to take on challenging projects and to succeed. If it is said it cannot be done, stand up and commit yourself and your resources. It takes a special group of men and women who will always stand together and guarantee the best quality, on time, and on budget.”

Through the loyalty of its clients and the passion of its employees, Ri-con has successfully created a national construction business that excels at generating long-term change in Australia’s remote communities. In keeping with that, the company has also been recognised for its work through a number of prestigious awards, including the WA Master Builders’ Best Regional Building Project. Ri-con was congratulated on its success by one of the judges who said: “Ri-Con Contractors have been impressive with their exceptional level of professionalism in all areas of building construction. Their work on the Home Valley Station epitomised the traditional skills of a master builder in a challenging environment.”

That professionalism has been achieved through a combined approach of exceptional quality, environmental and safety standards alongside a driving passion for effecting positive change.

“We put the safety of our workforce, clients and communities first, while our environmental management system is planned and conducted to minimise any adverse effects on the natural environment… We are making safety personal!” John Jenkins says with pride. Ri-con uses a Quality System certified to ISO 9001-2008 and a Safety System certified to the requirements of AS/NZS 4801:2001 to ensure that all projects are completed safely and to Client requirements. Ri-con is also in the process of obtaining Federal Safety Accreditation.

While the company is enjoying a solid work load at present, it does plan on continuing to bring its services to other regions of Australia, with current expansion further into remote indigenous communities such as Cape York and Torres Strait in QLD, and a new office in the Northern Territory planned for the 2012/2013 financial year. “With successful implementation of our Business Plan,” says John Jenkins, “it is envisaged that we will service remote northern Australia – from Port Headland in the west, to Cairns in the East, and Darwin in the far north.”

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

July 14, 2020, 12:47 PM AEST