Bright SPARK in West Belconnen

20 September 2016

West Belconnen/Parkwood is changing.  Over the next 30-40 years the district will spread over the edge of the ACT and into NSW.  It’s a development of 1600 hectares of which approximately 600, will be reserved for a Conservation Corridor that includes Ginninderra Falls. The new development, a joint venture between the Land Development Agency and Riverview Developments (Riverview), is now known as Ginninderry, which is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning “throwing out rays of light” or simply “sparkling”.

Last October, Emma Sckrabei left her home in South Australia for the Bush Capital and the newly created position of Training and Employment Manager with Riverview.  She says that Riverview is a developer with a difference – they want to bring the community on board for Ginninderry’s journey.

Emma arrived in Belconnen knowing no one.  Now, her networks in local business, community and education organisations are formidable.   She says, “Ginninderry is about more than bricks and mortar.  We want to engage with the whole community and provide economic opportunities, where we can for local people.”

The SPARK Employment and Training Initiative that Emma is rolling out across Ginninderry is a testament to that commitment.   It’s a unique initiative that will use infrastructure works and commercial land sales to generate economic opportunities for local people.  SPARK has already enabled new partnerships, and education and training opportunities to bloom.

BCS is a partner in three of these new initiatives: the Youth Employment Pathways Hub, the BCS Childcare Pre Employment Program and the West Belconnen Construction Pre Employment Program.

Along with providing training opportunities SPARK aims to create a new culture for contractors in the Ginninderry development.  All Riverview procurement contracts will include a requirement for contractors to provide both paid employment and unpaid work experience to local people.

Emma not only finds training and employment opportunities and projects, but also sets them up and manages them.  SPARK’s Pre Employment programs provide a mix of certified training and work experience.  “The model is about creating new opportunities for people looking for work.  But not everyone is work ready.  So, in co-designing our Pre Employment Construction Programs at Strathnairn and West Belconnen, I decided to apply for funding for training so that people can have white cards, Personal Protection Equipment and Asbestos Awareness Tickets.” 

Emma says, “The best way to more choices is to have a job.  To get a job you often need education.  Many people have had bad experiences of education and many more have other barriers like low literacy, family breakdown and mental illness.  If we can change their trajectory, so they have a job, have money, have a chance to contribute we’ll know we’re on the right path.

SPARK is about the greater good.  When we build the development, we’ll need childcare, aged care and other services so we’re starting to build local capacity now even before the first sod is turned.”  


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