Progress on North Queensland Cowboys’ Indigenous Engagement Strategy

Cowboys wrangling through COVID to support Indigenous outcomes

Project Update: August 2021

NAIF has supported the North Queensland Cowboys with a loan of up to $20m to construct and operate the new state-of-the-art high-performance centre adjacent to the Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville. NAIF celebrated the launch of the new Hutchinson Builders Centre in May 2021.

Supporting the delivery of their Indigenous Engagement Strategy (IES), Cowboys’ have a dedicated IES Champion from senior management. The Chief Community and Government Relations Officer liaised with various stakeholders on the project including the Gurambilbarra Wulgurukaba Traditional Owners, National Indigenous Australians Agency, Queensland Government’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Townsville City Council and the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council as well formal engagement through a local Indigenous business, Activate One.

During the construction of the Centre, the Cowboys were challenged by COVID, impacting their communication with stakeholders and workforce. However, they have been able to be adapt to the challenges to ensure planned IES commitments could still be achieved.

Through the development of the Hutchinson Builders Centre, the Cowboys have continued to embed cultural protocols into their project including hosting a smoking ceremony at the Centre before occupying, incorporating cultural designs into the Centre and continuing to build and learn from their engagement with local Gurambilbarra Wulgurukaba Traditional Owners.

The Cowboy’s head contractor, Hutchinson Builders have delivered on key commitments of the Cowboys’ IES supporting direct and in-direct Indigenous employment during construction. Hutchies was proud to almost double the Indigenous participation target of 6.6% to achieve 13% Indigenous employment on site, comprising of Hutchies staff, subcontractors and suppliers, trades people, apprentices and trainees. Furthermore, support and ongoing commitment to career development has been provided to several Hutchies Indigenous staff on the project through their Statim Yaga Program, an initiative aimed to increase Indigenous employment in the construction industry.

The Cowboys have a proud history of working with Indigenous people through their rugby league players, staff, membership, fan base and community programs across North Queensland including remote Indigenous communities. A key success has been through the NRL Cowboys House Program that has approximately 80% Indigenous staff and 100% Indigenous student base. It also boasts a transitions team who work directly with the year 10, 11 and 12 student cohort in securing employment and training outcomes for students post grade 12. This team work directly with industry and the students, families and communities in identifying and removing barriers to the goal of economic independence.