Giving back to Indigenous people

Under the banner of our GHD in the Community program, we are providing pro bono support to clients in Australia, facilitated through our partnership with Engineers Without Borders (EWB).

Our clients are community organisations like the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation (BAC) that have an engineering or other technical need that can be met by GHD.


About 20 years ago, BAC built six shelters to provide temporary accommodation to homeland residents who moved into Darwin during the wet season or stayed overnight during the dry season. Over the years, the shelters became permanently inhabited and now provide accommodation for a large group of people. They are in generally poor condition.

Through our membership of EWB Connect – a program designed to connect communities with engineering and other technical pro bono services – we were asked to undertake a visual structural assessment of the shelters to determine their condition and make recommendations for remedial works. BAC had received limited funding to refurbish the shelters but required structural engineering input to inform decision making on how best to allocate the available funds.

Sheila Olandria, Project Manager and Technical Lead, says, “Our involvement is part of an initial phase to assist the organisation in determining the feasibility of refurbishing the shelters.”


To date, we have provided structural engineering services. In the future, if required by BAC, we may provide architectural and building services.

“Prior to commencement of works, we had a number of discussions and introductions with EWB and BAC,” adds Sheila. “This helped us to better understand the challenges they were facing, and to tailor our proposed services in a manner that would target key objectives, given the limited timeframes and budgets for implementing the outcomes of our assessment.

“We provided recommendations for each of the shelters that could be carried out in both the short term and the long term. We also identified the shelters that could be most readily be repaired to assist with prioritisation of the works.”


As a result of our work, the BAC has the necessary information to direct funding towards remediating the shelters. This is the first step towards the refurbishment which, once carried out, will have an immediate impact on the wellbeing of the residents.

When Sheila was carrying out the inspections, the community members engaged actively and were receptive to the proposed refurbishment works.

“Making a difference to people in need is at the heart of our GHD in the Community (GITC) program,” says Clair Millar, GITC Coordinator. “Our partnership with EWB enables us to build on our 40+ year history of working with Indigenous communities in Australia. Our people’s technical and stakeholder management skills are invaluable in making a positive impact.”

This is the first project we have completed under the EWB Connect program. Clair adds, “While this was a pro bono project, we applied the same management systems and quality controls that we use for chargeable work. It’s important that our pro bono clients receive the same level of service excellence and technical quality as our other clients.”

Nicola Bailey, Senior Engineer – Civil, Dams & Water Resources and EWB National Partnership Manager, says, “One of the advantages we can offer on these types of projects is our local presence throughout Australia (including in regional areas), and our global scale, which allows us to leverage a connected network of technical specialists and resources.

“The work for this project was delivered from our Darwin office. Additional EWB Connect projects have commenced in North Queensland (Cairns office) and New South Wales (Sydney and Orange offices). We look forward to continuing our contribution to Australia’s first people.”