Values connecting Downer

05 Jul 2024

Steven (Boigu Island) interviews with Ed Groch and Ben Hudson with Downer Group

‘Gym attendant’ and ‘pool lifeguard’ will soon feature on NRL Cowboys House student resumes, thanks to Downer Group’s ongoing commitment to helping the young Indigenous boarding students reach their full potential through education, training and employment.

Both girls and boys at the boarding facility recently had the chance to sharpen their job interview skills by applying for roles through Downer – a 30,000 strong workforce with industry connections across the country.

Now, some of these students have an exciting start ahead working in casual roles at Townsville’s Defence bases where Downer provides a broad range of professional services and facilities management.

Downer Group, NRL Cowboys House Boys Campus naming partner since 2022, have just renewed their partnership to continue removing distance as a barrier to education for over 100 young people from 28 remote communities across northern Queensland.

House students complete CPR and First Aid training for their gym attendant positions with Downer

Downer’s Indigenous Engagement Manager Ed Groch has been involved with the House since it opened in 2017 and his leadership and passion are at the forefront of their partnership.

“The full wraparound and individualised support services with families was impressive from the start,” Ed said. 

“The way the whole House staff and the whole organisation wrapped its arms around community and treated these kids like their own kids is something to be really proud of.”

Ed firmly believes the House is a national leader in “giving back to community”, reinforced by Downer Group’s continued contribution and support.

Over the years Ed and the Downer team have also mobilised their workforce to volunteer for fundraising and events and provided work experience for students and employment opportunities for graduates.

These include 2022 NRL Cowboys House graduate Josh Daniel, originally from Thursday Island, who is completing a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) apprenticeship with Downer in Townsville.

L-R: Cameron McIver, Ed Groch, Jacob Bonisch, Peter Tompkins, Catherine Spencer, Derek Reston

Cowboys Community Foundation Chief Executive Officer Fiona Pelling says the partnership with Downer is a model that benefits everyone.

“We thank our lucky stars for Ed and the Downer team, who are amazing advocates for our young people and the program and are tireless in finding ways to create new opportunities.

“It’s a really rewarding experience to bring Downer staff to the campus to experience the House and meet the students because they recognise the power of the connection to culture for our young people as they find their purpose and potential.”

For Ed, there is perfect alignment for Downer with the core values of NRL Cowboys House, helping their people to “walk softly, respect local people, local communities and local heritage wherever we go”.

“It’s not just about financial support, it’s about that connection to the House. It allows our people to get involved, to be able to become part of that Cowboys House feeling.

“Our people really want to get involved, they want to help, they want to do whatever they can to offer support once they realise what it is and what it does.”

Managed by the Cowboys Community Foundation, the charity arm of the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys, NRL Cowboys House is a joint initiative between the National Rugby League, North Queensland Cowboys, the Queensland Government and the Australian Government.