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Medium-Large Organisation Highly Commended 

Group doing haka in front of MaraeBy concentrating on inclusion and equitable opportunities for Māori as tangata whenua, Downer leaders are creating a culture where difference is communicated, celebrated and included.


Downer employs 11,000 people providing services across several sectors including transportation, telecommunications, facilities management, hospitality, laundries, water, open spaces and energy.
After recognising challenges within its workforce, including increasing and valuing diversity, attracting employees in a competitive workplace, and a lack of diversity at leadership level, Downer developed a suite of integrated initiatives to address them.

General Manager People and Culture Debbie Kirby says there was clear strategic intent to concentrate first on ensuring inclusion and equitable opportunities for Māori as tangata whenua, and then creating a culture where difference is communicated and celebrated.

“We work in diverse communities across the country, acknowledge the special place that Māori hold as tangata whenua in Aotearoa New Zealand and we are building a workforce that is reflective of our local communities and of our values as a socially responsible organisation. This is evidenced through the consistent executive sponsorship, which is also reflected in recruitment messaging, education and
awareness strategies, role modelling, our leadership and development programmes and the Downer Standards of Business Conduct,” she says.

The initiatives aimed to provide a pathway of opportunities within Downer. These ranged from giving rangatahi the chance to gain a Class 1 drivers license while still in school, through to assistance with qualifications, and developing leadership.

Cultural inclusion has been made a core part of Downer’s strategy. Diversity and being New Zealand inclusive have been identified as two of its five key Points of Difference.
Construction workers on site
“Strategic initiatives were developed to accelerate these Points of Difference, including an initiative to further build on and leverage the capability and success we developed in Māori leadership,” says Debbie.
Recognising the impact role modelling has within an organisation, diversity within leadership is a priority for Downer.

Two of the nine executive leadership team members are Māori, and the CEO is learning and champions te reo Māori. Senior leaders have whakatauki in their position descriptions and plans are in hand to progressively roll this through to all leadership position descriptions.

Overarching governance for the company’s Māori strategy and initiatives is provided by Ngā Kaitiaki o te Ara Whanake, the Māori Leadership Development Advisory Board whose vision is ‘To create an environment where Māori thrive’. This board is deliberate in its membership of a minimum of 50 per cent Māori representation, and includes three executive members, the Downer Kaumatua, rangatahi, wāhine and representatives from all Downer business units.

“Visible senior leadership support is critical,” says Debbie. “This has also had an impact at executive level where thinking about sustainability in particular, is being shaped by Māori concepts.”

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