Australia’s leading Indigenous-owned and staffed building and construction company, BY Group acknowledges and respects the continuous connection to land, water and community while delivering exceptional quality construction services across NSW.
General Manager Malcolm Devin has over 20 years’ experience delivering high-quality projects in the construction and development industry. Before starting BY Group, Mr Devin was a Director at a global property and construction company, and as GM has day-to-day involvement in the delivery of each project. He has a broad range of experience in all sectors and asset types of development and construction, and is passionate about providing employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians. BY Group was started with three Indigenous friends as a way to provide a career path into the construction industry for Aboriginal people. Mr Devin spoke to us recently about the origins of the company, some of BY Group’s clients and projects, and the founding principle of community engagement that drives the company forward.
“BY Group started when one of the other directors was working for myself and my father in my Dad’s construction company,” Mr Devin says, “and we started talking about him not needing to work for us for the rest of his career. We thought we might as well establish a company, and who else to run that company than us.”
At that time there were increasing opportunities for procurement across the country through the Indigenous procurement policy that the government was starting to mandate throughout government projects.
“We’re about 35 people at the moment. We operate primarily in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, with Head Offices in Sydney, an office down on the south coast of NSW in the Shoalhaven region.”
The company’s main client is defence, and a large part of its work comes in government contracting, as well as projects for the Department of Education, TAFE NSW, and the New South Wales police.
“Open tender is how we win most of our projects. Defence has been fantastic for us. It’s tough – there are barriers to entry to get into defence projects, because they’re very onerous on safety and quality, but they’ve been fantastic for the growth of our business.”
In terms of working for the NSW government, the company had to go through a process of getting pre-qualified and meeting all the requirements for procurement, another area that has provided great success.
“Part of our business is general contracting, so we’re constructing new builds, fit out refurbishments, we do heritage refurbishment, mainly in commercial buildings, and then we’ve got a civil construction division where we’re doing earthworks, in-ground services, roadworks and so on as well.”
On the civil side, the company was recently awarded a large project down on the south coast of NSW to redo roads at the HMAS Creswell and HMAS Albatross campuses, work that will be carried out throughout 2022.
“We’re also doing a civil and earthworks package for a private developer out of Eastern Creek, which is a large data centre project, as a subcontractor. And in construction, we’ve just finished the refurbishment of the Bathurst Police Station, and we’ve started our first NSW Fire Brigade project at Wentworth Falls.”
The two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have had a significant impact on the construction industry as it has every other industry, with covid management plans and travel around the state making things harder, and industry-wide issues of supply chain, logistics, and inflationary price costs for supplier items creating added challenges.
“As an Indigenous business, we’ve also got a community where we focus on growing our own talent in terms of cadets and apprentices, and opening up opportunities for Indigenous suppliers and contractors throughout the projects we deliver. It’s another layer of complexity, but that part of the business is something that we’re passionate about and we enjoy delivering those opportunities and outcomes to our clients.”
Around 50% of the company’s staff are Indigenous, with much of them sourced through family connections and colleagues within the existing business and network, but it also works closely with a number of Indigenous organisations to source talent.
“The Clontarf Foundation mentor young aboriginal guys through years 10-12 at high school, so we’ve been quite successful in working with them to identify some talent and then taking them into our business and providing them with apprenticeship opportunities.”
It requires a little more effort to go out and source Indigenous talent, but the company is committed to making this a big part of the business, and its proven track record of training and mentoring young people has helped to make this more achievable.
With all the company’s work won through open tender, Indigenous engagement has been able to remain at the very top of its priorities. It’s been a challenge to ensure there is no trade-off between community outcomes and cost and quality, but it’s one the company has managed to navigate effectively.
“We’re 5 or 6 years old now,” Mr Devin concludes, “and with our body of work and track record we’re really starting to demonstrate that, and it’s something that should be recognised out there in the industry. You don’t have to forgo value for money or quality to deliver a good community and social outcome.”
With a commitment to Indigenous engagement as well as providing great value and quality to its clients, BY Group is a company on the rise. Find out more about BY Group by visiting www.bygroup.com.au.