Innovation and collaboration pulsed at the heart of a creative innovation hub long before ground was broken on the new development within Northshore Brisbane.

When the cutting-edge hub was still an apple in the precinct’s eye, it was identified as a driver of opportunity and growth for Indigenous-owned and operated contractors.

Leading that drive is Queensland-based construction firm Bridgeman which won the contract to build the two-storey warehouse-style building following a rigorous tender process.

Bridgeman is a Supply Nation-certified Indigenous company and its appointment will, in turn, offer employment, training and engagement opportunities to First Nations workers, sub-contractors and suppliers.

Bridgeman Managing Director and proud Yidinji man Adam Sarota estimated Indigenous subcontractors would eventually account for one-quarter of hub’s supply chain across concrete, mechanical and metalwork trades.

“This is a significant opportunity not only for Bridgeman but for all Indigenous companies,” Mr Sarota said.

“The creative innovation hub project will create new jobs – directly and within our supply chain – deliver training and upskilling opportunities and strengthen local and Indigenous supply networks.

“One of the most rewarding aspects is mentoring the Indigenous companies we engage and building their capacity so they can then tender for future projects.”

The construction project was a selective tender under the Queensland Indigenous Procurement Policy (QIPP) that works to boost the value of procurement spend awarded to Indigenous businesses to three per cent of Queensland Government contracts.

According to Supply Nation’s The Sleeping Giant report, Indigenous businesses create $4.41 of economic and social value for every dollar of revenue.

The report also found Indigenous businesses employ more than 30 times the proportion of Indigenous people than other businesses and are more likely to reinvest revenue in their communities.

Program Manager Duncan Kerslake was instrumental in identifying the Northshore Brisbane creative innovation hub as a QIPP candidate and guiding four First Nations-led businesses through the tender process.

He said Bridgeman understood that building relationships and making an impact in the connected and sustainable precinct was critical to the project’s success.

“My role is to educate, empower and allow people to understand what is possible to do in the Indigenous procurement space because, unfortunately, there are still myths and stereotypes to overcome,” Mr Kerslake said.

“For instance, the argument that Indigenous-owned and operated businesses are more expensive. No, they don’t have the buying capacity and staffing of a huge construction firm but that is true for most small businesses and local operators.

“This isn’t comparing apples to apples – price is important but it’s just one component.

“We’re also looking at the social benefit; what these Indigenous-owned and operated businesses are doing around traineeships, apprenticeships, employing locally and creating opportunities by engaging local businesses and spending in local supply chains.”

Economic Development Queensland, as Northshore Brisbane’s master developer, has worked closely with Bridgeman to understand respectful cultural protocols.

Additionally, Bridgeman engaged Traditional Owner Shannon Ruska to perform a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony to mark the start of the project’s construction milestone.

EDQ Assistant Development Manager Kate Cornwell said working with Bridgeman exemplified how Northshore Brisbane could engage with Indigenous businesses on large procurement opportunities within other areas of the precinct.

“This engagement has created a greater understanding around the practicalities of engaging with a First Nations business and how it should be done as standard practice,” Ms Cornwell said.

“It’s so important to create opportunities and in doing so, create an inclusive precinct which can act as an exemplar for the wider industry.”

With the early groundwork and service installation phases nearing completion, precinct visitors will soon see the creative innovation hub take shape.

When complete, the hub will house up to 170 workers and include flexible workspaces, collaborative meeting rooms and event spaces.

“It’s incredible to be able to deliver this hub at such a prime position, directly on the Brisbane River, to serve as a unique space for young businesses to come together and thrive,” Ms Cornwell said.

“It’s a living example of how we’re achieving the principles embedded in our Northshore Brisbane Vision as we’re creating a fresh creative hub environment that builds on the spaces already established across the precinct for innovators and small to medium enterprises.”

Construction is due to finish in 2024 with the creative innovation hub welcoming its first workers in mid-2025.

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