Arup has appointed a new First Nations Projects Lead in Australasia, Melanie Grills.

Arup has appointed a new First Nations Projects Lead in Australasia, Melanie Grills. The newly created external-facing role will enable Arup to apply a First Nations cultural lens across our project portfolio, recognising the importance and impact of First Nations knowledge and leadership in areas such as sustainability, community wellbeing, land management and social change. 

Across Australia, there has been a rising emphasis on increasing engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, requirements for strategic advice on ‘connecting (projects) with Country’ and procurement strategies in project contracts. Through the introduction of the First Nations Projects Lead role, Arup will be able to respond to these needs and appropriately engage with our clients and collaborators to integrate the required advice into our projects. 

Australasia Co-Chair, Kerryn Coker said the First Nations Projects Leader will authentically develop significant regional services and capability around engaging with First Nations; Indigenous Procurement; and Designing with Country, generating broader social equity and cultural resilience.

“Spanning across different stages of the project lifecycle, this role will be critical in ensuring there is a voice at the table for Arup’s major projects, operating as an advisor for procurement, engagement, and ensuring we are effectively incorporating First Nations perspectives and knowledge across the breadth of our work.”

Melanie is a Gomeroi (Kamilaroi) woman from Moree in NSW, currently based in Queensland. She brings a wealth of experience in similar roles across large Australian companies, where she had developed deep relationships with key stakeholders, while maintaining strong connections to Community and Country.

“I have been very inspired by the opportunities emerging across industries that see First Nations knowledge as more than just an aesthetic, we are finally realising that First Nations peoples are experts in healthy Country, which is the cornerstone of the built environment. I am excited to build on, connect to and learn from work led by First Nations practitioners to promote sustainable development with Arup’s clients and partners.”

As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are Traditional Owners of Australian lands, this role will primarily focus on Australian projects. There is increasing awareness and demand for similar First Nations offerings to be integrated across other Arup geographies such as Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America which will involve engaging with appropriate partners, and the appointment of local leaders.

I’m excited to have Melanie join us in this strategically important role which signals the importance and benefits of applying First Nations thinking and knowledge to solve industry challenges. From biodiversity loss to climate change, and social inequity – First Nations existed in harmony with the earth for thousands of years and have so much knowledge to share about returning to this balance.

Kerryn Coker

Co-Chair, Australasia Region