Recognising and respecting the history of our country

November 09, 2020
  • People and community
  • Diversity and inclusion

MNAU Project Engineer discusses the importance of NAIDOC Week

CPB Contractors’ Project Engineer Josiah Henaway started with CPB Contractors in 2014, as a graduate of the CareerTrackers Indigenous internship program

A descendant of the Birri Gubba tribe in the Burdekin region, Josiah was born in Mt Isa and raised in Mt Louisa, Townsville, where he nurtured his cultural background during large family and neighbourhood events, cook-outs and sport. 

Josiah is one of 500 employees working with CPB Contractors in Australia who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. 

As part of NAIDOC Week activities, Josiah took time out to discuss his upbringing, connection with culture, career with CPB Contractors and thoughts on Indigenous recognition and reconciliation in Australia. 

 Josiah Henaway

Growing up in North Queensland 

I was born in Mt Isa but grew up in Townsville where we lived in Mt Louisa. Dad is Indigenous and I have two step sisters and three full sisters. My Mum and Dad have been married for 30+ years. 

The street I grew up in had three to four Indigenous families with which we regularly played sports, enjoyed parties and cook-outs together.  

My Mum worked as a teacher aide and tuckshop lady at the local Christian College, where we also went to school, and Dad worked as an electrician in the local refinery. 


Indigenous culture

Exposure to our heritage has been mostly through my Dad’s family who reside in the Burdekin and surrounding areas and are from the Birri Gubba Tribe.

Dad’s side has both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage so big families, and even larger events, has been a staple of my life for many years.


Working with CPB Contractors

I graduated from the CareerTrackers program in 2013 and have since worked with CPB Contractors on the APLNG - Water Treatment Facility in Condabri, North Shore State School, Mackay Ring Road and Mackay Northern Access Upgrade. 

CareerTrackers gave me a clear career pathway by providing me with the opportunity to work with, and be part of, a Tier 1 engineering company. It is a program I recommend for other young Indigenous students wanting a career in the construction industry.


Indigenous impacts in your life 

My grandparents, Pastor Les Henaway and Denise Henaway, were married at a time where black and white people didn’t associate.

In my opinion, the solid foundation laid by my grandparents and the constant leadership, guidance and prayers set us up for success where others similar to myself may have struggled.

My grandfather and grandmother are still married all these years later (50+ years) and live a Christian-driven lifestyle, which offers a constant base for the family to build on.

My parents also continue to push us to greater heights, with my sister Shannon a mother and full-time nurse, Cassie a primary school teacher and Kaitlin still progressing through high school.


Celebrating Indigenous history, culture and achievements 

NAIDOC Week is about awareness and understanding that we as a nation have a past. 

The week allows us to spotlight the status and treatment of our peoples through the ages. It’s also a celebration of the work done to date, as we progress towards a better future.


Your connection to ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ 

The 2020 NAIDOC Week theme of ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ is about recognising that First Nations people have occupied and cared for our continent for over 65,000 years.

Further to that, it’s about obtaining justice through referendum of the Constitution for inclusion of the First Nations Peoples’ voice. 

The Constitution was drafted at a time when Australia was identified by only its European settlements and the First Nations Peoples were excluded.

The Australian Government has provided the National Apology and identifies Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the oldest continual living culture in Australia, however we are still not mentioned in the nation’s founding document.

It is my hope this changes in the years to come. 

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