Utilities program helping young athletes chase their dreams

As a teenager growing up in Lockhart River in far north Queensland, Dominic Macumboy dreamed of playing rugby league at the elite level. 

 

As he got older, that dream moved closer to a reality. He flashed talent on the field, and scouts from city clubs showed interest.

But for Dominic, and many other athletes from remote communities, it’s not as simple as having the talent. The lifestyle change from home to the big smoke is too daunting. The pull of home too great. Often, the dream remains just that. Never fulfilled.

That’s why Utilita, a Downer and Ventia joint venture delivering electrical, mechanical and civil maintenance services for Urban Utilities in South East Queensland, has developed a program to help ease the transition. 

In 2020, Utilita joined forces with Keiron Lander, coach of iconic Queensland Cup rugby league club Ipswich Jets, to provide employment opportunities for Indigenous players recruited to the club from regional and remote communities.

The original collaboration has grown into a formal partnership, and in 2021 Utilita signed a head coach sponsorship agreement with Keiron. Utilita has also expanded its relationship with the Jets to include sponsorship of the Jets netball team.

The program has been successful in helping young athletes from remote communities navigate the life-changing move to the city. 

Dominic is one of the people to benefit from the program

After considering the move for two years, he decided to leave Lockhart River – the northernmost town in eastern Australia – and travel 2,500 kilometres to Ipswich to chase his rugby league dream with the Jets. He has signed with the Jets for the 2021 season, and is now developing new skills on and off the field. His role as a Civil Worker with Utilita is diverse, completing a range of maintenance activities on Urban Utilities’ assets.

“I’m learning something new every day, as the work is always different,” Dominic says. “I’ve also had opportunities to start teaching others how to do some of the work, which I’ve really enjoyed.

“The move to Ipswich was a big deal for me. Life in the city is so different – it’s busy and there are so many people. With all the changes, Keiron and Utilita have been a good support for me and I’m glad that I made the move down here. If I do get to play in the Queensland Cup with Ipswich, I will be the first person from my community to do it. I’d like to be a positive role model for young people from my community, which would really make my family proud.”

Keiron’s policy is that the players he recruits to the club must be working or studying to train and play.

“The collaborative relationship with Utilita has meant we’ve all worked together to support these young men by providing more than just employment,” Keiron says. “Juggling work and training and learning new job skills has boosted their self-confidence which has been pleasing to see.” 

 

The driving force behind the Jets partnership from Utilita has been Chris McRae, Operations Manager, and Rebecca Byrnes, HR Manager from Downer.

The partnership with the Jets netball club is something Utilita is equally excited about.

“Utilita is proud to be supporting females in sport and see this partnership as an opportunity to raise awareness of the water industry to a new audience and promote non-traditional careers in technical and trade streams to females,” Rebecca says. “The long-term objective is to increase female participation in the Utilita workforce as well.”