In a sense all Australians benefit from Defence spending in that it keeps us safe and secure – along with a large number of additional factors, such as our foreign aid budget and various international agreements. As last summer’s bushfire disaster and the current ongoing COVID-19 pandemic show, the ADF can also play a vital role in helping the broader community in times of need. Further to that, for the last decade Defence has made a conscious effort to engage with Indigenous communities and find ways of working together, for mutual benefit. The person currently in the role is the Deputy Secretary for Estate and Infrastructure, Steve Grzeskowiak, who for the last three years has also been the Indigenous Affairs Champion within the Department. The position was created seven years ago and is somewhat informal, allowing him to seek opportunities for Indigenous Australian businesses whenever and wherever he comes across them.
Mr Grzeskowiak’s principal job in Defence is making sure that buildings are constructed and maintained, properties are bought and sold – and all of the necessary associated services are provided. This makes him especially well placed for engaging with remote Indigenous communities, which in the past have been searching for work at a time when Defence needs things built and maintained in those same areas. He has always had a personal interest in this field and he started this additional role by seeing if it were possible to give Indigenous small businesses a “leg-up” when engaging with Defence.