Finding solutions to Yalata’s roads

Spending $50,000 challenges a team of UniSA students as they travel to the remote Aboriginal community of Yalata.

Having won government funding in the first stage of the Yalata roads and drainage project students now needed to find and cost solutions to the problems previously identified.

The project was not without complications but proved invaluable for the engineering students participating in the Community Service Learning Project (CSLP), Brook White, Tri Ly Nguyen, Daniel Clohesy and Rafael Roverci.

‘This was a very complicated project,’ Brook says.

‘It was constantly changing. The dates we were suppose to be at Yalata were slowly extending and the paper work we had to organise was slowly building up.

‘But once we got to Yalata and worked with the Chairperson, Maureen (Mima) Smart and the CEO, Greg Franks we were able to begin on our design to fix the problems,’ he says.

The Yalata project involves industry engineers and professionals from Engineers Without Borders, Department of Planning Transport and Infrastructure, SA Water, GHD (formerly known as Gutteridge Haskins & Davey) and WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, to name a few.

With so many stages to carry out before completion UniSA Community Service Learning Project Officer, Petra Nisi says it is not uncommon for projects to deviate from their original plans.

‘This is the real world,’ she says.

‘You have to be very flexible and accommodating and just try to make the best of the situation you encounter.

‘We all like to have things go to plan but the real world just isn’t like that.

‘Often people change priorities and you have to adapt to a very different scope to satisfy the people who are later on going to actually carry the project,’ Petra says.

Despite the mountains of paper work, new regulations to contend with and differences of opinions the project is moving towards completion.

The team spent two days identifying and mapping stormwater problems, road damage and soil erosion in support of their final report, which hopes to attract more funding for the next stage of the project.

‘We mapped a total of 75 zones for areas of improvement,’ Brook says.

‘We looked at all the areas where water runs naturally and produces a lot of silt.

‘We found one pipe that is over two thirds full, so that’s a key issue for us to consider especially if we want to use that run-off water to green the oval,’ he says.

The trip also gave students an opportunity to learn a little bit about the people of Yalata, the Anangu (meaning people in Pitjantjatjara).

The unique experience is one that International student Tri Ly says he will never forget.

‘The Yalata people are very friendly, welcoming and relaxed, yet our cultures are so different,’ Tri Ly says.

‘This experience has shown me the importance of working closely with community members to explore what they truly need, instead of what we think they may need.’

Returning CSLP student, Daniel Clohesy enjoyed working with the District Council of Mallala last year, looking for solutions to siltation issues that he jumped at the chance to get involved with the Yalata project.

‘Not often do projects like this come along and I am very glad to have been a part of it,’ Daniel says.

‘It was fantastic to visit the Yalata Community, if only for a short time – a very eye opening and important experience to gain some insight into how many Indigenous Australians live.

‘The experience has given us the opportunity not only to apply our knowledge to the benefit of the Yalata Community, but to develop professional skills such as arranging meetings, giving presentations and managing unforeseen obstacles,’ he says.

Behind the scenes there is always a team of dedicated and passionate people helping students to get projects underway – so a special thanks goes to UniSA CSLP officers Petra Nisi and Andrea Duff, UniSA Industry Liaison Manager, Gail Jackman and Parsons Brinckerhoff Senior Engineer, Brad Bown.

The team is now in the process of reviewing information collected during the visit and compiling a report with costings to begin the next stage of the Yalata roads and drainage project.

Read more at Where Uni Meets Community


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