Meet our RAP Committee: Romilly Madew, CEO

03 Jul 2018

3 JUL 2018

As our CEO, Romilly Madew has a reputation for leading the sustainable transformation of Australia's built environment. A true innovator, she's an advocate for social issues such as reconciliation and has a longstanding relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in our industry. Read about her journey working on our RAP and what it means for the future direction of the GBCA.


Why did you join the GBCA RAP Committee?

As the GBCA’s Chief Executive Officer, I believe it’s my responsibility to demonstrate leadership on important issues such as reconciliation, not only to my staff members, but to the wider industry. With a rich history spanning over 60,000 years, we have much to learn from Indigenous people on how we can care for the natural environment. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals are intertwined with many of our key goals as an organisation and when we first considered establishing a RAP, we identified one guiding principle: that no one is left behind. I believe that we cannot build a sustainable future without our First Australians. Sitting on our RAP Committee to help steer our team towards inclusivity is just common sense. 

What was your previous experience with Indigenous Australians prior to coming on board?

Indigenous issues have always been important to me on a personal level and I have strived to incorporate this into my role at the GBCA. However, it was through my friendship with Susan Moylan-Coombs, a proud Gurindji and Woolwonga woman from the Northern Territory and now the Northern Beaches that I built the confidence to speak out.  I have subsequently built relationships with members and stakeholders, as well as through  our flagship conferences such as Green Cities and Green Building Day where reconciliation has often been a hot topic of discussion. More recently, I was invited to attend the 2017 Garma Festival on Arnhem Land in remote Northern Territory with Reconciliation Australia and will be returning this year for their 20th Anniversary. This was a deeply humbling experience for me to connect with Indigenous elders and women in particular, to learn how I can play a role in closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage. I also Chair the Chief Executive Women’s Indigenous Engagement Committee.  

What did you hope to learn from coming on board?

In my role at GBCA, I have often been expected to speak to industry about what they should be doing better to commit to a more sustainable future for all Australians. Joining the RAP Committee has been an opportunity to sit back and listen to what we can do better as an organisation to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their culture. 

Can you pick one standout experience from being on the RAP Committee so far?

Launching our RAP in front of our members and stakeholders at Lendlease Headquarters in February this year. There was a tangible buzz in the room around how reconciliation can elevate businesses throughout Australia and the property industry is in a unique position to embrace this. It’s always inspiring to hear from Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine, who offered us her words of encouragement as we embark on this exciting journey as an organisation. 

How have GBCA staff embraced the spirit of reconciliation?

We’ve offered our staff the opportunity to walk this journey with us through a number of activities. This includes an Indigenous dance workshop ran by Culture Unlock during reconciliation last week, NAIDOC Week celebrations and site tour of Barangaroo, which is now our home. Many of our team were not born or schooled in Australia, so we have taken them on a journey, to understand the importance of Indigenous culture. I’m extremely proud of how invested the team has been in learning more about Indigenous culture and the respect they have shown during these activities. 

In what ways do you believe reconciliation and Indigenous engagement can provide positive impacts on the sustainable built environment?

 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have lived sustainably on the land for more than 60,000 years and engaging with these communities can help us look at environmental issues through a different lens that make conservation of the land around us a priority.  Further, there are great examples in our built form with how Indigenous culture has been incorporated into developments, at the GBCA we have a responsibility to ensure we continue to advocate for this integration. We have a long way to go in building bridges with First Australians, but we’ve laid the foundations and I believe we can work together to create sustainable, resilient cities and communities that honour Indigenous heritage.