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As a 24-year-old who recently joined Downer as a newly graduated bachelor of civil engineering, Russell Scoones was delighted to be posted to the Solomon Islands for a month, joining the team that was beginning work on the upgrade of a 4km airport runway at Munda. “It is quite daunting to rock up with an entire crew of expats and meet the locals,” says Scoones. “I spent my first week getting to know everyone – there were about 90 people on the team. But we quickly became a tight-knit crew.” The vast majority of the locals hired by Downer hadn’t done much work in the construction industry and that meant Scoones had to get down to basics to explain what he needed done. “A lot of the people from Munda were learning on the job, so it was an interesting time for me,” he says. “Communicating with the local crews was quite difficult and, although some had Pidgin English, it was quite a challenge for me. I had to simplify instructions and take everything down to basics, to help people understand what we had to do.” Explaining that the ‘on the job learning’ was as much on his part as that of the Islanders, he adds, “Their work culture is quite different from what’s expected in New Zealand. I had to figure out ways to manage people and learn what makes each individual tick. As a result, during the first couple of weeks, things seemed to be going quite slowly.” BREAKING THE LANGUAGE BARRIER BY STEVE HART TEACHING AND LEARNING WAS A TWO-WAY PROCESS IN THE SOLOMON ISLANDS, WITH BOTH SIDES DRAWING EQUAL BENEFITS 26 / DOWNER / IN BLACK & WHITE


Downer_Magazine_Issue_One
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