Partners in Kind: Search and Rescue Dogs Australia and Alex Fraser

June 18, 2020


Green Roads by Alex Fraser have been proudly supporting the volunteers of Search and Rescue Dogs Australia (SARDA) since 2013, in a unique corporate-community partnership that goes far beyond a simple financial donation.

Mischa, (pictured with handler Aleks) is trained in urban rescue operations – she can find people trapped under rubble.

Surprisingly there are not many places these four-legged emergency service workers can train. To ensure they are up to the job of urban search and rescue, they need regular access to an environment that replicates a disaster zone, like an earthquake or building collapse. They also need access to a controlled bushland environment, complete with varied terrain and waterways, so they can train to find missing persons in the wilderness.

It so happens that Alex Fraser Construction and Demolition Recycling Facilities are an ideal training ground for Australia’s search and rescue dogs.

The Clarinda Recycling Facility is a firm favourite training ground, offering SARDA the best of both worlds – elevated bunds populated with thousands of trees, waterways, and stockpiles of demolition material. The dogs and their trainers use this space on a fortnightly basis to hone their search and rescue skills. They also utilise Alex Fraser’s Sustainable Supply Hub in Laverton for their annual three day training camps.

SARDA Founder and Head Trainer Julie Cowan on site at Alex Fraser's Clarinda Recycling Facility.

SARDA Founder and Head Trainer Julie Cowan on site at Alex Fraser’s Clarinda Recycling Facility.

SARDA founder and Head Trainer Julie Cowan said that the two sites in Clarinda and Laverton are key locations to simulate the challenging situation and environment needed to train the SARDA’s K9 teams.

“Alex Fraser are our major supporter, providing training sites depicting collapsed buildings plus LandSAR (Land Search and Rescue) areas. Access to their sites in Clarinda and Laverton are vital our training and the growth of our capability. And in addition to that they help us access vital K9 equipment and member equipment, and fund international trainers to attend our annual training camps. We are truly thankful for their support,” she said.

Last weekend, Channel 10 joined SARDA teams and Alex Fraser Managing Director Peter Murphy at the Clarinda Recycling Facility for an exclusive insight into the training of some of the country’s most skilled search and rescue workers.

“Alex Fraser’s stockpiles of concrete and tree-lined bunds are the perfect environment for search and rescue training. There’s more than 40,000 trees at the Clarinda Recycling Facility that give us a safe enclosed environment that replicate’s Victoria’s bushlands,” said Julie.

Julie explained that tempting yet forbidden water storage dams at Clarinda were valuable to their training too.

SARDA in action

SARDA search and rescue training in action at Alex Fraser’s Clarinda Recycling Facility with Andrew Cowan and Obi.

“Our Labradors and Retrievers especially love the water, so any body of water on a training site offers a useful and very tempting area they need to learn to avoid.”

Teams demonstrated the efficiency and accuracy of a trained search K9 in locating and alerting to lost and trapped persons.

Earlier this month SARDA’s dogs were deployed alongside SES, Victoria Police teams and volunteers at Mount Disappointment, assisting in the search and rescue of missing 14 year old, William Callaghan.

Hanson Regional Human Resources Manager Jeff Burns said that his outlook on corporate social responsibility has changed through the experience of working with SARDA.

“As a company, we discovered that we could only really ‘make a difference’ if we shifted our thinking on corporate social responsibility (CSR) beyond simply supporting a ‘good cause’ to building specific relationships with community organisations that enable us to join forces and make a material and lasting difference to our communities,” he said.

“Sure, we’re a recycling company and we’re proud to be making a difference every day through our core work, but when we realised our CSR effort amounted to writing cheques for local schools or sporting clubs (all good causes to be sure), we knew we could do more – by redirecting our support from generic donations, to a strategic, meaningful partnerships.”

The strategic partnership provides immense value to both community and corporate organisations.

Jeff credits a Porter and Kramer article examining the link between competitive advantage and CSR, for the shift to Alex Fraser’s CSR approach.

“Alex Fraser’s Recycling Facilities provide a priceless training environment to SARDA, while our relationship with SARDA builds ‘social value’ to our business, provides opportunities to our employees to support an important cause and provides our communities with a critical emergency service. It’s absolutely a win-win.”

Alex Fraser is owned by Hanson Australia and is part of the global HeidelbergCement Group. The corporation’s Sustainability Charter encourages community partnerships and community engagement in order to achieve its ambitious 2030 sustainability commitments.

Sustainability Manager Brendan Liveris said the ‘SARDA – Alex Fraser partnership’ takes the concept of ‘shared value’ beyond the typical CSR relationship.

“It shows that our businesses can provide community organisations with more value through strategic partnerships than we can by simply making financial donations. Seeing this corporate-community relationship in action has highlighted to me that something of relatively low cost to us can be of immense value to a community organisation,” he said.

“It’s amazing to see what has been achieved through working together and thinking outside the square.’


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