On Friday two resources sector companies were recognised for their role in making dreams a reality for indigenous women when they were presented with awards by two Queensland Government ministers.
Thiess and Wesfarmers Curragh were presented the Excellence in Diversity Programs and Performance Award in the prestigious 10th annual Queensland Resources Council (QRC) and Women in Mining and Resources Queensland (WIMARQ) Resources Awards for Women.
They were presented by Minister for State Development and Natural Resoures and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham, Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, Child Safety and Minister for Multicultural Affairs Shannon Fentiman, and Queensland Resources Council (QRC) Present Rob Neale at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
QRC Chief Executive Michael Roche said the awards and breakfast play an important role in the resources sector’s mission to increase the participation of women in non-traditional roles in the sector to at least 20 per cent by 2020.
“The long-term sustainability of our sector relies on attracting and retaining sufficient skilled people from diverse backgrounds, and we need to continue to keep our eye on future needs, even when we are experiencing difficult times,” Mr Roche said.
Thiess and Wesfarmers Curragh set up their Oothungs (Sisters) in Mining training program for indigenous women in 2013, in partnership with the Salvation Army, which aims to change lives and empower indigenous women to determine their own future.
It also aims to maximise employment opportunities for disadvantaged indigenous women in Central Queensland and beyond, and increase the number of women in the male-dominated resources sector.
Trainees undertake a four-week, pre-employment program to kick start careers as trainee-haul truck operators.
The traineeship that follows takes up to two years to complete and studies undertaken during the traineeship contribute to a nationally-recognised Certificate II in Surface Extraction Mine Operations.
Most women then take up permanent full-time positions as haul truck operators with Wesfarmers Curragh at its Curragh mine or at the Thiess-operated Curragh North or Lake Vermont mines.
In addition participants receive mentoring and help with setting goals, negotiation skills, nutrition and managing money.
“To date, the ‘Oothungs’ program has given 15 Indigenous women the opportunity to take full advantage of a successful career, including the benefits the industry has to offer, creating a positive flow on effect for them, their extended families and communities,” Thiess spokesperson Penny Hamilton said.
“Nearly 30 per cent of our operators are over 50 years old and we have seen the first of the baby boomers generation retire from our work sites, with many more to come over the next few years,” she said.
“Initiatives such as the ‘Oothungs’ (Sisters) in Mining Program are essential to providing skills development in tough economic times and, importantly, they pave the way for a new generation of operators and future Supervisors at our mine sites to ensure a sustainable future.
“Thiess has committed to the program for a further three years at Lake Vermont and a further four years at the Curragh mine. This equates to more than 40 full-time positions over the next four years, with Thiess also committing to expanding the program to an additional two sites.”
“Against a backdrop of a challenging economic climate which has forced the closure of some mines, as well as substantial organisational changes for both Wesfarmers Curragh and Thiess, the parties have cemented their commitment to the program,” Wesfarmers Curragh spokesperson Ros Mann said.
‘In fact, the program’s scope has been increased due to the benefits it has delivered not only to the participants, but to the individual organisations,’ she said.
“The ‘Oothungs’ (Sisters) in Mining Program is one of the only programs in the mining industry dedicated to providing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women with a clear path to overcome the various barriers they face when trying to enter the mining industry.
“It’s so much more than just providing the women with training and a job. The program gives them a sense of achievement, purpose and themselves and their families.”