Queensland-based ‘Sisters in Mining’ program wins national recognition

A unique training pathway which helps put Indigenous women behind the wheel of 100-tonne mining haul trucks has gained national recognition, winning an Australian Training Award.

The program, called ‘Oothungs (Sisters) in Mining’ is designed to maximise employment opportunities for Indigenous women in the mining sector.

A collaborative effort involving leading mining contractor Thiess, mine owner Wesfarmers Curragh and The Salvation Army Employment Plus, it has just won the Australian Training Award for Industry Collaboration*.

‘Oothungs (Sisters) in Mining’ is a pre-employment program to prepare participants for a career as a trainee haul truck operator.

In addition to the technical competencies, this program involves numerous sessions, driving a state-of-the-art simulator, and participants also receive important life-skills training in areas such as goal setting, negotiation, nutrition and managing money.

The program has been successful at two Central Queensland mines – Wesfarmers Curragh coal mine near Blackwater and the Lake Vermont coal mine near Dysart.

The award was accepted by Employment Plus Managing Director, Greg Moult.

“We are all are incredibly proud of the inroads the program has made. Not only has it created a sustainable entry pathway for Indigenous women into the mining industry, it has pushed stereotypical boundaries and helped build a more diverse and inclusive culture at a grassroots level.”

For the participants, the program is literally life changing.

Alayas Wallace is a Trainee Operator at Curragh North: “The best part of my new journey was the day I hopped in the driver’s seat behind the wheel. Excitement plus!! The bonus for me now is being part of two really great crews which makes going to work so good. I am so thankful for this opportunity.”

Those feelings are matched by fellow trainee Hayley Butler: “I am amazed and excited that I have this opportunity and still remain over the moon. I’m loving my days off with my family but also can’t wait to return to work and to drive again.”

Employment Plus is encouraging other industry organisations to adopt the program, while many women from across Queensland have proactively expressed their interest in joining the next available intake.

*From 1994, the Australian Training Awards have been the peak, national awards for the vocational education and training (VET) sector, recognising individuals, businesses and registered training organisations for their contribution to skilling Australia. Go to www.australiantrainingawards.g...