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Weipa's first local Aboriginal mining superintendent wins top Indigenous Award
22 October

Weipa's first local Aboriginal mining superintendent wins top Indigenous Award

The contribution of Indigenous people and initiatives to increase their number in the resources sector in Queensland was recently acknowledged in new awards presented by the  state’s peak resources sector body.

Hosted by Noel Gertz, the inaugural awards were attended by dignitaries such as the Hon. Greg Elmes, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs, and Asset President BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance and QRC Vice President, Lucas Dow.

Chief Executive of the Queensland Resources Council, Michael Roche, says the Queensland Council Indigenous Awards promote and celebrate the achievements of individuals, and company initiatives in Indigenous education, training, employment and business development.

‘QRC has a strong commitment to improving indigenous employment and has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Queensland and Australian Governments to increase Indigenous participation in the Queensland resources sector,’ said Mr Roche.

 ‘The MOU has been in place since 2007 and has contributed to creating sustainable economic development and employment opportunities for Indigenous people and communities in Queensland,’ he said.

 ‘It is absolutely critical that the networks, capacity building and efforts to overcome structural impediments continue into the future and these awards will contribute toward that aim. The award winners set examples and role models for other companies and individuals and highlight what can be achieved.

 ‘It is our hope that the award winners will go on to be ambassadors for the sector, acting as role models and encouraging more indigenous people to join our sector.’

Winner of the Overall Indigenous Award, Rio Tinto Alcan employee Ray Ahmat (pictured), is Weipa's first local Indigenous mine superintendent and leads a team of 170 people. Resources for Queensland caught up with Ray for a quick chat. 

 

RFQ: What is your position at Rio Tinto Alcan Weipa?

Ray: 'I’m a mine development superintendent. I lead a team of 170 people. I have eight crew leaders who manage teams comprising of roughly 30 machine operators. Our main job is to perform pre and post mining activities along with land-rehabilitation work'

RFQ: How did you become involved in the mining industry?

Ray: 'Growing up in Weipa, my father and mother worked in the mine for 32 and 28 years respectively. One of my fondest childhood memories was going on a mine tour with my father. And I believe that’s what put me on the path to what I do for a living today. I’ve worked for the mining industry for 15 years. In 1988 I started as an apprentice boilermaker with Comalco, and after completing my apprenticeship, I moved to Mackay and continued working in my trade. I had seen there were some truck-driver positions back in Weipa advertised in the papers, so I applied and was fortunate enough to secure a role and I’ve never looked back. I worked 10 years as an operator, and over the past five years, I’ve been involved in leadership rolesthat continue to drive me forward within the company. Working in the mining industry has allowed me to set myself up to a point where I’m able to provide for my family. I remember when I was a kid, I went on a boat cruise with my parents; an experience that was the direct result of the opportunities provided by their employment with the mining industry. And I’m now replicating those same experiences with my own family. In recent years, working for a big mining company has allowed me to take my children on overseas holidays. These experiences have taught my children about other cultures, customs and traditions and allowed them to realise their own quality of life. I love living in Weipa due to the community aspect. In our spare time, my family and I love to visit country and go camping on a stretch of beach called Pennefather, where I’m part of the traditional landowner group called Yupungathi. I’ve found the same sense of belonging is harder to find in the bigger cities. I actually left Weipa when I was young and moved to Mackay to pursue my career as a boilermaker, but something always felt as though it was missing, so I moved back to Weipa, and upon my return, I spent a lot of time with my father who introduced me to the cultural importance of my own traditional owner group. In hindsight, he was preparing me. He knew what was coming, and when the time was right, he stood aside and gave me the opportunity to be the spokesperson for my people.'

RFQ: What’s been your biggest career challenge to date?

Ray: 'I suppose the biggest challenge would be taking on the responsibility of leadership within the company, learning people management skills, and understanding how each team member operates. I can now stand in front of my 170-person strong team, address them on a personal basis and recognise what they need as individuals in order to be inspired, to succeed and to progress their respective careers.'

RFQ: Being a mentor is something that seems to come to you naturally?

Ray: 'We Indigenous are a proud people and something we stand for is unity. In recent years, we were chasing Native Title, which we succeeded in obtaining this year. And as you can imagine, that was an extremely proud moment for us all.  The foundations of recognition for our people’s connection to land started with a lot of my senior traditional owners, who unfortunately, didn’t get to see the end result, but we all recognised and respected their efforts. We can hold our heads up high as a people and give them the honour and respect that they deserve for starting us on the journey of Native Title. For me personally, I’m continuing that journey through our own traditional landowners group that I’ve been nominated to represent. I’m following in my father’s footsteps, and he did everything for his people. There’s nothing you do for yourself, it’s for your mob. I’m also trying to employ that same mindset in my employment at Rio Tinto Alcan Weipa by bringing other Indigenous people along for the journey, whether they belong to my own traditional owner group, or are part of one of the other 11traditional owner groups (Alngith, Anathangayth, Ankamuthi, Peppan, Taepadhighi, Thanikwithi, Tjungundji, Warranggu, Wathayn, Wik & Wik-Way and Yupungathi people) that reside on the Western Cape region. I’m very proud to be striving to provide opportunities to Indigenous people, if we don’t have Indigenous people actually succeeding, there’s no one for our people to look up to. In regard to being a role model, I’m just doing a job.'

RFQ: What is your involvement in the Western Cape Communities Co-Existence Agreement?

Ray: 'The WCCCA is an agreement between Rio Tinto Alcan Weipa, the Queensland State Government and 11 traditional owner groups of the region. It’s arguably one of the better agreements that have been formed within the mining sector. I first became involved as a Director on one of the Boards in 2004. Part of my role was to look at exactly how the agreement work and promote better understanding for my people, but the tricky part was holding that position and making decisions, wearing both my traditional owner and Rio Tinto Alcan Weipa hats. My personal objective was to get the best possible outcome for all involved parties. I have strong employment and support within Rio Tinto Alcan Weipa that allows me to provide for my family, but when I look around at my people, well… there’s not that many who are as fortunate, so I look forward to building better relationships between the groups and I feel privileged to have been involved in setting strong foundations for affective governance that will continue to evolve.'

RFQ: What advice do you have for Indigenous people looking to forge a career in the mining industry?

Ray: 'The opportunities are there, but ultimately, you’re going to have to want to grab those opportunities. Put the hard work in and you’ll succeed, you do get recognised for your hard work. And if you’re serious about pursuing a career within Rio Tinto Alcan Weipa, there are great opportunities and mentoring programs set up. One example is the ‘Local Aboriginal Person’ traineeship program that has been put in place as an employment pathway for Indigenous people. Candidates are selected from the surrounding communities and allocated employment for an 18-month term, and during this timeframe, the program develops individuals to gain the necessary skills to successfully transition into full-time employment within the organisation.'

RFQ: What does winning the QRC Indigenous Overall Award mean to you?

Ray: 'It’s reward for all the hard work over the years for both myself and my family. Yep, my family are really the ones who have supported me to win this award. My beautiful wife Sindy, daughter Takara and my two boys, Marley and Leeroy… they’ve always been beside me, backing me and supporting me. Actually, during my trip to Brisbane where I attended the QRC Indigenous Awards, I was fortunate to catch up with my two boys who are currently boarders at Brisbane Boys’ College. I arrived on National Sorry Day and was pleasantly surprised and proud as punch when I witnessed them both confidently giving speeches in the school hall in front of quite a large number of fellow schoolmates and college staff. So maybe they are following in my footsteps and will soon become leaders themselves.'

For more informaiton on Rio Tinto Alcan Weipa, click here.

For more information on the QRC Indigenous Awards and winners, click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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