Group trains up for mining jobs
FED up with mining companies' undelivered promises, the Mandandanji mob has decided to take matters into its own hands.
The Aboriginal cultural group, encompassing areas in southern and western-Queensland, has made finding mining jobs for its people one of its biggest objectives.
After years of mining companies "talking the talk about indigenous employment, but not producing anything", Mandandanji Ltd chief executive officer Bob Carlo has decided to force the issue.
Twenty Aboriginal jobseekers are undergoing training to find employment in the mining industry, in a pilot initiative to upskill local indigenous workers.
Over six weeks, the students will gain accreditation to drive excavators and bobcats, as well as other training necessary for the boom industry.
"The Mandandanji mob decided it was time to organise our own training to get our people upskilled for these jobs," Mr Carlo said.
Kayleen Hopkins was one of three women undergoing the course at Ag Training in Greenmount.
She hoped the Jobfind and government-funded tuition would find her steady employment in the mines.
"I'm just happy to go wherever there's work. I'm not afraid to travel," she said.
"This was the first time I've ever driven machinery like this, so it was a bit of an eye-opener.
"It was a bit scary at the start, but once I got started you couldn't stop me."
Ms Hopkins' chances are high, with mining companies claiming a commitment to bringing more indigenous and female employees into the labour force.
"They say that women have an even better chance than the men, so I'm looking forward to that," she said.
"I've heard we're better drivers than the men too, because we've got softer hands."
After 100 students have undergone their training in this pilot scheme, Mr Carlo said the plan would extend into different skills areas.
"Once we get rolling there will be no stopping us," he said.
"We plan to expand into electrical, plumbing, concreting and carpentry - any industry where employment outcomes are likely."
Mandandanji Ltd, the business arm of the Mandandanji mob, is already in talks with mining companies and supporting contractors.
Mr Carlo is currently in meetings to form joint ventures with companies THIESS and the civil arm of Chinchilla construction company, Calabah Pty Ltd.
"Once we form our first joint venture, Mandandanji Enterprises will become a preferred contractor to the gas companies," he said. "We're also in talks with QGC, Queensland Gas, Santos, Arrow and Origin."
Mr Carlo said it was "in the best interest" of mining companies to meet their promises to Australia's indigenous workers.
"These are people who want to work," he said.