THE State Government this month launched a strategy to increase female participation in the mining sector, and perhaps they should have enlisted Gympie sisters Melissa Brown and Sandra Cross to lead the campaign.
The Women in Resources Sector Strategy will be rolled out over the next three years at a cost of $100,000 a year to attract and retain more female workers to the industry.
At the Clermont Coal Mine in Central Queensland, where Melissa and Sandra fly-in fly-out from the Sunshine Coast on a week-on week-off roster, 35% of their crew is female.
Salaries range from $115,000 a year to $140,000, and aside from the hefty pay packets, Melissa and Sandra absolutely love their jobs.
The say the mining industry has come a long way in the last few years in making its rosters and work places more female friendly because many mines actually prefer to employ women for their resilience and the better care they tend to take of equipment.
Sandra, 36, is single and has worked in mining for 12 years.
She got her start as a temporary receptionist at the Lewis Mine in Gympie. She has since worked her way up to dispatch at Clermont, and loves everything about her job and the lifestyle it affords her.
Her advice for Gympie region women trying to break in to the sector is to not give up; be persistent and apply for every job that is going.
"It might take 12 months. It might take two years. But once you have got your foot in the door, the world is your oyster," she says.
Married mother-of-three Melissa joined her sister as "an inexperienced operator" at Clermont about three years ago and says the week-on week-off "lifestyle roster" works beautifully for she and her family.
Her typical day at work begins at 4.30am. Breakfast in the dry mess is at 5am where a massive buffet is also available to prepare your own lunch.
By 6am Melissa has walked the short distance to the mine site to have a coffee before starting work at 6.30am. Then it's a 12-hour shift operating trucks.
By 7pm she has clocked off and is ready for her exercise class, which the mine supplies at the on-site gym. The class finishes at 8pm, when Melissa returns to her donga, has a shower, calls home and goes to bed.
Her healthy income has taken the pressure off her husband, who runs his own business, and is helping set the family up for a comfortable future.
"It's a great industry to be in," she says. "And as long as this lifestyle keeps working so well for my family, I will stay in it."
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