10 May 2023

Indigenous leadership program gets thumbs up from participants

| Cape York Weekly
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Rio Tinto Weipa’s Sebastian Ah-Wang has been inspired to go back to university and build his leadership credentials.

TWO local participants in Rio Tinto’s Indigenous Leadership program have spoken about their experiences in the award-winning initiative.

The nationwide program focuses on accelerating Indigenous leaders, empowering and elevating their voices across the business.

It also aims to support Indigenous employees to bridge any development gaps and make the transition to leadership roles.

Since the program began in 2021, 20 Indigenous emerging leaders across Australia have been selected, four of which were from the Weipa operations.

Yupanguthi man Sebastian Ah-Wang is currently Rio Tinto Weipa’s acting superintendent for Fixed Plant, Rail and Shiploader.

He is a diesel fitter by trade and has spent more than 13 years at Rio Tinto Weipa, 10 of which were spent working as a fitter on the floor at the Rail Operations.

Since 2019, Mr Ah-Wang has been supported to step into leadership positions in the business, working across a range of operational areas and joined the ILP program in 2021.

He said the program inspired him to start his Graduate Certificate in Minerals and Energy Management at the University of Western Australia, as an entry pathway to his Master of Business Administration (MBA).

His advice for local Indigenous employees and students wanting to follow a leadership path at Rio Tinto was: “Don’t think it’s something you can’t achieve. It’s definitely something that anyone can do with the right support.”

Duane Fewquandie wants others to follow in his footsteps.

Duane Fewquandie is a proud Kalkadoon man and is also a participant in the ILP.

He moved to Weipa in 2021 and has a civil engineering, business and mining geomechanics background.

Mr Fewquandie started his career as a Rio Tinto graduate at Kestrel and is now the manager for Mining and Closure.

He said the ILP helped him create valuable networks with Indigenous peers across different sectors.

“The skills and knowledge gained from the program have helped me overcome the challenges of wearing both hats – working for Rio Tinto and working with Indigenous stakeholders,” Mr Fewquandie said.

“It makes me feel proud and more comfortable to walk in two worlds.

His advice to youngsters?

“Work hard on your education, whether that’s at school, in a trade or a university degree,” Mr Fewquandie said.

“An education creates so many opportunities for yourself. It helps to break the cycle and inspires others to do the same.”

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