10 May 2023

Locally owned business making waves in Weipa

| Matt Nicholls
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Evolution Mining and Civil already has around 50 employees after picking up a crucial contract to service the town and mine late last year.

WHAT a difference a local touch can make.

Weipa, thriving from a strong wet season, has never looked as good in the past decade.

Most of that can be put down to the team at Evolution Mining and Civil, which took over the parks and gardens contract from Sodexo on January 1, working around the clock since to make the town look its best.

Managing director Sandra Kemp said the positive feedback had been overwhelming since Evolution’s brand-new mowers hit the ground.

“We really appreciate the comments because we know our team has worked really hard to make the town look good again,” she said.

“It has been a hard slog because of all the growth, but we are seeing the rewards.”

Sandra and her husband Ian Cardelli moved to Weipa around 2003 when Rio Tinto was looking for skilled operators.

They grew up in Mareeba but came to love Weipa and the opportunities that were available.

“I worked for Rio for almost 15 years and then went and did a stint as a supervisor for Aurukun Earthmoving,” said Ian.

“But the goal was to start our own business.”

In November 2021, Evolution Mining and Civil was born.

Sandra, a proud Traditional Owner with ties to the area near Musgrave as well as Central Queensland, went to one of her Elders for advice on the name.

“She came up with ‘Nunni Dulgieh’, which means ‘from the ground up,” said Sandra, who spent 17 years working for Centrelink.

“We didn’t go with that as the company name but it is our motto or phrase.

“I think we settled on Evolution because we wanted to be constantly evolving.

“We have a real passion for training and developing people.

“Everything we want to do is about evolving.”

While the business has grown rapidly in 14 months, Ian said it had been manageable and well-staged.

“We kicked off with the dozers and managed to get a few jobs near the Skardon River and subcontracting to McCoskers at the (Weipa) landfill,” he said.

“Then we got a contract with the (Rio Tinto) geology team and it’s grown from there.”

Evolution also focuses on labour hire and last year sent down workers to subcontract for McConnell Dowell on the Archer River bridge project.

“We’ve done it all ourselves, too,” said Ian.

“I think people might see that we’re an Indigenous-owned business and think we’ve been given grants or had access to money and opportunities that others wouldn’t have had.

“That’s not true. We’ve had to put all of our own money into it and we’ve done it completely by ourselves.

“Sandra has only just started to draw a wage.”

While the bar wasn’t set high by Sodexo, Evolution has blown the community away with its attention to detail and its response time to jobs requiring attention.

“We live in this community and so do our workers, so we notice things and have that sense of town pride,” Sandra said.

“I don’t think we envisaged taking on this contract, but when the tender came up we thought it was something that would work well with our mining and civil business and perhaps create pathways for young people who want to grow.”

Western Cape College principal Dan Tonon said he was looking forward to working with Evolution.

“I think what they are doing is perfect for Weipa,” he said.

“There will be a lot of employment opportunities and you might start on a mower but you’ll be able to progress and find the role that suits you.”

Evolution’s contract with Rio Tinto and the Weipa Town Authority also covers the mine site and looking after vacant houses in town.

Jason Nixon and his wife Margie Adidi in Napranum are committed sub-contractors to Evolution.

“It’s great for us because we love working with Sandra and Ian,” said Jason.

“Look at everyone here. They are all locals.”

Sandra said she was proud to be able to help young people.

“The difference between us and others is that we’ll go and pick you up from Napranum if you don’t have a car,” she said.

“Last year I was driving a lad down to the Archer and picking him up when his time was up.”

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