10 May 2023

Rio Tinto’s rising star acknowledged with award

| Matt Nicholls
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Zharni Crossley at the QRC Indigenous Awards last Thursday.

A PROGRAM aimed at local Aboriginal people in Cape York has paved the way for Zharni Crossley to be named a Rising Star at the Queensland Resources Council Indigenous Awards.

The Rio Tinto emergency services officer was a joint winner of the award on what was a big night for the company.

“I saw the LAP program advertised and applied and got in,” Zharni said on Monday.

“It’ll be two years in September and I love it.”

Working Rio Tinto’s shift roster has its challenges for the 28-year-old mother, but she said a supportive family helped her juggle a career while caring for her son.

Zharni is a Winchanam woman from one of the five Wik clans in the Aurukun area.

She was born and raised in Weipa and has spent her whole life in Cape York.

After leaving school she juggled hospitality roles before moving into the emergency services sector with Rio Tinto.

“It’s a busy job but I love the freedom of it. We are not stuck in the office,” Zharni said.

She praised her leader Dennis McLachlan for his support, as well as the rest of the emergency services team.

“Everyone has been very supportive since I started,” she said.

Although she did not know she would win ahead of the trip to Brisbane, Zharni was told to prepare a speech “just in case”.

“I was hoping that I wouldn’t win because I don’t really like public speaking,” she said.

Rio Tinto Weipa GM Shona Markham praised Zharni and the others who were nominated.

“Zharni has been recognised for always striving to be a positive role model for her community and motivating others to uncover their potential,” she said.

“Having recently completed her traineeship as an emergency services officer, she is now inspiring others to give traineeships a go.”

Rosselle Canilao, Kathy Pablo and Tonia May with the award recognising Rio Tinto Weipa’s successful LAP apprentice and school leavers programs.

Rio Tinto Weipa also picked up another award on the night.

The company’s LAP work development programs won the Best Company Indigenous Employment and Training Initiative Award at the QRC event.

Rio Tinto’s LAP apprentice and LAP paid school leavers programs were recognised for creating a culturally competent workplace that promotes increased access, participation and retention and advancement in the workplace.

Two Rio Tinto employees were also recognised.

Brendan Macfarlane was highly commended in the Indigenous Advocacy Award for his efforts in challenging the status quo when it comes to Indigenous development and setting others up for success.

Ejsha Thorpe was also a finalist for the Indigenous Rising Star Award for being a role model to her peers, wearing many different hats while juggling a career, family and advocating for land management and Indigenous people’s connection to the land.

Rio Tinto Weipa’s Ejsha Thorpe and Lachlan Johnson.

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