13 February 2024

Weipa women boost growing Queensland resource ranks

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Sharni Louis

Second-year apprentice Sharni Louis says she encourages more women to get into trade roles as the number of females working as tradies in Queensland’s resource sector swelled by almost 40 per cent in the 2022-23 financial year. Photo: supplied.

The number of women working in trade positions in Queensland’s resource sector jumped by almost 40 per cent in the last financial year and now account for a record 13 per cent of all trade roles.

That is the message being shouted from the rooftops by the Queensland Resource Council (QRC), and one heard by second-year boilermaking apprentice Sharni Louis, who moved to Weipa from Newcastle in 2019.

Ms Louis said she initially thought she would be treated differently by peers going into a significantly male-dominated industry.

“I went to TAFE last year and there was no girls in my class,” she said.

“I thought they would treat me weirdly, but it really wasn’t the case.

“It was very accepting and everyone was open to having a girl in their class and on the work site.”

Despite being unsure of how she would be received, Ms Louis said she had never considered going down a more traditional route.

“I’ve always been more of a hands-on person,” she said.

“I know my family was very supportive, but a few people were kind of against it.

“They would ask me ‘why are you doing this?’, ‘are you sure you want to do this?’, and were trying to talk me out of it.”

Sharni Louis working with metal resources

Sharn Louis says she has always been hands-on and is loving every minute of her apprenticeship in the western Cape York township of Weipa. Photo: Supplied.

QRC acting chief executive officer Judy Bertram said there had never been a better time for women to get a job in Queensland’s resource sector.

“The resources sector is also experiencing a serious skilled worker shortage, so there are plenty of practical reasons why companies are seeking to recruit more women for a broad range of positions,” she said.

Ms Bertram said it was wonderful to see more women benefitting from the financial security of a well-paid job in the industry, especially at a time when the high cost of living was impacting every household.

Ms Louis said going into a trade position has been a positive financial decision for her.

“It’s been great, especially as an adult apprentice,” she said.

“As soon as you go over 21 you get a higher wage.

“Once I’m a tradesman, I can technically get a job anywhere in Australia or any mine site.”

She added although the industry was more accepting and the number of women within its ranks were increasing, there were still not as many as she would like.

“I’d love to see more girls trying and not be scared that it’s such a male-dominated industry,” Ms Louis explained.

“I would say just do it, and you can always change your mind if you find that it’s not for you.

“I’ve been loving every minute of it and it’s been the best decision I made.”

Weipa is also home to one of this year’s finalists in the annual Resources Awards for Women, hosted by the QRC and Women in Mining and Resources Queensland.

Rio Tinto Weipa general manager Shona Markham will compete against 17 women and three female students for a chance to represent Queensland at the Women in Resources National Awards in Canberra later this year.

“Rio Tinto and Weipa are proud of all our fantastic women in mining as we work to encourage more females into the sector,” a Rio Tinto spokesperson said.

Shona Markham

Shona Markham is making Weipa proud as a finalist in this year’s Resources Awards for Women. Photo: Rio Tinto.

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