Local Aboriginal Participation: Lennard Shelf
The high concentration of mining activity in Western Australia was making the Lennard Shelf Operation’s employee recruitment and retention especially challenging, but the local aboriginal community, who represented the richest labour pool in the region, had suffered a series of negative experiences with previous mine operators, and were reluctant to engage.
General Manager Dan Gignac realized that the Operation’s existing heritage agreement with the Goonyandi Traditional Landowner Group needed to be revisited; the agreement contained a broad commitment to “maximize” local participation through employment, but this had proven difficult to achieve.
Several extra training roles specifically for local indigenous people were created and funded from a separate budget. To attract the highest-potential local candidates, the Operation recruited a Community Relations Officer well-known and well-respected by indigenous communities in the Pillara area. The Officer developed a process which identified suitable applicants from the full range of language groups and clans near Pillara.
Originally recruited to work within the Concentrator area, the new employees were soon integrated into roles in process, geology, mobile plant maintenance, camp administration and product transport, with considerable success. As trainees gained skills and demonstrated their ability to work safely and reliably, they were assigned to crew vacancies as these arose; nearly 30 employees, or 10% of the Operation’s workforce, have been either directly employed or offered long-term contracts through this initiative.
Turnover rates among former trainees have proven to be significantly lower than overall site rates, which has reduced recruitment costs and fortified the Operation’s commitment to expand and enrich the program. Lennard Shelf has learned to help trainees identify a broad range of obstacles which may be confronted during their transition to full employment; respectful dialogue ensures that satisfactory coping strategies are developed, and also guarantees commitment on both sides to overcoming those obstacles. Any participants who choose to leave the training role are thoroughly interviewed to inform program development and fine-tune the methodology.
Lennard Shelf has become a workplace where indigenous staff add a unique flavour to the workplace culture, and where all employees feel comfortable and valued. Additionally, this initiative has solidified a mutually-beneficial reciprocal arrangement between the Operation and the surrounding community, and has become a source of significant pride for all involved.