Florence Drummond, Co-Founder of Indigenous Women in Mining & Resources Australia (IWIMRA), is on a mission to connect every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman working in the mining and resources industry across Australia, to support each other in their career journey. From her home base in Weipa, Florence and her sister are rallying their sisters to share stories, connect and encourage other Indigenous women to pursue a career in the resources sector, which is overwhelmingly male dominated.

In 2019, in recognition for her work with IWIMRA, Florence was named Weipa’s Citizen of the Year, and was a Finalist in the Queensland Resources Council Resources Awards for Women. On top of this, in March she flew to New York as the only delegate from Torres Strait Island to the United Nations 63rd Commission on the Status of Women.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START INDIGENOUS WOMEN IN MINING & RESOURCES AUSTRALIA (IWIMRA) AND WHAT ARE IWIMRA’S AIMS?

IWIMRA’s aim is: the opportunity for visibility and quality progression for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Mining and Resources.

IWIMRA was established to be a network to connect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in mining and resources sector around Australia. With mining and resources being the largest employer for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (second to the Government) it is essential to harness the stories behind the statistics to identify opportunities to positively impact the communities in which we operate. There is great opportunity to be the best examples for each other and to proactively break the cycle of systemic deficiencies in our narrative.

Women are most influential in the family unit, therefore we are creating a network that is a space where we can have a yarn, laugh, share stories and showcase our presence and achievements in an industry that holds a huge element of sensitivity to our cultural obligations to caring for country.  

What motivates the movement of IWIMRA everyday is the stories that we share of amazing women already in the industry. Their profiles are shared on our Facebook site every Monday and has seen our page grow well over 2.7k. This is excellent support, as according to an ABS and Minerals Council Australia report quoting the 2016 census, there are approximately 1300 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in this sector.

This is such an important component over the overall picture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander narrative – to shift the balance of overwhelmingly negative circumstances such as suicide rates, incarceration, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence etc. Empowering mechanisms that will create a self sufficient system. Jobs in mining aren’t just an everyday job. There is real opportunity to improve skill sets to establish sustainable infrastructure in our communities, so we must remain visible. 

HOW DID YOUR CAREER PATH LEAD TO MINING?

My own career path into mining was driven by my call to be closer to home – Thursday Island.

I had been working with Lakidjika, a unit under the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency which manages child protection for Indigenous families in Victoria. This really hit home for me, I was devastated by the the stories and the system. I needed to be home, be grounded and to start again to figure my own self out. 

I entered mining six years ago when they started to ramp up direct employment. It was a surreal feeling to comprehend I was entering an industry that was dirty, dusty, remote, inconvenient – far from the lavish laneways of Melbourne. Now, I could not imagine anything better. It is the most beautiful experience to be at the forefront of nature, and to witness the regeneration of native plants and vegetation in our completed areas of work. It is the side of mining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are heavily involved in, and is aligned with care for country practices. 

FROM YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE, WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A CAREER PATH IN THE MINING AND RESOURCES INDUSTRY FOR INDIGENOUS WOMEN?

Financial independence is an essential pillar to any person’s economic stability. With our industry pushing for greater gender balance, it is important that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women also apply so we remain valid. 

From my own experience, I had never imagined myself to be in this industry. I didn’t really know anyone of my own familiar traits that were employed either – the whole concept of “you cant be what you cant see” is so true! We are conditioned by our environment. If we leap out of our comfort zones to ask questions, be bold and not be afraid to fail, or be judged by lateral violence – then it is the most magnificent feeling of adventure. 

Our adventure now puts us on a path where we need to improve the quality of our participation, so we can continue to progress towards economic prosperity.  

SHARE YOUR KEY TAKE AWAYS FROM ATTENDING THE UN COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN 63, UN HEADQUARTERS NEW YORK.

Visibility and voice is vital.

Being the only Torres Strait Islander woman at this event, with 4 other amazing Aboriginal sisters from around Australia it was clear that if we are not visible, participating and staying informed in conversations at these international forums then we, as women are only subject to second hand information. We are now planning to create opportunities for other women and men who are also interested in participating. 

Exchanging knowledge with other women from around the globe was a great experience of cultural fusion, yet, we all share the same story. Our definitions may differ slightly, but the actions of being together to share stories, produce a much more well rounded solution. 

GREATEST CHALLENGE

Exploding out of my own comfort zone and believing in myself. 

MOST PROUD OF 

When my godchild Amani said she wanted to be a Mineralogist when she is older. She is 12. 

ADVICE TO FUTURE FEMALE LEADERS

Always take the high road. 

This article was originally published by Femeconomy

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