Rio Tinto’s first Indigenous general manager of operations has been named Exceptional Indigenous Person by Queensland’s resources sector.
Brad Welsh received the award at the Queensland Resources Council’s seventh annual Indigenous Awards.
“It’s been a long journey for Brad, a NSW Muruwari man, who was born and grew up in the Aboriginal community of Redfern,” QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane.
“Starting his working life as a community worker in NSW, Brad worked in the Prime Minister’s office followed by stints in the offices of the NSW Premier and NSW Planning Minister, where his interest in mining and its social and economic benefits to regional communities was piqued.
“In 2011, Brad started his mining career with Rio Tinto at Northparkes, and he hasn’t looked back since.”
Mr Welsh has held a number of senior leadership roles in Weipa in the past seven years, including community relations manager, East Weipa operations manager, Weipa North operations manager, and acting general manager of operations.
He is also the Inclusion & Diversity chairperson for Weipa’s operations, where he supports the 40 percent of employees who are either Indigenous, female or both.
Mr Welsh was appointed in October as chief advisor to the CEO on Indigenous affairs.
“Curiosity has driven me my whole career; trying to understand how things work. I was that kid who asked those annoying ‘why’ questions,” Mr Welsh said.
“Rio Tinto has such a large investment position in Aboriginal communities across Australia and the world, so I was curious to find out what makes mining ‘tick’ and how I could help bring the two worlds together.
“We have a real opportunity to bring the world’s oldest living culture into one of the newest economies for the benefit of both.
“That has certainly driven me over the last decade, and now even more so in my new role helping to rebuild relationships with the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people in Western Australia.”
Mr Welsh is Rio Tinto’s most senior Indigenous employee.
Other winners included mining services company Sodexo, which took out the award for Best Company Indigenous Employment and Training Initiative after trebling the number of Indigenous employees at its Weipa and Amrun operations.
“Sodexo’s achievements have been impressive,” Mr Macfarlane said.
“In just three years they have increased the proportion of Indigenous people in their Far North Queensland workforce from 12 per cent to almost 40 per cent.
“Their Breaking the Barriers to Belonging program, which includes a focus on local recruitment and initiatives such as a buddy system, has certainly paid dividends and it’s great to see many of the recruits have worked their way up through the ranks.”
All finalists and placings:
Exceptional Indigenous Person in Queensland Resources:
Winner – Brad Welsh, Acting General Manager Weipa Operations, Rio Tinto.
Runner-up – John Fickling, Concentrator Advanced Technician (Relief Supervisor – 2IC), Supervisor Indigenous Employment Program, Glencore Ernest Henry Mining.
Highly Commended – Anita Ward, Community Relations Officer, Evolution Mining
Queensland Resources Sector Indigenous Rising Star
Tenille Tonga, Leading Hand, Cylinder Bay, Hastings Deering
Best Company Indigenous Employment and Training Initiative
Winner – Breaking the Barriers to Belonging – Sodexo
Runner-Up – Yila Yina Mundu (Turn Around from Here) Training Program – Macmahon and Jangga Operations
Highly Commended – South32 Cannington Indigenous Work Experience Program – South32
Best Company Indigenous Procurement Initiative
Winner – Whanu Binal Program – Arrow Energy
Exceptional Indigenous Business in Queensland Resources
Winner – Diversified Building Services (QLD)
Runner-Up – Geared Up Culcha
Highly Commended – Stork Goal JV
Exceptional Indigenous Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy Student
Winner – Lincoln Anderson, Tec NQ
Runner-Up – Claire Briggs, Moura State High School
Highly Commended – Emily Gullen, Nanango State High School
Indigenous Advocacy Award
Winner – Margarita Escartin, Social Performance Manager, QCoal
Recognition of Service to the Queensland Resources Sector
The late Robert Kerry Toby