Growing up in the Pilbara, the giant dump trucks crawling up from the depths of mines and ore trains snaking beyond the horizon leave plenty of children in a state of wide-eyed wonder.
It was a sight which imprinted on a young Allison Gear’s mind and ultimately led the Ngarluma-Yindjibarndi Traditional Owner down what she described as a non-traditional path for women.
“It was just the magic of mining, I suppose, looking at all the big machines and thinking I could be a part of that,” she said.
“Growing up here in Hedland… you always see all the big trains going past and all the trucks and so as a kid growing up, it’s sort of like, where I knew I wanted to be working.
“Even when I was younger when there wasn’t a lot of us in mining around those times I was pretty confident.
“I never thought I couldn’t get a job in mining.”
Ms Gear broke through early barriers to employment for women and Aboriginal people in the resources industry and found her way onto a mine site in the early 2000s where her fascination with the dump trucks only grew stronger.
It was around this time, 2009, Fortescue was ramping up in the Pilbara with an ambition to employ 300 Indigenous people at Cloudbreak, its first mine site.
Ms Gear got her dream role operating dump trucks at that site but soon found herself gravitating towards helping the next generation follow her path.
After a stint at the company’s port operations Ms Gear wound up in the Perth corporate office assisting with training, inductions and Aboriginal engagement. With the red dirt in her veins, however, the Pilbara always called her home.
“The hustle and bustle wasn’t for me, so I always gravitated back to Hedland, just to be in touch with country and living my relaxed lifestyle,” Ms Gear said.
These days Ms Gear is Fortescue’s Vocational Training and Education Centre superintendent in Port Hedland where she plays a core role helping more Pilbara residents get jobs in the region they love.
The company this year reached dual milestones – with VTEC celebrating its 15th anniversary as Fortescue signed on its 1000th Indigenous employee.
Ms Gear said the trainees she oversaw today had significantly improved job prospects courtesy of VTEC than what she had growing up.
“Like a lot of Aboriginal people, I had always done training programs but there was never any job at the end of it,” she said.
“So you might have spent a couple of months doing the training program and got all these tickets but you never got the job at the end of it.
“Now with VTEC if you get into our training program, and you completed it there is a guaranteed position for you the day you graduate.”
Ms Gear said the program’s success was evident everywhere
“You just see how they lift and carry themselves when they when they finally reach the goal of getting that contract and knowing they’re going to be flying out to a to a job that is life changing,” she said.
“They’re going to be able to take care of themselves, their family, their extended family.”