When Leonie Newton, Supervisor – Production at Whitehaven Coal, was still at high school she never thought she’d “end up in coal mining.” But now, eight years into a successful career, she “loves it!” and encourages others to consider a role in the industry too.
“Every day is a new challenge because every day is different! I am so proud of how much I have achieved.”
As a Supervisor, Leonie manages the teams around the excavation and coal-handling areas on site to ensure operations are conducted safely. It’s a varied role that requires a wide range of skills, both interpersonal and technical.
“Whitehaven have been very supportive of my progression through all my achievements. They have helped me to continue my studies and learn new skills.”
We caught up with Leonie to find out more about her experiences and discover why a role in coal mining might be your perfect next career move.
“Don’t be afraid to pursue an opportunity! You don’t know until you try!”
Leonie is not afraid of a challenge and being up for taking on new responsibilities has certainly paid off during her time at Whitehaven. From day one, Leonie says her managers have encouraged her to pursue “lots of great opportunities,” and it’s one of the main reasons Leonie knows she made the right decision to join the company.
“I have been lucky enough to have gained several new skills while at Whitehaven, and when I continue to be up-skilled – and see those around me doing the same – it shows me that this is the place to be if you wanted to further your mining career.”
Having spent most of her career operating a range of complex on-site machinery, in 2021 Leonie was approached by her manager about stepping into a supervisor role.
“It was a great chance for me to get some insight into supervising and OCE (Open-cut Examiner) duties, and to see if I would like to pursue this or to continue as an operator. It was a lot of learning and a big change – but I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge!”
Enjoying her new responsibilities and having shown a clear aptitude for leadership and management, when a supervisor position came up it was the perfect fit.
“I started doing fill-in work for the supervisors of the excavators when they had time off, and when a position to take over the coal excavators came about and I was offered the role, I jumped at it!”
Not content to stay still for long, Leonie is currently studying for her OCE certificate – an advanced level qualification – which has been fully funded by the company. If successful, she will be responsible for leading the entire crew on each shift, ensuring the safety of everyone in and around the excavation site.
“It’s known to be quite difficult to achieve the OCE, but Whitehaven have allowed me time off to attend classes and complete the course.”
Making a difference every day
Managing such a large and diverse group of people across several different areas of the site can present its challenges – but Leonie knows the success of her role is key to the overall well-being of her team.
“My role has a big impact because people rely on me to guide them through their working day and get them home safely. Every day that we complete a shift safely is, for me, the best day ever.”
As well as needing an in-depth knowledge of the many different processes involved in coal mining, Leonie has also developed key personal skills that enable her to support her team effectively, including establishing a flexible management style.
“Managing a large group can be hard at times. Different personalities require a different approach!”
Becoming a role model
While Whitehaven is making great steps to be more inclusive, most people still consider mining to be a traditionally male working environment. To help progress diversity in the workplace, Leonie hopes she can be an inspiration to other women coming up behind her in the industry.
“I am the only woman in the team, but I’m treated with respect, and we work so well as a team. And being a woman and a supervisor in a male-dominated industry I’d like to hope others on site can look up to me and see that they can do just the same!”
Leonie’s professional advancement has been rapid but feeling fully supported by the senior team at Whitehaven has given Leonie the confidence to continue her path as a Supervisor.
“I still am shocked about how far I’ve come. It was in 2022 that I really started to secure a leadership position – one of the more important ones of the shift. And to have Whitehaven encourage me to further my supervision skills has been a big accomplishment!”