Charmaine Saltner is the Group Community Relations Advisor for Evolution Mining. As a proud Wulli Wulli woman, she told us about working with the traditional custodians of the land, the opportunities Evolution Mining have afforded her and the importance of working in a company whose values align with your own.
Using work as an opportunity for personal development
Charmaine shares, “My 8 years have been full of lots of different personal and professional development opportunities.”
In 8 years with Evolution Mining, Charmaine has progressed in her career while raising two children – now 13 and 7 – and making a major lifestyle change, moving her family from Theodore, a small rural town in Central Queensland, to Sydney.
She began with Evolution Mining in a Health and Safety role at Cracow Gold Mine, a predominately FIFO operation in Central Queensland. Charmaine’s role was residential, which meant she drove a 100km round trip to and from site each day to be home with her family at night. Charmaine worked closely with management teams and built strong working relationships with operational teams across the site. These relationships were key to her progressing from an Administration and Community Relations support role, to the Administration Team Leader and Community Advisor role.
“The biggest highlight for me working onsite was the opportunity to develop personally. I had some great managers that recognized my natural leadership attributes and encouraged me to develop these qualities. It was rewarding working in a leadership role and being in a position to offer development opportunities to my team.”
One of Charmaine’s key legacies at Cracow is the framework she helped build to support the success of Wulli Wulli trainees.
“Another highlight was leading the focus on enhancing outcomes for our Indigenous trainees. Traineeship opportunities are a key part of our relationship agreement with Wulli Wulli, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which the Cracow Gold Mine operates.”
“It is important that we offer genuine training opportunities that promote success beyond the formal training period, so identifying improvement opportunities and building them in to the existing traineeships was key to success.”
Evolution established a two-day ‘Introduction and Familiarization’ program, giving candidates an opportunity to experience life on site and make an informed decision. It also gives hiring managers the opportunity to get to know candidates, and identify strengths and areas that may require support. Charmaine established a strong network of internal and external support for the trainees, enlisting key people at site to act as mentors and taking on the role of mentor and personal guide herself. This resulted in better outcomes for all parties, particularly the trainees.
After working onsite for 5 years, Charmaine was encouraged to apply for a Group role as Community Relations Advisor. She got the job and made the big decision to relocate from a rural community of 800 people to Sydney with her family.
“We were used to having a strong support network of family, friends and community around us, so moving to Sydney was daunting. My husband was a huge support, he found our new home, settled the kids in and got school sorted, so I could get my head around the new role and hit the ground running.”
In her Group role, Charmaine is responsible for supporting operational and exploration projects across the business with stakeholder engagement and community investment initiatives. She works to embed positive legacies in Evolution’s communities and protect and enhance their reputation.
Leadership and mentoring
“Prior to mining, I’d worked in predominantly Indigenous organizations working with young people in education and training. That was my comfort zone, it was an extension of family and a sense of community.”
“When I joined Evolution, there was a low indigenous participation rate and the industry was still heavily represented by men, so I felt like a fish out of water. It took some time to find my confidence. I soon found there were managers onsite who were committed to inclusion and encouraged diversity in thinking and listening. I realized I didn’t have to change how I talked or who I was – I could go to work and be myself. The FIFO mine site also increased that sense of community.”
Charmaine won the Queensland Resource Council’s Exceptional Indigenous Person in Queensland Resources Award in 2018. This kind of recognition is an acknowledgement of not only career achievements, but also the personal and societal barriers that many Indigenous people have to overcome to continue to work, develop and progress in their careers.
“There’s a general lack of understanding about the social barriers that still exist for Indigenous people. It’s a social issue. Indigenous people still face challenges and unconscious bias when they’re trying to compete for roles.”
She shared a story of when an onsite supervisor questioned why Indigenous people have alternative pathways for education and traineeships. Far from being offended or upset, Charmaine says, “I was so pleased that he would ask the question. Many wouldn’t, and then they leave the room still thinking what they thought when they came in. I was happy he asked as it opened the dialogue. There is still a knowledge gap and lack of understanding”.
Charmaine is excited about the chance to mentor other Indigenous and non-Indigenous people around her. She wants to continue to work at higher levels across the business and sites to open up conversations and pathways to Cultural Competency at Evolution.
Some advice she shares from her own leadership experiences is:
- Be yourself. “You don’t have to leave who you are at the door when you walk in. You can be your authentic self at work, and it gives people the opportunity to learn from you.”
- Embrace differences. “You don’t have to look, sound and dress the same to add value.”
- Build your resilience. “You might end up in an organization without the same level of empathy and understanding of continued Indigenous social barriers. Sometimes it’s about being resilient.”
- Find a company with values that align with yours. “When I joined Evolution there was absolutely a sense that their values aligned with my own.”
Aligning Your values at work
Evolution Mining’s values are,
“Safety, Excellence, Accountability and Respect. They’re not just words on a poster on the wall. They guide how we work with each other every day. I’ve continued to grow and develop because we live and breathe these values.”
Charmaine herself says, “Aboriginal culture is based on kinship and respect, it’s core to who we are so I connect with Respect value on a personal level. Excellence is another of our values that I connect with and is personal for me. It drives me to be a great role model for my kids, my nieces and nephews, and other Indigenous people. I can show them what is possible, because you can’t be what you can’t see!”