Sandra Kirk

At the end of year 12 at St. Patrick's College in Townsville, Sandra Kirk did not want to go to uni but did joke around with friends about getting a trade. Her interest in gaining a trade had been sparked back in year ten when she came across the opportunity to become a panel beater.

While at school Sandra had the opportunity to apply for an apprenticeship with a Mining company as a diesel fitter. "My dad encouraged me to apply for the apprenticeship that was offered in Weipa." This would have meant moving from Thursday Island, where she grew up, to another town approximately 350 kilometres away.

So while her friends were getting home from parties early in the morning, Sandra would be getting up at 4:30am for a 6:00am start as an apprentice diesel fitter in the mines. She started and finished her apprenticeship with Rio Tinto and on completion in 2011 Sandra was then employed with Northern Haulage Diesel Services in Weipa.

Being not only a young woman, but also an Indigenous young woman presented many challenges for her in a male dominated field of work. Often Sandra would get a lot of flack from other apprentices; and tradesmen or tradies would hassle her at times.

"I'm a bit of tomboy and don't feel too intimidated by the boys." Sandra said.

"I guess I really wanted to be the best and I just wanted to show everyone that I can be the best diesel fitter. There were only a small number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in apprenticeships, but now there are so many more of us mob, with heaps of opportunity for traineeships, and other jobs like truck driving in the mines," Sandra said.

The support from her friends and family helped her with home sickness and kept her on track to successfully finishing her apprenticeship.

"I hope to travel with this job and get a job with other mining companies within Australia in the future," Sandra said.

DESCRIPTION: Sandra Kirk at the workshop of employers, Northern Haulage Diesel Services in Weipa.