Training awards to Indigenous high achievers

The outstanding training achievements of two young Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Australians were recognised at the 2017 National NAIDOC Awards.

Sharee Yamashita won the prestigious NAIDOC Apprentice of the Year award, whilst Year 12 student and School to Work participant Blake Griffith was named 2017 Qantas Trainee of the Year at the celebrations.

Sharee successfully completed an electrical apprenticeship with Rio Tinto at Weipa on the Cape York Peninsula and graduated from her studies in February 2017. She recently secured a full-time role as an electrician at the same site.

Sharee was acknowledged for her strong work ethic and is known amongst her peers as a dedicated employee who is skilled in all aspects of her trade. In accepting the award Sharee said “I’m humbled to have won this award. I’m so fortunate to have had strong workplace and family mentors who have supported me along the way.

“Rio Tinto has opened so many doors for me and I hope my win inspires other women, particularly those from Indigenous backgrounds, to consider a career in the mining industry.”

Rio Tinto general manager, Weipa operations, Daniel van der Westhuizen said “Congratulations to Sharee, we couldn’t be more delighted by her achievement. From the beginning Sharee’s determination to succeed has been commendable. She has a very bright future ahead of her.”

Sharee was born on Thursday Island and attended boarding school in Townsville where she developed her strengths in maths, legal studies and physics. She began a business and accounting degree but deferred her studies to move to Weipa. A cousin working as an apprentice diesel fitter encouraged Sharee to apply for an electrical apprenticeship at Rio Tinto’s Weipa operations – where she could put her strong background in maths and science to work.

Sharee completed her Electrical apprenticeship while managing the demanding responsibilities of a young family. She overcame many obstacles along her journey, and says her determination has been inspired by many people, including her father. Her success in her apprenticeship has increased her confidence and she is keen to share her journey to inspire others.

Sharee’s leadership has a powerful positive impact on everyone that she interacts with. Her success in a male dominated industry makes Sharee an important role model for other young Indigenous women. Sharee hopes to inspire other young women to look for career opportunities in non-traditional roles.

Blake Griffith received his award as 2017 Qantas Trainee of the Year for his performance as a school based trainee studying a Certificate II in Warehousing and completing in excess of 1,000 hours of work with Qantas.

Blake was a participant in the NRL’s flagship, community-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program, School to Work, aimed at getting Indigenous kids through their high-school certificates and on to fulltime study or employment.

The program began in Sydney’s west in 2011 with the backing of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Such has been the success of School to Work, it has now been expanded to 10 NRL clubs, stretching from Melbourne to Newcastle.

Of the 726 participants since 2011, 97 per cent have successfully graduated from the program and are now engaged in either employment or further education, while 92 per cent attained their HSCs.

Blake, who followed his brother Jack on to the program, said “the amount of opportunities you get and they [School to Work] offer you is just amazing. It doesn’t matter what path you want to take there’s so much support.”

The NAIDOC Awards ceremony coincided with NAIDOC Week – celebrating the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.