WA School of Mines Girls Camp

While the WA School of Mines claims poor perceptions of mining’s vitality are hampering enrolments and adding to the growing skills shortage in the State’s post-boom resources sector, some of WA’s brightest teenage girls are eyeing a future in the industry.

Thirty-three female Year 10 students, most of them from Perth, converged on the Goldfields yesterday for a five-day camp to gain insight into Kalgoorlie-Boulder’s historic gold and nickel industries.

Based at the Goldfields Camp School and hosted by Curtin University and its WASM Kalgoorlie Campus, they will visit the Super Pit, Evolution’s Mungari mining complex, BHP’s nickel smelter and concentrator and Gold Fields’ St Ives gold mine.

It comes against the backdrop of a slowing take-up of science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses among older high school students and gender inequality in the mining industry generally. Just 28 per cent of Australia’s STEM workforce is female, while that figure is cut in half when only engineering professions are taken into account

Perth Modern student Jacinta Laginha, 15, said an interest in geology inspired her to sign up for the camp.

“I’m interested to learn more about the mining industry as a whole because I’m pretty clueless about it, but I’m interested in geology, I really like that so I’m going to probably look into that and see if there are career opportunities in this industry,” she said.

While just 15 per cent of WASM’s current cohort are female, John Curtin student Natasha Savery, 15, said it would not deter her from considering a role in the sector.

“It doesn’t deter me, it makes me want to be in it more, because it helps more women get into the industry,” she said.

“Women are put off the science and the math and are told English, or your houses, are more important, you’re always pushed to be a teacher or a nursery worker. No one ever pushes you to be a miner.”

Perth Modern’s Hasti Bahar, 16, said she thought taking STEM courses in Years 11 and 12 would set her up better for employment in the long-term.

“It’s something that, although it’s constantly changing, if you have that background knowledge you can go wherever you want,” she said.

One of their chaperones, Gold Fields Agnew gold mine safety and training co-ordinator Annette Bain, was a pioneer for women in the gold sector and has been employed in resources for about 25 years.

Originally from Kalgoorlie-Boulder, she said she was proud to promote the sector to young women, having been the only woman on her site when she began driving dump trucks aged 18 at the Patricia gold mine north-east of town.

“It’s great because my brother was a fitter and I really just thought there wasn’t much stuff girls could do, and it wasn’t until I started getting in there that I knew I could do it,” she said.