7 December, 2020
Indigenous leader's rise through the ranks recognised
Brad Welsh, Rio Tinto’s first Indigenous general manager of operations, was last week named Exceptional Indigenous Person by the Queensland Resources Council.
By MATT NICHOLLS
The former acting GM of Rio Tinto Weipa, Mr Welsh is now the chief advisor to the Rio Tinto CEO on Indigenous affairs.
“Brad’s is an amazing story of achievement and the resources sector is very proud and fortunate to have him within our ranks,” QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said last week.
“Our Indigenous Awards enable us to highlight exceptional Indigenous people such as Brad who is a valuable role model to young Indigenous people.
“It’s been a long journey for Brad, a NSW Muruwari man, who was born and grew up in the Aboriginal community of Redfern.
“Starting his working life as a community worker in NSW, Brad worked in the Prime Minister’s office followed by a stint in the offices of the NSW Premier, where his interest in mining and its social and economic benefits to regional communities was piqued.
“In 2011, Brad started his mining career with Rio Tinto at Northparkes, and he hasn’t looked back since.”
Over the past seven years Mr Welsh has held several senior roles in Weipa.
“Curiosity has driven me my whole career; trying to understand how things work,” Mr Welsh said.
“I was that kid who asked those annoying questions.”
MR Welsh will split his time between Weipa and Perth in 2021.
“This will allow my daughter to finish year 12 at the Western Cape College which we are very happy about,” he said.
“We love Weipa and the Western Cape and it will always hold a special place for our family.”
Mr Welsh said the role was a newly created position to support the business in rebuilding our relationship with Traditional Owners, primarily in the Pilbara.
“This is a priority for Rio
Tinto from the board down, right throughout the organisation,” he said last week.
“It supports the rebuilding of our internal systems required to ensure something like Juukan never occurs again.
“Some of the work I feel really positive about is overseeing our $50 million commitment to lifting Indigenous leadership all across our company.
“This has the potential to support the best and brightest Indigenous talent all across the country to consider a career at Rio Tinto growing the business skills required to make a real difference in Indigenous communities all over the country.
“We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the talent to perform roles all over the company.
“This program is designed to build the environment for success at growing the skills internally along with attracting skills externally to make our business stronger going forward.”
SEVEN years of progression through the ranks in Weipa helped shape Mr Welsh’s career and mould him into a leader for the mining company.
“The Cape is a special place. I got the opportunity to learn from Traditional Owners about the rich and diverse cultural landscape across the Cape as well as our many operators and maintainers who have spent decades running and improving the Weipa business,” he said.
“I was fortunate enough to have played a role in the development and execution of the Amrun project which is a mine that was developed in partnership with Traditional Owners to respect the cultural landscape, as well as support Weipa and the Western Cape communities for another 40 years.
“While we never had a plan to stay so long in Weipa I will always be proud to have played a part in the important work that takes place in this region.
“Finally, I also learnt that Weipa is a place where you have the opportunity to branch out and grow your skills in the business.
“I was able to successfully move from a community relations position into operational roles and then perform the role of general manager of operations.
“This would never have happened without the support of my colleagues and leaders who showed a real commitment to my development. I will always be grateful for this.
“You can never do these roles alone, so I am enormously thankful to everyone that helped during my time at Weipa operations.”
RECHARTING the relationship between Rio Tinto and Traditional Owners is what Mr Welsh is most looking forward to in his new role.
“I also feel positive about our efforts to develop Indigenous leaders in the corporate sector,” he said.
“Rio Tinto was the first mining company to recognise Native Title and built significant, positive engagement from this with Indigenous communities.
“Today, while we have a long road to travel to rebuild trust with Indigenous partners, I am confident that with time and genuine commitment we can again be a force for good for future generations of Indigenous people.
“There are very few times in your career you get the opportunity to make significant change in such a large company.
“I still believe strongly in our company and I, along with many others, are determined to helping improve the business so that host communities welcome Rio Tinto partnerships.”