RIO TINTO’S global head of equity, inclusion and diversity has won the Exceptional Women in Queensland Resources award at the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) and Women in Mining and Resources Queensland (WIMARQ) annual International Women’s Day breakfast.

Melanie Cooper, who has been instrumental in the establishment of Rio Tinto’s Everyday Respect Taskforce, receives an AIM scholarship sponsored by Anglo American valued at up to $10,000.

Cooper, based in Brisbane, has had a 30-year career in the mining sector and has qualifications in science, business, career counselling and education.

The taskforce she helped create has prompted significant cultural reform across Rio Tinto’s global operation and led changes to make the industry safer and more inclusive.

Melanie Cooper, Exceptional Women in Queensland Resources award winner, with Matt Cooper from sponsor Anglo American. IMAGE: Country Caller

“It’s so great to feel the buzz in the room today and be part of a really exciting change, which I’m hoping will be a change that’s actually hard for my grandchildren to imagine,” Cooper said.

“I was hesitant when first nominated and I grappled with the fairness of an individual award when so much of what I do is the result of such an amazing ecosystem of support.

“I could not have done any of the work I have done over my career alone, but I am also really grateful for the acknowledgement of the people that I’ve guided and supported along the way.”

QRC and WIMARK International Women’s Day breakfast

Cooper was among a raft of award winners at the QRC’s and WIMARQ’s International Women’s Day function, held at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre and attended by more than 1,050 guests from across the state’s $94.6 billion mining industry.

The event celebrated individual achievements as well as gender equality across the industry broadly, including an increase in the female workforces to 22 percent, up from almost 20 percent last year.

Other winners included Exceptional Young Woman in Queensland Resources Daisy Ambach, senior project engineer with Glencore in Mt Isa, and Exceptional Tradeswoman/Technician/Operator Jacqueline Kelly, maintenance supervisor at Shell QGC in Chinchilla.

Sally Raynor, co-chair of Women in Mining and Resources Queensland (WIMARQ). IMAGE: Country Caller

Queensland Resources Council (QRC) Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane said the industry’s efforts to recruit and retain more female employees were paying off. 

“The QRC’s latest gender diversity data for 2021-22 shows women are seizing the opportunity to work in the mining and energy sector with both hands,” he said. 

“At a time when every industry in Australia is competing for skilled workers, initiatives to make our sector more flexible, diverse and inclusive are opening new doors for women to join or remain in our workforce. 

ABS figures show mine employees earn the highest average annual income in Australia, coming in at $130,000, so it’s great to see more women benefiting from the financial security offered by these well-paid and rewarding jobs.”  

Keynote speaker Fabian Dattner, CEO Dattner Group. IMAGE: Country Caller

The QRC report shows there has been a 10 per cent jump in the number of women working in non-traditional roles in the resources sector over the past financial year.  

The report also reveals an 18 percent increase in the number of women now working for mining and energy companies in trade roles. 

Mr Macfarlane said the percentage of women employed in trade positions had risen by more than 450 per cent over the past seven years, demonstrating women are interested in hands-on trade careers when given the opportunity.

SLIDESHOW – QRC and WIMARK International Women’s Day award winners
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