VIDEO: Pilbara mining trainees doing it tough (ABC News)
AUDIO: Mining companies under fire in Pilbara (PM)
Accusations are being levelled at Fortescue Metals that the company is failing its Indigenous trainees after some of them have had to sleep rough because of a lack of accommodation.
For the last few years the biggest shareholder in the mining company, Andrew Forrest, has been at the forefront of a push for Aboriginal jobs.
He met the Government in 2008 to set a joint target of 50,000 new Aboriginal jobs.
But many Indigenous Australians in the minerals boom rush to the Pilbara region in Western Australia are finding the reality a come-down.
They have found it hard to find anywhere to live and wages are not what they were expecting.
Fortescue Metals set up a vocational training centre on the outskirts of Port Hedland at the Pundulmurra TAFE campus which the ABC visited.
The ABC has been told those who wanted to return home to eastern states could not get back and that they were paid just $50 a day.
One of the ABC’s sources agreed to an interview on the condition of anonymity.
“The issues are trainees staying on training wages for two years or more,” the source said.
“They are not being up-skilled and their basic human rights are being abused in ways that I think need to be highlighted.”
The source says trainees have complained about a lack of accommodation and lack of funds to fly home.
“They don’t have the financial capacity to fly out. They haven’t been given return flights to their home and the community is now starting to try and raise them funds,” he said.
The ABC has spoken to many people making similar accusations.
Rodney Monaghan, who is part owner of Aboriginal training and employment agency Indigenous Training Australia, alleges some of the trainees are not doing the jobs they have been trained for.
“I’ve seen it within my own family. A lot of people have been trained to drive machinery and are sweeping up and using water sprays [in] their job – not what they’re trained to do,” he said.
“This disheartens all of the young people and they usually take off and work for somebody else. Hoping to get a better job.”
He says he believes the problems are wide-spread and there is no mentoring system.
Mr Monaghan’s business partner, Chris Stacey, has visited mine sites and agrees.
“For example we had this one bloke in particular … he was on a hose, just hosing under these conveyer belts,” he said.
“He went to be operating machinery, he was meant to be operating loaders and graders but it was non existent. And this is the case for the majority.”
Fortescue Metals representatives declined to be interviewed but a spokeswoman issued a statement.
The company says all of the trainees are adults and that they were fully aware of accommodation issues before they came to the Pilbara.
The statement says the trainees were told they would need to make their own travel arrangements and that most training courses pay no wages at all.
It also said any suggestion Fortescue Metals had a duty of care to the trainees was baseless.