Accessibility is no obstacle for Jen

Lady using an all-wheel drive wheelchair

For Simon Dent, former Superintendent Production – Materials, the challenges around securing the right person for the job was the perfect chance for him to show South32 can walk the talk on Diversity and Inclusion.

Jennifer Ten Broeke started at Worsley earlier this month as a Supervisor Fixed Plant OBC and her 18 years of experience in maintenance and production supervisory roles at mines across Australia, placed her as the top candidate in the recruitment process.

Jenny said the day before her interview she felt she needed to disclose to Simon that she was in a wheelchair.  Simon’s response was “why would that make a difference to your application”, and that was the beginning of a long challenging journey that finally saw Jenny return to an industry she had considered leaving because of negative perceptions around her mobility.

In 2004, Jenny was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and after a medication change a couple of years ago, Jenny was forced into a wheelchair because of muscle degeneration in her legs.  The type of MS Jenny has is called remitting and means her positive attitude and determination, along with tweaks to her medication, she may regain mobility and be able to walk again.

If Jenny’s face is familiar, it may be because she is not new to the South32 family.  She started work at Cannington (under BHP Billiton) nearly 20 years ago and has moved across the top of Australia working at Tanami in the Northern Territory and Tom Price in the Pilbara, before heading south to Worsley.

“There have definitely been some challenges around finally commencing my employment,” Jenny said.  Simon has been incredible and worked so hard with Forrest Personnel and Job Access to help provide this opportunity.

“It’s those really simple and hardly obvious things to get on site that South32 worked on to make access easier.  Like the width of the gate meant I couldn’t fit my chair through the turnstile, so we’ve worked out vehicle access to get to Raw Materials.  Some ramps have been added, modifications made to toilet facilities and automatic doors installed to allow me to do my job,” Jenny said.

Forrest Personnel and Simon worked together to help fund an All-Wheel Drive wheelchair which will enable Jenny to not only get around the office but also out in the field.

Simon said the logistics are nearly complete and the “cool stuff” around using technology to help Jenny fulfil some of her job requirements can now kick in.  “We have a fantastic innovation and technology team here at Worsley and I know they will help out with drones, cameras and other tech inventions to allow Jen to inspect the OBC.”

Jenny said that the mining industry can be a “throw away” industry at times and if you don’t fit into the right mould, you are quickly put on the scrap heap and not considered the right person for the job, despite your experience.