Building a business is Sara’s focus

Sara Bergmann is only 21 but she has a very clear career goal. She wants to be the CEO of her own company.

"I don't know what kind of company it will be," laughs Sara, "but I know for sure it would involve empowering Indigenous people and providing economic opportunities for them."

Sara, a Nyikina and Nyul Nyul woman from the Kimberley in the north of Western Australia, believes her community can best secure its future through being business smart and savvy.

Graduates Sara, Jamela and Rhianna reflect on their experiences with Rio Tinto's scholarships and internships

The scholarship started me on a path. It enabled me to get out of university and into an environment where I wasn't distracted by people who didn't have the same focus as me

Sara Bergmann, Rio Tinto Graduate Programme

"The only way for us to move forward as a culture and as a race is through empowerment, to actively participate in the economy through creating job pathways," says Sara.

Sara is part of a new generation of young Aboriginal Australians whose leadership ambitions are being fostered through Rio Tinto scholarships and internships.

Rio Tinto's Iron Ore Scholarship Programme helped Sara complete a Bachelor of Commerce degree enabling her to reduce the demands of part-time work and focus on her studies.

Just as importantly, the scholarship took her out of the classroom and into the real world of work, where she began to forge vital connections and could see how a business of Rio Tinto's scale operates.

"The scholarship started me on a path. It enabled me to get out of university and into an environment where I wasn't distracted by people who didn't have the same focus as me," says Sara.

When Sara was offered a place in the Rio Tinto Graduate Programme she was heavily involved in extra-curricular activities. Most notably, managing a not-for-profit organisation that was running an event that attracted thousands of people.

"I was pretty busy at the time. But the Rio Tinto Graduate Programme was too great an opportunity to pass up," says Sara, who is well on the way to developing the skills to run her own business and with Rio Tinto's help, getting a clearer idea of what that company might be.

Rhinna, Sara and Jamela Rhinna, Sara and Jamela
Meet the next generation of Indigenous leaders: Rhianna, Sara and Jamela

Networking is the key for Jamela

Twenty-two year old Jamela King is on a mission to find out what she wants to be "when she grows up."

Jamela is only joking, of course. The Karajari woman from the Kimberley is well down her own leadership path and achieved plenty so far.

With a Bachelor of Science degree and double major in psychology in her back pocket, Jamela is in the final year of a two-year graduate programme with Rio Tinto's Iron Ore group based in Perth.

"Rio Tinto's Indigenous Cadetship Programme meant I could spend more time focusing on my studies and achieving good grades," says Jamela.

It wasn't just the financial support that Jamela appreciated. The Indigenous Cadetship gave her an insight into Rio Tinto's diverse activities and a variety of possible career paths.

"It's given me an opportunity to meet people across the company, to make contacts, to build a network. Having those relationships will be helpful with anything I choose to do in the future," says Jamela.

The Indigenous Cadetship Programme paved the way for Jamela to join the Graduate Programme and translate the skills she learned at university to the workplace.

Her work sees her visit mine sites across the Pilbara and helps maintain strong relationships with Aboriginal communities. This is something she is particularly passionate about and can see herself continuing throughout her career.

"The Graduate Programme has exposed me to so many aspects of Rio Tinto. I'm meeting people and learning about their roles. When I'm finished I'm sure I'll have a clearer idea of what I want to be when I grow up," she laughs.

Heritage and history are all-important for Rhianna

Rhianna Couzens has history, knowledge and passion on her side.

With a double major in Anthropology and Indigenous Knowledge, History and Heritage from the University of Western Australia and a Master of Cultural Heritage, Rhianna blends her academic insights with local know-how.

Rio Tinto Cadetship Programme - Rhianna

However, the 27-year-old Nhanda woman from the mid-north of Western Australia believes that education is the key for Aboriginal progress and empowerment.

"Being Aboriginal, I'm passionate about making a positive impact. Getting up every day to go to work, it has to be for something I really enjoy," says Rhianna, who plans to work in Indigenous education.

"I think my journey on the Rio Tinto Cadetship Programme shows other kids they can do it too," she says.


Main image: Sara Bergmann, part of our Rio Tinto Graduate Programme