Holding the door open

Respect and inclusion are values we can’t take for granted

Last updated: 7 December 2023


After an early career in Sydney’s retail and banking sectors, Hayden wasn’t sure what to expect in 2018 when he took a role with Rio Tinto travelling around the vast, remo­te Pilbara region in Western Australia. Now a Senior Advisor Rhodes Ridge Joint Venture, Hayden reflects on how being able to bring his whole self to work has influenced his career and experiences.

I was looking for a career change, and my dad told me he’d seen job opportunities with Rio Tinto in Paraburdoo, across the country in Western Australia.

I wasn’t exactly convinced at first. I googled Paraburdoo and learned it had a population of 1,600, the coast was 5 hours away and the town had one supermarket and a pub! But my dad sold it to me that I could make a career for myself there.

I remember my first day – I had no idea what I was walking into. I don't think Paraburdoo was expecting a 6 ft 3 male with a face full of makeup to get off the plane. It was a culture shock for me, and I think a culture shock for Paraburdoo too!

It wasn't easy in in the beginning; people take a while to go through that change cycle. There was a perception that I was succeeding because I was a minority, and it looked good for the business to promote me or give me opportunities, not because I worked hard and had merit. It took persistence to shift that mentality, and be seen not as “Hayden, the gay person”, but as “Hayden, the person who's passionate about his job and his career”.

But after a year or two, I felt like I’d made some huge improvements on the site, as well as some great friends – people who I probably would never have been friends with before. My first On Job Trainer, Lara, took me under her wing. She was a voice for me on site when I often felt I didn’t have one for myself. Her support and guidance led me to feel like I could bring my whole self to work, and without that, I wouldn’t have progressed to where I am today.

During my time here, I’ve witnessed incredible cultural change. I’ve started to see a different Rio Tinto following the Everyday Respect report. I know we have a long way to go, but it’s good to see the steps in the right direction.

I truly feel valued, which has enabled me to bring my whole self to work. I’ve also led the LGBTQ+ Mentoring Program and Thrive Ambassador program for our Thrive network – a visible network of LGBTQ+ staff and allies. I’m really proud they’ve become global programs. I’ve also been part of a project to paint rainbow-coloured trucks and equipment on iron-ore sites – highly visible signs of inclusion, which was lacking when I entered the business. I’m grateful to have played a part in the change underway, and for the genuine support I’ve received from our employees, contractors and business partners. A true sign of allyship!

For the future, I just want the opportunity to continue being myself at work, and to continue growing, developing, and building a successful career. I’m forever grateful for those who came before me to make these opportunities possible, and I’ll continue to work hard to open doors in this business for the LGBTQ+ community who will join after me.

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