Salt of the Earth

A cross-country move has revealed unexpected leadership opportunities.

Last updated: 14 February 2024


Sebastian – a proud Yupungathi man – was one of the first participants in our Indigenous Leadership Program (ILP) in 2021. A diesel fitter by trade, he’s worked in many specialist and leadership roles at Weipa in Queensland, Australia over the past 14 years. Now, he’s putting his leadership skills to the test with a cross-country move to the Pilbara region of Western Australia, tackling a new challenge as Production Superintendent for Dampier Salt Limited.

I didn’t know the first thing about salt before I came here.

I always thought I’d have a long career working in rail. I’d previously worked at Weipa for 14 years, mostly in rail and port operations. So landing in a new team, on a new site on the other side of the country, mining a product that’s completely new to me, was always going to be a challenge.

In this role, I’m basically responsible for everything from when we harvest the salt to when we load it onto the vessel. All the processes and procedures are brand new to me. But I think that's also the thing that I enjoy about it the most.

To be honest, if I’d seen this job come up a few years ago, I don’t think I’d have applied for it – I may not have had the confidence to put myself forward for things like this. But the Indigenous Leadership Program was a life-changing experience, personally and professionally.

I was one of the first to apply for the program when it started. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and because we were the first cohort, nothing was really mapped out for us. But that also gave us a lot of freedom to work with our mentors and shape how we wanted to develop with their guidance.

It honestly surpassed everything I could have hoped for. At the start it was a steep learning curve – I was given a large rail team to manage, and my leaders gave me the space to really sink my teeth in and make my own decisions, but they were still always there to guide and coach me along the way. It was such a great, hands-on way to build my abilities as a leader.

I was lucky enough to have some incredible mentors. Not only were they there for the formal program meetings, but they'd also check in casually every day to see how I was going, actively refer me to other managers to build my profile as an up-and-coming leader and advise me to think outside the box – like suggesting that I should visit sites in other regions to see different approaches. They also encouraged me to start my Graduate Certificate in Minerals and Energy Management at the University of Western Australia, as an entry pathway to a Master of Business Administration. Without their guidance, I don’t think I’d have even known opportunities like these were out there.

Sebastian is putting his leadership skills to the test in a new role at Dampier Salt Limited in Port Hedland, Western Australia.

The ILP has definitely opened doors for me. It’s led to some amazing places, which for now have brought me right here to Port Hedland. My wife, four children and I uprooted our lives in Weipa and are making a new home here for now. And I don't regret it for a second. I absolutely love working here. The family is thriving – my eldest daughter was elected school captain after just 6 weeks at her new school, and we’re all enjoying living in a bigger town and being so close to the beautiful beaches here. The people I work with are amazing too. And the work is so satisfying. I love that I get to solve problems here that really mean something to me.

I'm already thinking about what's next. That's probably the key benefit of the program for me – it really changed how I think about things. The sky's the limit now.

I think a lot of Indigenous people either don’t know what’s out there, or don’t have the confidence to put themselves forward for programs like this. But if I could give any advice based on my experience, it would be to always put your hat in the ring and get involved, because the only way you’ll fail is if you don’t try in the first place.

You don’t know what you don’t know. So why not give it a go?

Dampier Salt operations
Dampier Salt operations

About the Indigenous Leadership Program

The Indigenous Leadership Program supports our Indigenous employees to accelerate their transition to roles within our business and bridge any development gaps. People who are either leading teams or pursuing a more technical discipline can apply, and each participant is paired with mentors and a development program that is tailored to suit their specific career aspirations. The program can also include access to one of our university partnerships to help employees secure qualifications and develop core business and leadership skills.

Related content


From hospitality to hauling

Since moving from Japan to the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia, Mari’s had a fascinating career trajectory – changing gears from hospitality to driving huge mining trucks and excavators.
Closure banner

An agent for change

Advocating for change from within the mining industry
Two way mentoring banner

Shared connections create cultural understanding

Increasing Indigenous knowledge-sharing through 2-way Mentoring program