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Mad Mumzie – Australian Mining’s Podcast Queen

Who is Mad Mumzie? She’s become a household name for many in the mining industry as a source of guidance for people looking to get involved. Through her podcast, Beers With a Miner, Facebook page, blog posts and articles for Shift Miner Magazine, Leanne Drew is on a mission to share experiences of working in Australia’s mines. We sat down with Leanne to ask some questions about the story behind ‘Mad Mumzie’. 

23/07/2019

What’s the best advice you’ve been given or could give about starting in mining?

  • Don’t take everything personally. That was huge for me at the start, being an emotional creature.
  • Listen. Listen to everybody when you first start and take a little bit from all of them. You end up blending it all into your own style because you’ll be trained by different people in different ways. My advice is, don’t say “Simon said I shouldn’t do it like that.” Say, “one person told me this way, you’re telling me that way, which ways right?” 
  • Try not to get involved in gossip. When I first started my Mum said, “you think women gossip, wait till you get out to the mines!” A word of warning for women, if you go for a beer with someone you’ll probably be sleeping with them and pregnant by the next day!
  • Stay true to yourself. Honor your own values and you can still be yourself.

What led you to getting involved with mining in the first place?

My Mum and my Sister have been in mining forever, my sister started on her eighteenth birthday and has been there ever since. I was living at home and bringing up little kids so I couldn’t get into the mining game at first but then after twenty-two years my relationship ended suddenly.  What happens to most broken people? You head home to Mum. They’d been in Western Australia but were living in Orange (NSW) at the time, working in a gold mine and it just so happened they were hiring new people.

They were going from a three-panel to a four-panel roster, so they needed basically enough numbers for a whole crew. I came in at the end of the intake, there was me and only one other girl on the crew, with sixty guys. At first, I was very broken and I struggled really bad. Not just with my own emotions but being away from my kids who were back on the Sunshine Coast.

Back then people got away with saying so much more to you on the radio than they’re allowed to now. Yelling at you, swearing at you, being sarcastic, using the f-word all the time on the two-way. I didn’t realise at that time that a lot of it you don’t take personally, the mining industry it’s just how it is, everyone’s taking the piss out of each other. I took it as a personal assault and as I said I was already broken, but I didn’t quit.

With the work, I wasn’t getting it either, I wasn’t any good. People say driving a dump truck is a no brainer but it’s not. You’ve got to get in the exact right spot, you’ve got cranky dozer drivers up on the dump yelling at you and I was just crying all the time. Eventually I got through that and it started to click but I was missing my kids and it was too bloody cold, I saw snow for the first time and I got pneumonia in February so I thought, “I’m going back to Queensland”.

I’d been there for nine months and I remember that cranky dozer driver wouldn’t talk to me because all that time and effort that they’d put into me, I was finally starting to get it, and the feeling was, “now you’re gonna piss off on us”. He was seriously mad at me and said don’t bother don’t talking to me. No one had told me that I was starting to get it.

I came back to Queensland because apparently they were screaming out for Truckies up here but they wanted twelve months experience and I’d only had nine. I’d also only driven one sort of truck and I’d never been under diggers, only hydraulic shovels.

Long story short I eventually got a start out at Ernest Henry and they loved me because I’d at least driven a truck before. They were hiring lots of bar maids and lots of young people out there then, so new people were training new people. They liked that I actually had some experience and I liked that they thought I could actually drive and that they weren’t allowed to yell at you! I did three months and then I left because I got a permanent start at another mine inland from Mackay, so I moved there.

At what point did you begin helping other miners enter the industry?

Whenever I used to go back and visit the kids on the Coast and my friends, it was always, “you must be rich, how do I get a job doing that?” You just start telling the same story to the same people. I was writing these long Facebook messages answering questions. People thought there was one phone number, “who do I ring to get a job in the mines?”

I was thinking, “How do you know mining’s for you?” People see the money and the time-off but they don’t see all the other things around it. Being away from home, dealing with angry people on a regular basis, obviously it’s life and death as you’ve seen in Queensland this last year, you have to be drug free, you might miss the footy, who’s gonna look after the dog? The garden? Are you gonna drive, are you gonna fly?

I started writing it all down and I ended up turning it into a free online course using the teachable platform called mining.teachable.com. Most of the courses are free, however you can pay a whole $7 if you want to listen to the full audio version of the course. I would write down my experiences of all these questions and as I was typing it got longer and longer as I remembered other things from different sites, because I’ve worked on four different mine sites.

Someone suggested that I contact Shift Miner Magazine, as a couple of the women at work said there’s not one bloody thing in here written by or about women. I got brave and sent an email to the editor, he said, “send me through a few articles” and I’ve been writing for them ever since. That was before the podcast and I guess it’s what gave me my confidence, as I had a small piece included in each edition throughout the year.

From there I decided I still needed to go deeper, so I’d write a blog article that was an in-depth version. At this point I thought I’m a talker, as you can tell, so I might start recording the blogs and put them out as an audio blog. I started to love the whole process of setting up the website and the technology side of it, so I thought why not? I started it two and half years ago now and I’m trying to be as regular as I can. In fact, I was selected as a finalist in the 2018 Australian Podcast Awards for the Industry and Careers category which was a proud moment.

What’s been the impact on you?

As it’s gone on I became more proud of what Mad Mumzie was doing. You’ll see my brand is a cartoon character, it’s a lady with two plaits and a pink hard hat on. That’s what I used to wear to work. For a while I hid behind the brand but then I interviewed my Mum because of her mining story and she kept calling me Leanne so I thought okay I guess it’s out now, so I’ve just owned it since then.

People have told me it’s really hard to get people to talk about what it’s like out there, it’s like this big secret. They’ve thanked me for opening up and sharing what it’s like because it seems like this secret community, so I guess that’s where people are resonating with me.

I tell it as it is, my podcast is called Beers With a Miner because we actually have a beer, you can have scotch or you can have a cup of tea. That’s part of the industry, we swear, its explicit and that’s tip number one for mining – if you can’t handle the F word, don’t go. You’ll get eaten alive and you won’t like it.

What’s next on the horizon for you?

I’ve got a new collaboration just starting to launch with my sister, Dionne Drew, who’s known as the Hard Hat Mentor. She’s well known as a leadership coach in mining, oil and gas. Working with mining companies to support their leaders in reaching their maximum potential combining a strong psychological focus with technical aspects.

After the mining deaths this year, we’ve started Steel Cap Sisters and it’ll be a base for all of our work. Our biggest thing is promoting #1minuteforourlostminers, the idea is that at pre-start, if there’s been a death in the mines, you do one minute of silence for that person or people. Just yesterday I had another person say the recent death wasn’t even mentioned at their pre-start, it’s like the big freaking elephant in the room. Everyone knows someone has died, we know we can’t talk about the why and question if our procedures are up to scratch but at least acknowledge it.

Shit happens, shit can and does happen in the mine. We have a minute silence when someone dies at a footy match, why can’t we do it when someone dies at work? It’s the people at the prestart, the operators, the fitters, they’re the ones that are dying and getting hurt, not the ones in the office.

Please encourage your crew at the next pre-start to partake in #1minuteforourlostminers

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