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Interview: Brendan Hughes

Leonie:

All right, up and running. Can you still hear me okay, Brendan?

Brendan:

Yeah, I can.

Leonie:

Yeah. Great. Okay. First of all, I just would like to say congratulations for your recent Diploma of Work Health and Safety, Leadership and Management, and Quality Auditing.

Brendan:

No worries at all. Thank you.

Leonie:

[crosstalk 00:00:22] a great range of qualifications. Thank you so much, also, for the really kind feedback you sent to John. He shared it with the team today, and it’s really nice to hear those really nice things back from graduates, so thank you so much for taking the time.

Brendan:

Oh no, you’re welcome. I think it’s very important to do that. I’ve dealt with John… I’m not sure if I’ve got the date right. I think it was 2011 that I first started engaging with Churchill, so I hope I got that right, but it’s been a while and, look, it’s just been professional from day one.

Leonie:

Yeah. That’s great.

Brendan:

I work inside the mining industry, so I spend three weeks out of every four away from home, sort of stuff, in the outback of Western Australia, so it just makes it a hell of a lot convenient. He’s been professional since day one, so it’s been good.

Leonie:

Yeah. Where do you live with your family, Brendan?

Brendan:

Yeah. I’m in Perth, Western Australia, and I fly to the goldfields. I work in a goldmine. I’m a safety advisor in a goldmine.

Leonie:

Right. Okay. Wow, interesting. I don’t think I’ve spoken to someone working in a goldmine.

Brendan:

Oh, okay. Oh, rightio.

Leonie:

Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative). All right. Before we get into gold, can you just tell me a bit about your career history, Brendan, what’s brought you up to where you are now, how you knew about Churchill, and particularly considering that you first got in touch nine years ago? If you want to just give me a little bit of a career summary, and then tell me about first touching base with Churchill and then coming back now.

Brendan:

Yeah. I knew you were going to ask that question. My formative years from about age 19 to about 35, I spent in the Australian Regular Army. I served inside the infantry. That was my career path. Of course, I guess, joining as a 20-year-old bachelor and coming out the other side married with two kids, your priorities change, so my wife said, “That’s enough.” I got out in about 2006, I think it was. [inaudible 00:02:41] things. Got out of there. I went straight into the mining industry, actually, in a training capacity. I came out with a few qualifications, but when I got out the National Accreditation Scheme was still in its infancy as far as lining up the accreditations that I had with inside the military, if that makes sense. So I got a couple of things lined up there.

Brendan:

Look, to your question, I’ve really been in the industry ever since then. So, last 15 years, I’ve been in the mining industry, working on offshore oil and gas, the iron ore industry, and I’ve been with this company, which is MACA Ltd., for the last two years, specifically in goldmines. To be honest with you, I cannot remember who recommended me for Churchill’s, but I remember there was a military link there.

Leonie:

Yeah. Churchill has always had quite a strong military link, actually, so maybe it was just word of mouth when you were transitioning.

Brendan:

Quite possibly. I honestly [inaudible 00:03:58] and I was trying to think who it was, but it’s just too long ago. But it definitely would’ve been the military link. Anyway, so I contacted Churchill, and I’m pretty sure John handled me from the very get-go.

Leonie:

Yeah, I was going to say. Because he’s been with Churchill for such a long time, you probably did deal with John back then as well.

Brendan:

Yeah. I was working on an oil-and-gas project then, and I just basically said, “What can you offer? What do you need?” type thing, and it was just smooth from there. I was in a management position there and I had Certificate IV-level qualifications. I wanted to boost them up to enhance my career, and then really started the process from there.

Brendan:

Again, forgive me for my memory. I think my first one was a Diploma in… I think it was management back then. That rings a bell because there was a transition period there where everything I had from the military was leadership based. It was just that wording. Upskilling a few other qualifications there, and stayed in touch that way. I was really happy with that, and, of course, those qualifications, along with my actual experience, it really just quantified the [inaudible 00:05:12] that I already had, really. That’s what it does on paper, of course, with the [inaudible 00:05:14].

Leonie:

Exactly. Exactly. You’ve got the skills, but it just explains them to other employers, doesn’t it? It creates transferability. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brendan:

Exactly. Look, at 50 years of age, you know what I mean, sitting down and going through courses and all that sort of stuff when I’m doing this as my bread and butter… They really clear as far as, “Look, can you send us evidence of this, et cetera, et cetera?” All that is just so smooth, sent it to them, and they’re just constantly staying in touch.

Brendan:

Actually, it was interesting. I got… I think it was one email there from John almost apologizing, saying, “Am I coming across too overbearing?” and he wasn’t, actually.

Leonie:

Ah, okay.

Brendan:

It was a problem with me because I fly in and fly out, and I get caught in communication delays and all that sort of stuff. So, no, they’ve just been professional from day one.

Leonie:

Oh, that’s great. So, back in 2011, what was your reason for seeking Recognition of Prior Learning at that point in time?

Brendan:

Yeah, just to upskill, looking for career progression, and I needed the paperwork to back my skillsets. They were able to provide clarity for that, I guess, would be the best use of… I guess, yeah.

Leonie:

Yeah, sure. Sorry, tell me: 2006 you transitioned, didn’t you from defense?

Brendan:

Yeah, I think it was 2006. [Inaudible 00:06:47].

Leonie:

So, once you got your first round of qualifications, did you use those to step into a different position?

Brendan:

Yeah, definitely. It certainly helped. From there, I transitioned from… Where did I go from there? Even though they’re mining industry, I stepped from oil and gas into open-pit mining, so definitely those qualifications helped. Without a doubt.

Leonie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Great. So, now, with your second lot of Recognition of Prior Learning, is it the same thing? Is it just sort of preparing for any opportunities in the future?

Brendan:

Well, it’s funny. In the last 48 hours, definitely these qualifications help me, but I’ve just actually got my promotion to superintendent and now I’m going to get a… I’ve been an advisor, which is part of a safety team, and I’ve just been given a promotion to superintendent, so now I’m going to fly to another site and I’ll actually run that team now. That’s very much on the back of these qualifications; the recognition I get from [inaudible 00:07:55].

Leonie:

Congratulations, Brendon. That’s fantastic news for you.

Brendan:

[inaudible 00:00:07:59]. Thank you.

Leonie:

Aw. That’s awesome.

Brendan:

Definitely. It just quantifies the whole process, I guess.

Leonie:

Yeah. Okay. What will that mean? Bit of an increase in income?

Brendan:

Oh, definitely.

Leonie:

Will it mean different hours? Anything else?

Brendan:

No, no. Definitely an increasing in income, but more leadership and management responsibility. I’ll be responsible for the safety and welfare of a goldmine that has 200 people; that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Leonie:

Oh, wow.

Brendan:

Yeah. In fact, you’ve actually got me at a good time. I’m at corporate quarters right now, for the last couple of days. They brought me in to give me that promotion and work out all the details. So I’m heading back on Thursday for three weeks, and I’ll be getting that project up and running.

Leonie:

Oh, perfect. So, tell me a bit about working in a goldmine.

Brendan:

Well, I guess where I really start with people from the outside, it’s FIFO work. That stands for fly-in fly-out, and that’s pretty much half the WA workforce over here. I work a roster of two weeks on, one week off, and I fly to sites about an hour and a half or so in the plane and get to site. It’s completely self-contained villages in the middle of basically nowhere; completely self-supported. Then, for me, it’s about ensuring safety compliance based on Department of Mines rules and regulations, if you will, and then ensuring that compliance, both to our own company standards as well, is applied inside the actual work area itself and ensuring that people meet that standard.

Leonie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Can you give us any insider trading? Are you about to hit a big mother load or anything exciting like that?

Brendan:

Oh, no. These are all very much established goldmines. They’ve been [inaudible 00:10:06] for a number of years. What they do, they quite often rotate people around, and it’s a pretty dynamic industry anyway. But the mine site I was on was sort of, I guess, slowing down a little bit and they were [inaudible 00:10:24], and the one I’m going to is ramping up, basically.

Leonie:

Okay. Does the organization that you work for have a number of mine sites?

Brendan:

We’re a contractor, so we actually run the sites for the owners.

Leonie:

Oh, right.

Brendan:

Yes.

Leonie:

Okay.

Brendan:

Yep.

Leonie:

Gotcha.

Brendan:

We provide all the personnel, all the management, that sort of stuff, and we work in conjunction with the client. The client own it, and we run it for them.

Leonie:

Right. Okay. Tell me a little bit about FIFO work and balancing with family life.

Brendan:

Yeah. Again, I’ve been doing it for 15 years. I’ve worked overseas as well in Laos. For me, I’m probably a little bit more, I guess, unique in the fact that I actually got out of the military because I was spending too much time away, and then I went straight to an organization [inaudible 00:11:21].

Brendan:

Oh, look, from a personal standpoint, I guess in the early days when my kids were little, it’s pretty tough, but my girls are grown now even though they still live at home. But they’ve got their own lot now. It’s so natural for us now. My wife’s also a full-time professional as well, so she has her career and life, and it actually works well. If I’m home any longer than a week, they can’t wait to see the back of me, really. But look, at the end of the day, on a serious note, if we look at, especially now with COVID and all that sort of stuff, what’s happening around Australia, we haven’t skipped a beat here.

Leonie:

Yeah, that’s so good. There are definitely a lot of pros to working in the mining industry and, I know, also a lot of pros to fly-in fly-out work. Everything has two sides.

Brendan:

Exactly.

Leonie:

Yeah.

Brendan:

Yeah. Look, we have an incredible amount of empathy at the moment for what’s happening out there in Australia. We know that, going by the PM’s words, we’re looking at 1.4 million people out of work, possibly by Christmas, and we’ve been pretty much isolated from that. We used the PM’s words the other day, actually, or [inaudible 00:12:42] months, when he actually said that the money was the heartbeat of the economy now. We use that as a motivating force to drive us, so any shortfalls or self-pity that we might be thinking, we just don’t let that happen. We just get on with it.

Leonie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s great. Well, Brendon, I just want to finish off with one last question.

Brendan:

Sure.

Leonie:

I always like to ask graduates that I interview what advice do you have for others who might be looking at progressing their careers and considering Recognition of Prior Learning or perhaps not even aware of it, as a lot of people aren’t?

Brendan:

Absolutely go for it because it is real. I’m a testament to the fact that you need that paperwork to really quantify your experience, and employers do look at that; 100%. That’s really it, mate. You can put that into words how you want, but this is real and I’m living proof of that.

Leonie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, that is great. What a great story.

Brendan:

[inaudible 00:13:48].

Leonie:

Well, Brendon, thank you so much for your time. Once again, congratulations on your qualifications and your recent promotion.

Brendan:

No worries at all. Thank you very much. Did you need anything else from me?

Leonie:

Down the line, I will. The process from here is that I will write up a story based on this conversation. It might take me two to three weeks to get to it, just because I’ve been doing a few interviews lately and I’ve just got a few others to get to. So what I will do is send a draft to you, and you can tell me if you want anything changed before anybody else sees it. Then, when you’re happy with it, I’ll put it on our website. If you could share a photo with me to run with the story, that would be wonderful.

Brendan:

Sure.

Leonie:

It can just be whatever you feel comfortable with. A professional headshot or an action shot of you on the job, or you, I don’t know what you’re into, sandboarding; whatever.

Brendan:

Yeah. That’s all right. I’ve got a couple of professional headshots I can throw to you.

Leonie:

Yeah. Great.

Brendan:

Shouldn’t turn anybody else off too much.

Leonie:

Good.

Brendan:

All right.

Leonie:

All right. Well, you enjoy the rest of your day, Brendon, and I’ll be in touch as soon as I’ve got a first draft ready to show you.

Brendan:

No worries, Leonie. Thanks for your time.

Leonie:

Thank you. Bye.

Brendan:

Okay. Bye.

 

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