Little more than a year ago Samantha Evans was working in a warehouse filling orders off shelves, a casual job with so little security that her shifts could be cancelled when she was already on her way to work. To make ends meet she did some personal training on the side.
Now she works for Blue Steel Australia as a steel fixer, helping to build the new Martin Place station and office tower. Her alarm goes off at 4.20am, she works hard six days a week, and absolutely loves it! ‘I like that it keeps you physically and mentally fit,’ Samantha says, likening the jackhammers and drills she uses to carrying around her toddler. ‘I’ve met new people and I’ve learnt something new in life – I didn’t even know what steel fixing was. Actually, I didn’t even know there was steel in concrete! Now I know that’s the skeleton.’
Samantha is a Wiradjuri woman who was introduced to steel fixing through the Aboriginal Employment Agency. She felt overwhelmed at first, but only by the foreign nature of the work, and never because she and co-worker Tiarnee are the only female steel fixers on the job. ‘The people I work with are very respectful, none of them have ever been mean or out of line. I prefer to work with males than females – I like to have a joke, talk a bit of rubbish, I don’t get offended.’
Another education in her new job has been ACIRT, which a union delegate had suggested she look into before her boss told her it was like superannuation that you could access between jobs if the work dried up. She hasn’t had cause yet, but is comforted to know it’s there if she needs it, quietly growing in the background. ‘To have work that’s permanent, to know what I’m doing every day, and to have the support of ACIRT on top of that, it’s been really good mentally. It gives me security. I did struggle a lot with Centrelink payments in the past, now I don’t need that, I’ve got a full-time job, I can buy my daughter what she wants.