Sara finds her dream job onboard 15,000 tonne freight trains
Sara Oorschot never thought being responsible for 15,000 tonne freight trains tracking across Western Australia would be her dream job.
“I kind of fell into the job,” she said, reflecting on her journey from shunter to driver in a space of three years.
“I left high school with the intention to study Marine Biology but then took a gap year and went travelling. I absolutely loved travelling, so I ended up travelling for about 4 years.
“I returned home to Esperance not really knowing what I wanted to do, but this opportunity with Aurizon has given me a career. When I took the job with Aurizon, I moved to Kalgoorlie.”
She started training as a shunter in 2019 in Aurizon’s newly-opened regional training facility in Kalgoorlie. Soon after, an opening emerged for her to learn to be a train driver.
“Aurizon like to promote within and when COVID-19 hit and borders were closed, I took the opportunity to ‘throw my hat in to the ring’ and express interest as a driver,” she said.
“I was lucky enough to be successful after going through the interview process and I haven’t looked back. It has given me a career I never thought I would have. Aurizon like to support staff to grow their career within the company rather than go elsewhere, which is great.”
She spends her working days, driving freight trains across the regional WA from her home base of Kalgoorlie.
In her downtime, she admits to being a “homebody”, walking her two dogs, pottering around her garden, and also going to the gym. There are also “plenty of pubs and places to go to out to eat” in Kalgoorlie.
Aurizon’s business services a range of resource and industrial customers – so one day Sara is responsible for moving iron ore from mine to port, next it could be a load of export goods.
“Generally, I drive with same driver most of a 12-hour shift, however occasionally we drive alone for an 8-hour shift. When I drove my first driver-only train it was quite an achievement, it proved to myself that I am good at my job, it was a personal pride moment for me. My permanent driver partner is a female who has been in the industry for about 10 years. She has been a great support in what is usually a male dominated industry”.
“Safety is most important as we deal with massive machinery and dangerous goods. Small mistakes could be a huge cost to life and/or company or the environment,” Sara says.
And what does she most enjoy about her job?
“The challenging side of it. That I don’t have a university background, no formal qualifications, I am just average person, and it is really, quite rewarding that I can drive a locomotive holding 15,000 tonnes over 1800 metres long through tiny loops,” she said. “I can squeeze the train into small loop lengths with no room for error between the signals. It is challenging but very rewarding. The pay is nice, and I have good work colleagues.”
And finally, what’s the one piece of advice Sara would share with her younger self and other women thinking about a career in the rail industry?
“It is a male dominated industry, and it’s nice that us women are coming through and can be just as good. I would say to other women “definitely give it a go” Aurizon are progressing with diversity and evolving in adapting the environment to support women in the industry,” she said.
“To my younger self I would say keep pushing, it was very challenging being the only female in my shunt group and not having a mechanical background, but I would tell myself that “you are mentally stronger than you think, and quite capable, put your mind to it, it might take longer but you can do it”.
“At Aurizon as part of my paid traineeship you fulfil 2 years which, takes me to February 2023 but that doesn’t mean I look elsewhere afterwards, I like my workmates, and I like pottering around here in Kalgoorlie. Eventually I would like to become a tutor driver, it might be a 7-8 years’ goal, but we currently don’t have any female tutor drivers at my current depot; I think it would be great to have options of tutor drivers and different teaching styles. I look forward to welcoming more women to the industry.“
Aurizon has multiple opportunities for train drivers across many locations in Western Australia and New South Wales. For more information and to apply, click here.