Mine electrician Kim Burton honoured with Tasmanian Women in Resources award

Kim Burton left school in Tasmania’s North West in 1980 knowing she wanted to pursue a trade, but no-one in her town would employ her.

“One company said to me, ‘we really can’t take the chance, you’ve never done a trade subject’,” she said.

“But at high school in the 1970s, trade subjects for the girls weren’t an option,” she told ABC Hobart.

Growing up on a dairy farm near Burnie, with a couple of brothers and an electrician uncle, “it seemed pretty useful having a trade”, she said.

Kim Burton was the only woman working down the mine in Rosebury in 1982(Supplied: Kim Burton)

“My family was quite happy for me to try and get an apprenticeship but my father didn’t think there was much chance,” she said.

She decided to head to Tasmania’s remote west coast, where she went on to become the first woman to qualify as an electrician in the mines.

There were only four women working in the mines on the West Coast, and Ms Burton was the only one at the mine in Rosebery.

First time underground

The mines were set up for male workers, and she faced some challenges as soon as she went underground.

“I asked ‘where do you go to the toilet?’. They said ‘well, the guys just pee in the drain, anywhere where there is flowing water’,” she said.

There was also a “sort of timber lean-to there covered with hessian. Being 17 I thought I’d go to have a bit of a peep in there.

The toilet set-up was not the only part of the mine geared towards men.

“The boys had all those naked women on calendars on the wall,” she said.

Colour photograph of a woman with her hand over a poster of a nude man
Down the mines there were a lot of posters of nude women. Kim’s friend sent her some male nudes to add to the collection.(Supplied: Kim Burton)

“Not that it bothered me.”

A girlfriend of a man she worked with sent her nude posters of men that she put up around the place.

Too young to get accommodation

Ms Burton was accepted to work in the mine, but on the proviso that she found somewhere to live.

The mines provided accommodation to their workers, but you had to be 18 to have access to it.

“They offered me an apprenticeship there in 1982 as long as I could find some accommodation,” she said.

“They didn’t house anyone until they were an adult, so a kind family took me in for a few days while I found some board when I started.”

Pregnant and working underground

Ms Burton has spent 30 of the last 40 years working in the mines.

She has had children and returned to working 12 hours a day underground within a few months of giving birth.

“I’d been there about 14 years by the time I became pregnant,” she said.

“I didn’t tell the guys because I didn’t want them to treat me any differently.”

She ended up doing her final exam for TAFE with a foot pushing under her ribs, and gave birth to her first child soon after that.

“She was sitting there, I was so fatigued I’d forgotten to drop her off at childcare.”

Colour photograph of five women at the Women in Resources Awards Tasmania
Ms Burton received a Tasmanian Women in Resources award. (L-R Caley Pearce, Erin Tatnell, Kim Burton and Eve Mulder)(Supplied Tasmanian Minerals, Manufacturing and Energy Council/Rob Burnett Images)

Women in Resources award

Ms Burton has been recognised in the 2020 Tasmanian Women in Resources award, as the recipient of the Outstanding Tasmanian Tradeswoman, Operator or Technician award.

She told ABC Rural that while she didn’t plan to go in for an award — because she was just doing her job — she “thought about it and thought about the young people coming through”.

“It’s good to know that women can make a career of it, because sometimes you get a few people that like to put you down,” she said.

“I’d just like people to know you can certainly stick to it and the reward’s just the job itself.”

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Ahmaud Arbery remembered as ‘humble guy’ with plans to become an electrician

ATLANTA— Ahmaud Arbery knew racism existed in the southern Georgia community he called home.

He and his best friend Akeem Baker had conversations about it, but never discussed feeling as if their lives were at risk. 

“We weren’t just out here in Brunswick living in fear,” Baker said. “We just understood that everything wasn’t all love everywhere we went.” 

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, remembers talking with him about the Trayvon Martin case in 2012. She said they agreed Martin was wrongly profiled and killed. 

Cooper-Jones said she raised her son to avoid people who racially profiled him.

Now, that’s what many believe happened on Feb. 23 when Arbery was killed.  

Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was shot three times as he jogged through Satilla Shores, a neighborhood two miles from his home in Brunswick.

From left Ahmaud Arbery, his mother Wanda Cooper-Jones and his best friend Akeem Baker pose at their high school graduation.

Two white men, Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael, were arrested and charged with the murder of Arbery last week, following a public outcry over a viral video of the shooting.

Gregory McMichael told police they grabbed their guns and followed Arbery because he appeared to be the person seen on a surveillance video committing “several break-ins” in Satilla Shores. Glynn County police told USA TODAY they had no records of home break-ins or burglaries between Jan. 1 and Feb. 23 in that neighborhood. Local media reported one car burglary. 

Shortly before the shooting, a 911 caller reported a black man was on a property under construction in the neighborhood. Attorneys for the Arbery family say the man, believed to be Arbery, was on the property for less than three minutes and did not commit a crime. 

Cooper-Jones said Arbery wanted to become an electrician, following the footsteps of three of his uncles. 

He attended South Georgia Technical College for about a year and a half but stopped when money got tight for the family, Cooper-Jones said. She said she was also putting her other son and daughter through school at the time.  

Before his death, Arbery was planning to go back to school and get his electrician certification, she said.  

Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Arbery Family, said an unfinished property is an “electrician’s dream” and suspects Arbery was observing the electrical work of the house.

The latest: Security video from construction site may show Ahmaud Arbery was getting water, lawyer says

Minute by minute: Minute by minute: What happened the night police fatally shot Breonna Taylor


Cooper-Jones said when a Glynn County police officer initially told her a homeowner killed Arbery while he was committing a burglary, she knew it couldn’t be true.  

“I had this numb feeling, but I did not believe it,” Cooper-Jones said. 

“He was just a really humble guy,” she said. “Ahmaud was a good kid.”

She recalled him helping out around the house, whether moving heavy furniture or offering to fix electrical outlets. 

Ahmaud Arbery is pictured here with his mother Wanda Cooper-Jones.
Ahmaud Arbery is pictured here with his mother Wanda Cooper-Jones.

Baker remembers Arbery was his “hype man” who would give Baker a playful nudge to freestyle rap lyrics or do high intensity workouts in the gym. 

“He was just a real genuine person,” said Baker, who grew up in the same apartment complex as Arbery. “He spoke and did everything from a place of love.” 

Arbery was also popular among his peers.

Baker recalled desperately wanting to become Arbery’s friend in second grade because he was so likable. He took snacks to the bus stop to initiate conversation with Arbery and they started sitting together.

Baker said he always admired Arbery, affectionately known as “Maud,” for his confidence, sense of humor and selflessness. 

“He would offer the shirt off his back and give you his last if needed,” Baker said. “If Maud had $10 and I had nothing, he would make sure I had half of what he had.”

Cooper-Jones finds some peace in knowing she told her son “I love you” and he said it back before she left the house the morning of Feb. 23. 

She wishes her own community would have done more to call for justice when Arbery was first killed.

“I just think at the end of the day, they should have cared more,” she said. 

LeBron James on Ahmaud Arbery video: ‘ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!!’

‘Running with Maud’

Cooper-Jones said she didn’t know Arbery ventured to Satilla Shores on his routine runs. But she said he was dedicated to staying fit and counting his calories. 

“If it wasn’t drenching in rain, Ahmaud ran,” Cooper-Jones said. “He got his run in every day.”

Arbery had turned their garage into a gym with workout equipment, including a bench press. 

Baker said Arbery would sometimes invite him over to work out or the two would meet at a local YMCA gym. They would also run on the Sidney Lanier Bridge in Brunswick. 

Arbery was in such good shape that Baker couldn’t keep up. 

“He just wanted to do crazy workouts,” Baker said. “He would have me so tired and fatigued.”

Ahmad Arbery (right) and his best friend Akeem Baker are pictured. Arbery was killed Feb. 23 near Brunswick, Georgia.
Ahmad Arbery (right) and his best friend Akeem Baker are pictured. Arbery was killed Feb. 23 near Brunswick, Georgia.

Baker said he and Arbery played football together at Brunswick High School. Arbery was a football star who dreamed of going to the NFL, Baker said. He had been playing since youth flag football, when he was about 6 years old.

Baker has left his home in New York to help with Arbery’s case in Brunswick. He launched the “I Run With Maud” Go Fund Me for the Arbery family that as of Friday had raised $482,595. 

“It’s going to be a long fight but we will continue to keep doing what’s necessary to help move this case forward,” Baker said. “To make sure the decision-makers are aware that they are being watched. We are just doing whatever we have to do to keep running with Maud.” 

More on the Ahmaud Arbery case

Legal experts explain how key video frames may be used in murder trial

Federal officials considering if hate crime charges are necessary

Why it took more than 2 months for murder charges and arrests

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ahmaud Arbery shooting: Mother, friend describe ‘humble’ ‘hype man’

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