First female among the heavy machinery 

Diane Lade is the first female apprentice to undertake a certificate course in the VET heavy vehicle workshops at CDU

Being the only girl among a bunch of boys working on heavy vehicle equipment does not appear to worry Diane Lade.

The 18-year-old from Nhulunbuy is the first female apprentice to undertake a certificate course in the VET heavy vehicle workshops at Charles Darwin University (CDU).

Diane graduated from Nhulunbuy high school last year, and was taken on as an apprentice by Alcan’s Gove alumina refinery under an arrangement with Group Training as her employer.

A requirement of her first-year course is studying certificate III in heavy vehicle maintenance, which sees her in the CDU Casuarina campus workshops four times each year for intensive instruction.

The instruction in time blocks at CDU will continue over the next three years as she completes her apprenticeship.

Born in Darwin, although raised in Malaysia and Canberra before her secondary schooling on the Gove peninsula, Diane says her desire to gain an apprenticeship was sparked by high school work experience at the Gove refinery.

“I just found it interesting working with machinery and then I did some more work experience in a panel-beating shop,” she says.

She says has never been bothered by being the only girl in a workshop of boys, and that most of her experiences have been positive.

“Maybe sometimes someone will say ‘Don’t bother, let the boys do that’, but it’s the kind of thing you soon get over. They’re just trying to be helpful,” she says.

CDU heavy vehicle course coordinator Dave Ewing says Diane is already showing a keen aptitude for machinery maintenance and a willingness to work hard.

As to her long term future, Diane is looking forward to completing her apprenticeship and being taken on as a qualified heavy vehicle mechanic at Alcan.

Beyond that, she foresees a life of travel where she can use her qualifications, possibly in the marine industry.

She also nurses a desire to one day work on high-performance vehicles such as racing cars, and ultimately open her own ‘high performance’ engineering workshop.