Natasha Chilcott just celebrated her 20th anniversary working on the wharf with DP World Australia. Graduating from lashing and line-marking to equipment control, Natasha has been here, done that and seen it all.
Having just completed a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment Natasha is taking the next steps in her career as an Equipment Controller Trainer.
Natasha caught up with Head of Corporate Affairs, Nicole Holyer, to reflect on her time in the stevedoring industry.
My Dad worked on the wharf for 30 years, and I grew up going to work with him. He taught me how to drive a forklift, took me up in the cranes, it was a really different time back then.
I love working with machinery, I like working with the guys and I always told my Dad: “I’m going to be on the wharves one day.” I said that when I was about six.
He said: “Well, we’ll see what happens, I don’t know if they’ll have a woman on the waterfront.”
When I was 18 the job application came up. It wasn’t my Dad who told me about it, it was his best friend Lewis Cremona, who sadly passed away earlier this year. He said: “Why don’t you apply behind your Dad’s back and see how you go.”
So I applied for the job.
Before I received the phone call to say I’d got the job, I got a phone call from my Dad at work asking if I’d applied.
I told him yes and he said: “I’ve just found out that you’ve got the job and you’ll find out in about an hour.”
So, he was in shock and I was in shock because I didn’t know how he’d react.
We were a group of eight Australian Vocational Trainees. We did the intake where we started off doing lashing in the ships. We did that for about a year and a half. We also did line marking down along the wharf. Then we started our training to drive the straddles.
After the straddles we were trained to operate in the cranes. Then I was trained as a reefer attendant. And after that, a clerk in the dog boxes. Also an ACL upstairs. I then went for my forklift licence.
Last but not least I got trained as an Equipment Controller (EC). I’m now the first female permanent EC in Melbourne.
There was one other woman who started with me. It was two and a half years before she left. And then it was ten or eleven year gap before the next women started.
Now there are about 20 women here.
We used to talk shop all the time. When I was at work, I was his apprentice. When I became an EC and he was a Foreman, he said: “You’re my boss now; I think it’s time for me to retire.” (Laughs)
He only lasted two more years while I was here and then he retired. As an adult it was probably two of the best years I had with my dad. I really miss him.
The EC role is currently what I love to do. The role has me communicating with the guys and girls out in the straddles, with the foremen out on the decks, and working together to get the job done. It’s a whole team effort, and every day is different. You don’t know what seat you’re going to sit in, whether you’re working as an EC on ships, road or working maintenance.
Every day’s a different challenge no matter what seat you sit in. I really enjoy that!
It’s not an easy job. So there are no easy answers. You’ve got to be a strong-willed woman to be on the wharf. I know there are changes that have been happening within the company, and how we look at things now. But the fact remains it’s a physical environment and you’ve got to be strong — mentally and physically.
The first year and a half here I had muscles on muscles — that was from doing lashing day in day out.
Maybe looking for women from a sporting background would be ideal because in this line of work, we all need to work as a strong team and I think that can only improve us as a company.
For example, next year the women’s AFL is starting. Why not have DP World Australia sponsor a team where you can recruit fit and strong women who know how to work in a team environment?
Take a deep breath. Everyone’s out there to help you. There’s a lot of encouragement out there. Don’t be discouraged and if in doubt, ask questions.
If you don’t understand anything, ask. Because people are willing to help you left, right and centre.
I’ve just finished up my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment am I am now working in the Training Department, training up ECs.
Earlier this year I was helping (Landside Manager) Rea Mihaka. She trained me as a Landside Manager. I filled in the position for three weeks during the Easter period while she was away. It was the busiest time of the year and I really enjoyed the challenge. Hopefully I can head in that direction one day and work in a management role.