Diggers & Dealers 2022: Main event talks the talk but sideline culture lacks respect

The Diggers & Dealers Mining Forum was a display of the resources sector at its most professional, but stepping away from the epicenter and into where the beers were flowing was a different story.

As a woman, a 23-year-old deputy editor with the State’s largest media company, my expectations of respect were, well, not overly high.

I’d like to say that they were, but given the year the resources sector has had they simply weren’t.

And the behavior of some men still managed to surprise me.

The Diggers & Dealers conference itself was an outstanding display of professionalism.

And while women were not as involved as I had hoped — with only five out of 71 female speakers — they were respected.

However, outside of the conference and away from the main event, this was certainly not always the case.

Sexual misconduct in the industry is undoubtedly one of the biggest conversation points for the sector right now, so why at the first sideline event did an average comedian make an average joke about a sexual act?

To the crowd’s credit, there was very little laughter.

After that event I went to the pub and heard a few drinkers comment on how great it was to see so many women out and about — despite an overwhelming majority of men populating the place.

Men navigating their way through a crowd said “excuse me, mate” to the male friends I was there with.

It was a hand on my lower back and a “sorry, honey” as they tried to get past me.

Later on in the week at another sideline event, a man in mining told me he had a “rager” over me because I was wearing RM Williams boots, and made an inappropriate gesture.

He then proceeded to tell me to “call him daddy” before groping me as I walked away through the crowd, and he followed.

This conversation isn’t about skimpy barmaids. I live in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, and have no issues with the tradition — heck, I tip them.

Locals treat them with respect in their workplace while they serve a rowdy crowd at 2am for the third night in a row.

This is about how other women are respected. I don’t expect respect because of my position and my platform, I expected it because I’m a person.

If I had a dollar for every time this week someone said “off the record” before making a disgusting comment towards me or about other women, I wouldn’t need to be sitting at my desk writing any article ever again.

On Saturday, the Kalgoorlie Miner and the West Australian published an article exploring the culture of the industry and the expectations of the annual talkfest, as well as the event’s relationship to the town.

Women in industry overwhelmingly supported it. The men I met — some who didn’t even ask what I do for work before ranting on — were critical.

However, it wasn’t all bad.

I had several men in the industry – many young and studying – ask what they can do to fix the industry that they love.

It’s about respect, and it’s about access to equal opportunities.

We can start by supporting the women around us, and giving them the boost they need because right now they’re working 10 times harder to get half as far as their male counterparts.

As Fortescue Metals Group boss Elizabeth Gaines said during her presentation — equality in the sector will not happen by accident.

Mining bosses are responsible for change, but we can start by being better bystanders, educating ourselves and just being decent people.

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