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The remote town of Port Hedland, in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, has been at the heart of BHP’s iron ore operations for more than 50 years.

Located 1,800 kilometres north of Perth and with a population of approximately 16,000 people from diverse backgrounds, the town is proud of its reputation as Australia’s largest bulk export port and its outdoor lifestyle and wide range of community services. As an important part of the local economy, BHP was looking for ways to join forces with industry, government and community representatives to develop a common approach to maximising the benefits from resource sector operations. That desire led to the creation of the Hedland Collective in 2017. One of its early initiatives involved community consultation to understand local challenges and existing efforts to address them.

The Collective identified three areas for collaboration:

  • strengthening local employment, training and business development;
  • coordinating social services to ensure support for all community members;
  • building and communicating community vibrancy and culture.

Working groups are looking at ways to address priorities from each of those areas, including:

  • Pathways to opportunity – focusing on developing the education, training and support resources that connect community members with career pathways.
  • Resources sub-working group – consisting of major mining company representatives and suppliers, this group is addressing issues directly relating to resource companies and their suppliers, and how the resources industry can support priorities of other working groups.
  • Supportive Hedland – aims to strengthen the suite of supportive services for the Hedland community by building capacity, aligning existing services and coordinating community outreach.
  • Vibrant Hedland – addressing the social and cultural aspects of Hedland life, to create a positive narrative and experiences that attract and retain people.

The Hedland Collective is already delivering results. A recent Career Expo focused on trades and other opportunities in the resources sector, rather than having individual stalls for each company. The industry group has also established a sub-committee with the local high school to improve coordination around work experience, mentoring and employment opportunities.

In coming years, the Hedland Collective plans to transition to a standalone, not-for-profit entity that will complement other ongoing community efforts and respond to changing community needs.

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