Groundwork Plus director Tegan Smith is the first woman to win the Caernarfon Award after being nominated by the IQA.
Presented annually by the Institute of Quarrying, the Caernarfon Award is given for the best paper presented at an institute conference, seminar, or meeting anywhere in the world.
The award is named after the town in North Wales where the first Institute meeting took place in 1917.
The responsibility for the adjudication of the award was assumed by the International Presidents’ Committee in 1998. The Committee adjudges the paper on having contributed the most to the advancement of an aspect of the industry.
This year’s recipient Tegan Smith is a director at Groundwork Plus and has 20 years’ experience in the quarrying, land use and development sectors.
Well known for her passion for the extractive industry, Smith has particular interests in town planning, environmental legislation and advocacy. She is an active member of the Institute of Quarrying and founder of the Women in Quarrying initiative.
Smith presented her winning paper in March of this year at the 63rd National Conference in Newcastle.
Titled ‘Changing Perspectives’, the presentation’s focus was on the current language used to describe the extractive industry, the perception of the industry in the community and the need for the industry to change its narrative.
Smith used interviews to hone her point, asking questions to passers-by about how they would describe what an extractive industry is. Among those interviewees were “the next generation of workers” – children under 12 who were also asked what quarrying was to them.
The answers to Smith’s questions were mostly negative, with interviewees describing extracting as taking resources away from an unprotected area and quarrying as something that inspires thoughts of big business, profit and intimidation.
Used to highlight Smith’s point that the biggest risk to the industry is how it is perceived by those who aren’t a part of it, the interviews provided the audience with a look into the current narrative that quarrying inspires.
Smith said she was disappointed that society doesn’t know what the quarrying industry does, how it’s done or why, and wants the industry to stop “hiding from the community”.
Encouraging the audience to re-write the narrative, Smith focused on how the language could shift to no longer shy away from the community. Instead, the community should be kept aware of how quarrying is used to everyone’s benefit.
These changes in language can initially be subtle, such as changing “industry” to “sector”. Smith outlined how the word “sector” is more likely to inspire a community-minded idea, as it feels easier to control and is removed from thoughts of big business.
These language changes can then shift into showing communities that the resources sector creates positive change, giving back to the community rather than of taking from it. Smith reiterated that policy and legislation shouldn’t be blamed and that these changes need to come from inside the sector itself.
Another point that Smith’s presentation highlighted was the need to actually show communities the differences, not just tell them.
By using terms like “community infrastructure”, Smith outlined how communities can become more involved in learning what quarrying is.
A big part of this is to encourage younger people who may not be aware of the jobs that are available.
“I still believe that legislative complexity has a part to play in lack of certainty in our businesses and for our sector more broadly,” Smith said in her presentation.
“But the bigger risk in my mind is the way we are perceived by those not within our networks and the power they have to influence the way we do business.”
Smith ended her presentation by highlighting the fact the largest koala protection areas in Queensland are those surrounding quarries because they are fenced and regulated, encouraging the audience to change with society instead of against it.
The presentation inspired lively debate and discussion that carried into the evening.
Voted on by the International Presidents of all the IQs, Smith was the clear winner of the award, scoring 9s and 10s.
Smith is a great representation of the diversity of membership that IQs attract and retain.
The IQA commented that having a female recipient win the award purely on merit, and with a topic that sits outside traditional technical papers, is a step towards visible diversity and inclusion for the industry.
This feature first appeared in the June issue of Quarry.