Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Jess Geary and I’m a Protection Officer based in Muswellbrook for the Australian Rail Track Corporation Hunter Valley rail network.
When did you start in the mining industry and what was your first job?
I started in 2021, my job was and still is a Protection Officer. I knew a few people within the rail industry and thought I would be a good fit, and I haven’t looked back.
I did want to be a Network Controller or a Train Driver, but I went with maintenance to gather experience out on track and to see what is involved, and then decide on the career path I would like to go on.
How different is your job now to what you wanted to be when you were a kid?
I honestly had no idea as to what I wanted to do when I grew up. I knew that I wanted to be in a construction or mechanical industry. Growing up my father had been a diesel mechanic and truck driver and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps. Once I started as a Protection Officer, he mentioned he had done quite a bit of rail work on track machines.
What’s a usual day at work entail?
My usual day is being involved in pre-start meetings and gathering all the information needed to complete work for the day. When I get to the worksite, I put controls in place to make sure the workgroup is protected against running trains, track vehicles and/or other worksites. Communication is very important between network control and myself as they can authorise a track block under my protection to complete work for the day.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job would have to be always learning something new. Doing different tasks every day means I’m always learning on the job and allows me opportunities to further my career.
The worst thing?
Not exactly a bad thing but as in any industry things can go wrong or not as planned, so occasionally we will need to complete tasks on short notice, but it usually works out well with the right people on the team and good communication.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
All of the training can get a bit overwhelming. Having to do recertification, multiple training blocks for new rules and procedures that can be changed regularly and also new qualifications or job roles that may arise in the near future.
What has been your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement would be leaving an unhealthy workplace to pursue a career for myself.
What’s something about your job that would surprise people to know?
That’s a hard one, no one can enter the corridor without a Protection Officer present. In saying that, no track work can be done also.
What’s a funny story about work that you can tell?
A lot of the time it’s co-workers getting the Utes stuck in mud when driving in the rail corridor. It’s not always the best conditions.
What do you do in your downtime?
I like spending time outdoors. I love going camping and fishing or even sitting out on the property is always relaxing, finishing the day with a cold beer of course.
The mining industry gets more than its fair share of criticism. What is your view of our industry and the impact is has?
I think a lot of people always talk about the negative side of mining but if there wasn’t any mining, we wouldn’t be able to have things such as power and materials for buildings such as houses, hospitals, schools, roads and even airports.