A team from Darwin-based WTD Constructions were working on her dad’s house at Acacia when the 15-year-old schoolgirl asked: “I’d like to do what you’re doing – how about taking me on as an apprentice?”
WTD has always been an innovative company and offered Kiana a job the very next day.
It was a smart move.
Kiana, who is in her third and final year of her carpentry apprenticeship, was named Northern Territory Apprentice of the Year at the Master Builders awards in September.
About 90 percent of WTD’s work is remote, which means the 19-year-old Territory-born apprentice has to work 14 days straight – sometimes even more – in far-flung communities in Arnhem Land, often on islands.
Kiana admits that approaching tradies and asking for a job took courage.
“I’m a female working in what is still a bit of male trade,” she says.
“But I always wanted to work in the construction industry. I like working with my hands. Sitting in a classroom and reading books was not for me.”
Kiana took a Certificate I in Construction while still at school.
WTD general manager Brett Chapman says the company is proud of Kiana’s achievements.
“She’s got a tough gig and does it very well,” he says.
WTD carries out house building and maintenance work for the NT Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics, and East Arnhem Shire Council.
It has a range of contracts, including on Croker Island and at Wurruwi on South Goulburn Island, plus major projects at Milingimbi, Yirrkala and Gapuwiyak.
The company employs as many local Indigenous workers as possible – it has about 30 on its books at the moment, including 15 at Yirrkala and six at Gapuwiyak.
The firm has a total of eight apprentices..
WTD faces huge challenges in working remote, particularly with logistics and the weather. It continues working throughout the wet season by barging in all the equipment it needs before the monsoon sets in.
The company is owned by long-term Territorian Peter Fixter, who has a policy of employing local people and using local subcontractors and suppliers whenever possible.
He likes to see money going back in the community where he lives.