Rio Tinto gets an EDGE or two!
August 17 1999 was the day Robert Pike's future changed. Robert was a passenger in a car which skidded after hitting a puddle of water on a road, and eventually collided with a tree. He was the only one who survived - three of Robert's high school friends were killed.
"My best mate had been sitting right beside me," he remembers," I think losing friends was the hardest thing. It reinforces the fragility of life."
Once a strapping young man with ambitions of making it in AFL or cricket, the smash left Robert a double amputee. He spent many long days in rehabilitation in Fremantle Hospital, learning to walk again, with the aid of prosthetic legs.
But the Robert Pike story is not one of pity, nor regret.
Still keen on sport, he changed codes, taking up wheelchair basketball, even played two professional seasons with FC Barcelona, in Spain.
Personally, he married, became a father. Robert has a special affinity with young people and went on to become a youth pastor. He also runs a business doing presentations to high school students to help them achieve, using stories from his own life experiences to inspire.
But when it came to finding a more mainstream job, Robert turned to EDGE.
"I didn't fit a mould," says Robert "People have this mindset that people with disabilities can't do anything. There's a lot of people in wheelchairs working behind a desk and you'd never know they were in a chair." Prior to joining EDGE, Robert had been out of work for months. Then, everything changed when EDGE helped him secure a position with mining giant, Rio Tinto.
"EDGE were very helpful in giving me a hand," says Robert. Employed as a Delay Accounting Officer, this means if the monster ore trains operating in WA's Pilbara are late, Robert analyses data to determine why - and help prevent it happening again.
"Initially, EDGE conducted an assessment to make sure the facilities were suitable for Robert and of course, they were," says EDGE job co-ordinator, Kristine Lim. "Later, Rio Tinto consulted with Robert directly to see if there were any changes they could make if they employed more people with disabilities in the future."
"To us, Robert's no different to anyone else," says Tina Busellato, Rio Tinto Superintendant, Operational Readiness "He's fitted into our team at Rio unbelievably well. Robert's just the sort of person we're looking for."
Kristine says it's gratifying to watch Robert's advancement.
"He's just so independent," she says And that's also the case with 28 year old Andrew Chandler.
Andrew Chandler has Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that is often characterised by difficulties in social interaction and language.
But if conversation doesn't flow easily for Andrew, he reads data the way the rest of us might read a book.
Andrew was offered a graduate position with Rio Tinto as an Information Technology Analyst, after completing his university studies last year. In his job, Andrew builds data bases, then uses them to manipulate and assess information from Rio's mining interests.
Prior to Andrew starting work, EDGE assisted members of Andrew's team at Rio Tinto to better understand Asperger's Syndrome.
"For example, someone with Asperger's can be very literal in their language" says Kristine "They might answer a question with one or two words. Some people might take offence, thinking the person with Asperger's is being rude but they're not meaning to."
Since joining the Rio workforce, Kristine says she's seen Andrew open up more.
"He even "goes out with the boys" from work, now!" she says "But the most pleasing thing for me, is the feedback I get from his supervisor, who describes Andrew as efficient and independent."
"The supervisor even told me that if more graduate positions come up in his area, he'd like more people just like Andrew!" she said.