Mechanically minded and community focused: Natalie’s journey at Cardinia Shire Council

Natalie has been with Cardinia Shire Council since 2013 and has grown a rewarding career while continually upskilling and expanding her knowledge. Since she first got a taste of the automotive industry through a school-based traineeship, she hasn’t looked back. We talked to her about the importance of her work and the impact it has on the services the council provides.

Fuelling passion

When she’s not going sideways around a track in a hillclimb car, or on camping and fishing adventures with her husband, Natalie works at the Operations Centre, also known as the Depot, at Cardinia Shire Council. She’s in her happy place with her hands covered in oil, working on a diesel truck or welding a rotor on the workbench with sparks flying all around her. She’s come a long way since she first did her school-based traineeship in 2012. However, one thing hasn’t changed: her love for working on vehicles and machinery.

“I had a pretty good idea early on, around 15 or 16, that being a mechanic was something I was interested in. I also knew that I didn’t want to just be stuck with cars all the time – I wanted to work on bigger stuff.”

After completing an automotive apprenticeship with Cardinia Shire Council and getting real hands-on experience on the job, she has made great strides to grow her career. Along the way, Natalie’s seized every opportunity to expand her skillset by earning extra qualifications, such as a forklift license, traffic control and first aid certificates, and a Certificate III in Automotive (Mechanical – Heavy Vehicle Road Transport), which have helped set her up for success.

Now, as a fully qualified Diesel Mechanic, Natalie and her team service Cardinia’s large fleet of vehicles, trucks and machinery.

“Mondays and Fridays are our busiest days,” she says. “We do everything from basic services, changing oil and filters, to making sure the first aid kits in our trucks are stocked up. Basically, if something’s broken, we can repair it or replace it. We’ve got a welding bay for small-scale fabrication, too, so we can modify things as well.”

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Creating a better shire

The team at Natalie’s depot consists of four mechanics and a full-time apprentice. While those in the public might not necessarily see or hear about the good work Natalie and her team does, they play a crucial role in helping us improve the shire. Without fully functioning and reliable vehicles and machinery, Cardinia wouldn’t be able to carry out exciting projects like building a new Youth Hub in Pakenham or the Sealing the Hills program.

“When I tell people I work at the council, some say, ‘Oh, they’re slack,’ or some other kind of joke. But when I explain to them what I really do and the background process and why things may seem slow, they’re actually pretty impressed. The guys out there are doing their best, and sometimes there are things completely out of the council’s control.”

As a rapidly growing shire, Cardinia’s goal is to create a dynamic, progressive and inclusive environment not only for those in the community but for those who work behind the scenes, like Natalie. That’s why Cardinia takes pride in its commitment to ongoing improvement, striving to enhance its services and systems to better serve the community.

“In the past couple of years, we’ve really stepped up in terms of the technology we’re using and how we apply it to our work. We’ve got more electric vehicles now, so we can reduce emissions, as well as an upgraded fleet management system. We’ve got our own tablet devices, and all our pre-start checks are sent through electronically, which eliminates paper waste and doubling up. The way we’ve been able to be innovative is really impressive, and I’m excited about what’s to come in the future.”

Enabling growth

As part of her broadening role, Natalie’s now paying forward the guidance and support she once received as an apprentice by passing on vital skills and knowledge to those new to the industry.

“I always try to think back to when I was first starting out and the way I was taught to do things. I remember I’d prefer to be shown something instead of someone explaining it to me. That’s how I learned best – being able to actually do it on my own and make my own mistakes. One of the things I’ve learned about myself is I am able to teach others now instead of always being the one who’s being taught.”

With more than 10 years of experience in the industry, Natalie has seen it all and is a competent and skilled mechanic. For others looking to pursue a career as a mechanic, Natalie offers some valuable advice:

“Get ready to get dirty,” she laughs. “It’s not a tidy job and it takes a fair bit of dedication. But overall, I think it’s well worth it. It’s definitely a job where you learn something about yourself, as well as some handy practical skills. For example, I do all my own work on my motorbikes and cars. I even do my own welding and fabrication at home! I’m confident enough because I’ve learned the skills through my job at the council.”

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Check out careers at Cardinia Shire Council