People and culture

JULY 2024

Paula keeps the wheels turning

Paula Maka and his daughter Lusiana, participated in the Torchlight procession at the Bendigo Easter Festival this year.

Meet Paula Maka, Light Vehicle Supervisor at Fosterville Gold Mine.

Paula originates from tropical Fiji, but is not too bothered by the cold Winters in Victoria anymore.

“When I first arrived in Bendigo back in 2006, the change of temperature was a shock to the system and I had to wear a lot of jackets,” Paula laughs.

Eighteen years on, he says that his annual trips to visit family in Fiji each Spring have started feeling like a holiday, rather than a trip home.

“Nowadays I look forward to heading back to my new home, which is in Bendigo,” he explains.

Settling down in Bendigo

Paula first arrived in Bendigo as part of an international recruitment drive in the mid-2000s to address skills shortages.

“I was offered a position at a local motor dealership as a truck mechanic, and felt that it would be a good move for my family,” he explained.

It was a good move, which led to him working at the same dealership for 13 years and adding two daughters to the family along the way, in addition to his son who was just a baby when they arrived.

“Initially, it took a while to feel a part of the community, but joining the local Rugby club helped, and much to my wife’s dismay, I am still very involved in it,” he says sheepishly.

And who can blame her as he admits he sometimes plays with his son and some of the other 20 year olds on the team!

Maybe Paula tempted fate by joining the rugby club, which is called the Bendigo Fighting Miners!

The decision to join Fosterville

In 2019, Paula applied for a fitter position in the Light Vehicle (LV) Workshop at Fosterville Gold Mine. 

“I was ready for a change and wanted to learn more about how underground conditions impact vehicles and what would be involved in keeping them running smoothly,” said Paula.

Today, Paula is supervising the LV workshop and is tasked with looking after a fleet of around 80 vehicles, including highway trucks, water trucks, land cruisers and utes.

An interesting fact is that the vehicles used underground have to be serviced on a weekly basis to keep them in good working order.

“Corrosion is a big issue underground, so the vehicles need constant attention,” Paula explains.

When asked what he dislikes about his job, Paula admits, it's the mud: “There is mud everywhere on site and on the vehicles … you can’t escape it,” he laughs.

But other than that, Paula really enjoys supervising the LV team.

“The culture at Fosterville Gold Mine is very inclusive, safe and supportive,” says Paula.

Life is all about learning

Paula believes every day is a learning opportunity and encourages his teams to ask questions and seek out those learning opportunities. 

“I learn new things all the time and I encourage my team to get involved in some of the extra activities on site such as the Open Day or Easter Fair, which has allowed me to hang out with colleagues from other departments and learn a bit more about what they do,” he continues.

Looking to the future, Paula hopes to continue working at Fosterville to see what the next chapter will hold. 

“Fosterville is constantly looking to improve the way we do things and I want to be here to see and learn how we will evolve our use of vehicles to be more sustainable,” he concludes. 

Paula giving some pointers to apprentice mechanic, Paige Ryan.