High achiever - Sian Appleton Executive Manager Corporate Services East Pilbara Council East Pilbara Council

Article image - High achiever - Sian Appleton Executive Manager Corporate Services East Pilbara Council East Pilbara Council

Sian Appleton’s first experience in local government began at the Shire of East Pilbara, Western Australia, in February 2000. Coming from a background of accounting in the private sector, she had studied a Bachelor of Management Studies at the University of Waikato in New Zealand.   

“I arrived in Newman in 1987 and after the birth of my third child I was successful in attaining a position at the Shire as the Payroll Officer.

“Prior to this I had been heavily involved in community work including the Newman Neighbourhood Centre and wanted to develop the interest I had in the future of the Shire of East Pilbara.

“Since that time I have held a variety of positions, gradually working my way up to the position of Executive Manager Corporate Services East Pilbara Council.”

Shire of East Pilbara was formed in 1972 and at the time became the largest shire in the world comprising an area of 371,696 square kilometres (larger than the State of Victoria).

The municipality has three main town sites being Newman, Marble Bar and Nullagine.

While the main industry is mining, there are significant pastoral and tourism sectors. A considerable proportion of the shire west of Newman is outback area which has the potential to provide opportunities for future remote outback tourism development.

The current population is estimated to be in the vicinity of 15,000. Newman is the main population centre providing all modern health, community and educational facilities.

The area is classed ‘remote’ under Australian Bureau of Statistics guidelines and has many unique qualities including its landscape, its connection to the land and its great opportunities.

A quiet achiever
Appleton was nominated as a Local Government Focus High Achiever by Councillor Lynne Craigie. “Sian is an extremely dedicated and loyal staff member who always considers the Shire and how she can make a difference. Her diligence and loyalty is outstanding. She is a quiet achiever who just gets on with the job.”

Appleton’s current role is Executive Manager Corporate Services. She is responsible for finance, information services, human resources, economic development and Martumili Artists.

“It is a wonderfully diverse portfolio and I work with a team of very dedicated staff.”

Speaking of her professional achievements and those of East Pilbara, Appleton said, “We are very proud to host the Martumili Artists, an organization that assists in the development of art created by Martu people living in remote communities.

“The Shire, in collaboration with BHP and the Pilbara Development Commission, constructed a state of the art Art Gallery and Arts Centre to house the program.

“The East Pilbara Arts Centre was awarded the prestigious Sri Zelman Cowen award for Public Architecture in 2017.  The jury described the East Pilbara Arts Centre as a ‘masterstroke building-within-a-building concept’ that ‘enabled a group of remote Indigenous artists to make a substantial and tangible contribution to a town centre, thereby exemplifying reconciliation in this country’.

Becoming a regional hub
Appleton said remoteness and climate are at the top of the list of the many challenges faced by the East Pilbara Shire. These then flow on to contribute to other challenges such as recruiting and keeping qualified staff.

“Currently we are seeking to engage a consultant to prepare an innovative approach to an Economic Development and Tourism Strategy that will move the Shire into a new space in the economic development of the area.  This strategy will assist Council position the area and particularly Newman as a regional hub for the whole of the Pilbara.”

As Cyclone Blake leads to widespread flooding in the northwest causing a passenger plane to slide off the runway at Newman airport, Appleton prepares for another eventful years and takes the chance to look further ahead.

“I hope over the next few year to transition into retirement.  I hope that within these years I will be able to further mentor and assist staff helping them progress their careers within local government.”