And the Port Kembla based CEO was the most recognisable face on local television with plenty to say about Government policy and being forthright about any perceived threats facing the local mining industry and Australian manufacturers.
There were an awful lot of locals who relied on the Big Australian for a regular pay cheque in those days (over 20,000 in the early 1980s) but you would have to say they were in fact good corporate citizens. Well, before the ‘triple bottom line’ fad was even dreamt about by management gurus.
The steelmaker was definitely different then, it had a real sense of engagement with the local community and was willing to be seen doing so.
WOL’s long time (and much missed) Bottomline columnist John Bown was the Big Australian’s local go-to PR man in those days and was always willing to get the company and personally involved in any community-minded activity.
When it came to sponsoring a local sport or virtually any worthwhile cause they could be depended upon to front up with a substantial cheque and (usually) subtly encourage other Wollongong-based businesses and, in particular, their own suppliers to also chip in.
And when it came to sport nothing was bigger than the fledgling NRL local team the Illawarra Steelers. Along with John Cleary the various divisions contributed generously in cash and in kind to build scoreboards, level fields and erect the early stands. In later years the NBL Wollongong Hawks and the Kembla Grange racecourse were also strongly supported by the steelmaker. The full extent of donations and support is probably only known to the company but it extended into all corners of the region, needing a regular committee, usually headed up by Mike Archer, to oversee its management.
To be fair I do appreciate that most large companies, these days, spend the bulk of their time trying to keep out of the headlines. All I can say is the ‘old’ miner is being missed and if he was still about I’m sure my old mate JB would agree wholeheartedly.
Interestingly it is the ‘new’ miners Gina Reinhart and Clive Palmer who are now making waves and leading the national debate on political and economic issues.
As the legendary US baseball coach Yogi Berra would say, “It’s like deja-vu, all over again”.
EDITOR – Andrew M Connery: A pioneer in social media and active online since early 2001 heads up the Editorial team. Andrew is currently undertaking doctoral research at the School of Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Wollongong. A B2B marketing practitioner by profession his specialty area is local search and until July 2011 he was a Senior Trainer for the Federal Government’s Small Business Online program.
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