Foundation established in Paraburdoo miner’s memory

Alicia PereraPilbara News
The Lee Buzzard Foundation logo.
Camera IconThe Lee Buzzard Foundation logo. Credit: Pilbara News, Alicia Perera

The family of a man killed in a mining accident near Paraburdoo have set up a foundation to promote workplace safety and support families in the aftermath of site incidents on the first anniversary of his death.

Thirty-two-year-old Lee Buzzard was a diesel fitter at Rio Tinto’s Channar Mine, east of Paraburdoo, when he was killed in a workplace incident on June 20, 2016.

Last Monday, members of his family visited the site for a memorial service, during which one minute of silence was observed across all Rio Tinto iron ore operations, and to announce a foundation they have created in his name.

The newly established Lee Buzzard Foundation will promote the importance of safety at workplaces, especially mine sites. and ensure every measure is taken to stop tragedy striking other workers.

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It will have three main roles — supporting affected families emotionally, financially and with information; educating people on workplace safety; and advocating for victims and families.

Mr Buzzard’s mother Sharon Westerman said she set up the foundation to help other families affected by workplace tragedies, for which investigations could go on for years while there was often little support or information available to assist.

She said it was something her son would have wanted.

“It’s inspired by Lee himself, the person he was,” she said.

“He wouldn’t want a big fuss but he would have wanted us to do something good.”

“Over time and experience I’ve become aware of the gaps when something like this happens.”

“No family should have to lose their house from something like this.”

Ms Westerman said she had big plans for the charity, including establishing a Pilbara miners’ memorial site, similar to that in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, and starting an annual fun day for all families affected by workplace incidents.

“I’m hoping to really do something special because there’s a bit of a gap in what is out there for people,” she said.

“We’ve had all these people killed on mine sites and we need (a memorial) here in one of the towns.”

“It will be somewhere people can go and sit and ... remember loved ones in their special way.”

The foundation was incorporated last week and will soon establish a board of directors and website.

Mr Buzzard spent most of his life in the Pilbara including in Tom Price, Karratha and Paraburdoo, and began working with Rio as an apprentice in his teens.

Labor Mining and Pastoral MLC Kyle McGinn is a strong supporter of the Lee Buzzard Foundation and delivered an address in parliament about it last week.

He said the foundation fulfilled a need for more independent support and advocacy for people affected by workplace incidents.

“Workplace safety, fatalities and injuries is a real passion of mine and I believe this foundation is filling a gap that is missing for families that go through this trauma,” he said.

“In this day and age we shouldn’t be having the amount of fatalities that we have and we need to work as hard as we can in that space to make sure we make improvements every day.”

“I believe the Lee Buzzard Foundation will go a long way to ensuring people aren’t alone at a time that’s pure chaos.”

Rio Tinto’s Channar Mine management have also arranged for a new plane prop for its emergency response team, of which Mr Buzzard was a volunteer, to be named The Buzzard in his honour.

Ms Westerman said the foundation’s logo, of a stylised yellow sunshine, was inspired by her son’s warmth and kindness which “brought sunshine to all our lives”.

“He had it figured out that in life it’s about caring about the people around you... he was happiest when other people were happy,” she said.

The investigation into Mr Buzzard’s death is ongoing.

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