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Whiteline Transport’s Middleton recognised with career milestone

Sharon Middleton has been named as part of the Australia Day Order of Australia honourees announced over the weekend.

Along with 1,127 other Australians recognised for their outstanding work in the community, Middleton, a director at Whiteline Transport in Adelaide and the President of the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) and Director of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has also established the mental health initiative Foundation Shine.

Middleton began her career in road transport in the 1980s and attributes her husband Bob Middleton for helping her understand the industry.

“Anyone that knows Bob will understand he is a hard task master and whilst that seemed tough at the time I’m thankful for this grassroots knowledge that is important no matter how the industry progresses,” she told CRT News.

“You can’t beat old school knowledge, but being open to move with the times, especially as the industry evolved from single trailers to high productivity vehicles and accreditation that resulted in heaps of change especially in the early to mid ‘90s.”

Middleton said she was humbled by the recent recognition and made mention of the hard working salt of the earth men and women who often go unsung in the industry.

“For 35 years I have just gone about what I do with no thought of reward of this kind,” she said. “It’s a very special thing to happen to me and encouragement to keep doing what I’m doing and a sign that I’m achieving things.”

She said when she started out the road transport industry was not promoted in schools and that very little had changed on that front despite the economic backbone it provides the nation.

“We need government to classify this aspect of the industry as a profession, create real entry pathways to it and acknowledge the work of men and women in it so it can be promoted as a real choice of career for school leavers,” said Middleton.

“Trucking underpins our economy and every day way of life - it’s important that the people delivering that service are acknowledged.”

Middleton recalled taking up the invitation of Locky McKinna, then chair of SARTA, to join the board as being a pivotal moment for her in 2002.

“Helping industry has helped me and I urge all operators of all sizes to join and support their associations because CEOs need the grassroots operational issues brought to their attention so they can effectively lobby and prosecute our cause,” said Middleton.

Since becoming president, according to Middleton, and working on the ATA General Council, the quarterly meetings where all jurisdictions are represented has been insightful in understanding issues on a national level while helping SARTA table them.

“Joining the ATA Board three years ago has given me a platform in which to convey grassroots issues as well,” she said.

Driving heavy vehicles from B-doubles, road trains and B-triples has made an immense difference to her own business while allowing Middleton to better relate to the needs of the drivers.

“We have regular tool box meetings and having a hands on understanding is crucial. The team culture is enhanced and I love being out there with them doing the miles.”

At present, with Robyn May, the co-founder of Foundation Shine, Middleton hopes to raise awareness and acceptance for those suffering with and caring for mental illness and mental health. So far they have managed, with support from their small committee, to distribute $300,000.

“Since we started ten years ago we can see a lot of change in this space,” she said.

“We will continue to run events so we are able to assist organisations that are delivering vital care, but lack funding,” said Middleton.

“It is not easy because there are so many needy and worthy organisations that need help.”

As for what excites her currently about the road transport industry she is philosophical commenting that every day brings with it a new challenge.

“However, I would have to say that the review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law is most welcomed and all stake holders in industry have a vital opportunity to be part of that as the process goes along, so I say if you have views, but feel you have no voice, get onto your state based association to help deliver your message for you.”

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