People of the project: Moree local and construction convert Libby Carter

This month, Moree local and Narrabri to North Star Phase 1 Commercial Lead, Elizabeth ‘Libby’ Carter lets us into her world at Inland Rail and reveals how the project has changed her community and the trajectory of her career.

Image of Libby, Commercial Lead

Where are you from Libby?

Moree! I was born here but moved away to North Queensland as a child. I lived overseas for a bit and returned 12 years ago. My husband’s family have farmed in the region for over 100 years. Five years ago, we bought out the farm and now run a mixed-use property – wheat, barley, sorghum depending on weather and 5,500 sheep for wool production. We have people helping us, of course, but I do get called in to muster the sheep every now and then.

And I am proud to share that our wheat is trucked to handling facilities, containerised and then transported on the newly constructed section of Inland Rail south of Moree.

Did you grow up on a farm?

No, but I’ve always been around agriculture. After leaving Moree, my parents ran a food export business in Ayr. My education and early career are in law. I studied and got my first job in Brisbane and then worked as a Mergers and Acquisitions lawyer in London. So, I was very much a city girl in my formative years.

What made you move into construction and Inland Rail?

It’s not very often that projects of this scale find their way to regional Australia. I jumped at the chance to be involved and I’m immensely proud to be part of this project.

What does your day in the office look like?

I lead the Commercial Team which administers the contract between Inland Rail and our contractor, Trans4m Rail. We are responsible for assessing payment claims, managing variations, and working through disputes. Day-to-day, my work is very varied. It’s why I enjoy it so much. It’s hard for me to contemplate going back to a legal practice and a timesheet!

Best thing about the job?

I love working on site. The team in Moree have their own skills and specialities and it is remarkable to see it all come together, sometimes in pressured circumstances but always with good humour.

Most challenging?

We’ve had two floods, a pandemic, the presence of the endangered Five Clawed Worm Skink and construction costs to manage. It has been a real test of the organisation (systems and process) and people – their resilience and mental fortitude.

If I had to pick one it would be the pandemic, it was extremely challenging for our project given our geographic location straddling Queensland and NSW.

You said you are immensely proud to have been involved in this project – what makes you feel that way?

The Inland Rail Program is bigger than the infrastructure we are building. Moree Shire has a population of just over 14,000 people and the drought showed us that our fortunes are tied to the agricultural sector.

Inland Rail has created opportunities beyond the rail itself; the access to markets is spawning interest in secondary markets that value-add to our primary products locally. This means we can expand from agriculture into production, building our resilience in times of flood and drought.

Grain can be processed locally into the other products, for example pasta. With Inland Rail, there is now a genuine pathway to markets for regional producers and manufacturers.

I’ve also seen this opportunity transform people’s lives, with local jobs for local people. The Narrabri to North Star section has upskilled people and led to work on parts of Inland Rail for them. I have seen young people out of high school get training and experience and a start on a career path that has more opportunities for growth.

How has it impacted you?

I have realised how transformative big infrastructure projects can be. You see it promoted in ads and don’t think much of it, but then see it actually happen – seeing real benefits to the community around you. It has given me hope for the future of this town which is also the future for my children.

And of course, it has changed me, I have grown immensely and am on a different career path. I never thought I’d end up working in construction. Now I want to stay.

How would you describe the Moree crew?

Brilliant. I have so much respect for them. They are away from their families and friends for long stretches of time and have to deal with everything that comes their way.

What are some of your thoughts and feelings as your time on the project draws to a close?

It’s an amazing feeling to be able to point at something and say I helped build it. It feels bittersweet, like the band’s breaking up. We’ve become a close-knit team; a pseudo family and I feel sad to be saying goodbye.

What do you think you will be doing in 12 months’ time?

A come back tour! I am hoping to stay on the Program and work on the sections to the north or south.