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Gabby’s no Johnny when it comes to diesel

DON’T be fooled – while she may look slight, there’s nothing small about Gabrielle Clift’s gritty determination.

Leading the Moree Secondary College as School Captain in 2016, diving head-first in to the male-dominated diesel gas and now automotive industries, and being physically dwarfed by the heavy machinery she’s manoeuvred over the years – it seems nothing is too overwhelming for this pocket rocket.

Gabrielle is currently in her second year of an automotive apprenticeship at Highfields Mechanical in Toowoomba, having started her apprenticeship path here in Moree at DieselGas.

“Ever since I was a young girl I have always loved working with machinery, so I feel really lucky to be forging a career out of something that I genuinely enjoy,” she said.

With her parents, Greg and Lynda Clift, running Moree transport business GR and LA Clift, Gabrielle grew up surrounded by trucks and heavy vehicles, and proudly promotes that there’s no machine her dad can’t drive.

“My Dad is my hero, with three daughters I’ve always been like the son in the family and while at first he was quite scared of me working with heavy machinery, given that I’m quite small, he’s now my greatest advocate,” Gabrielle said. 

“Since starting my apprenticeship we can sit down and have in-depth conversations about work and machinery, which we both really enjoy.”

Gabrielle Clift hard at work. She is currently in her second year of an automotive apprenticeship at Highfields Mechanical in Toowoomba.

Down to earth and an easy conversationalist, Gabrielle credits her time at Moree Secondary College for giving her the confidence necessary to pave her future path.

“Academically and socially MSC really prepared us for the real world, there was no special treatment, if you wanted to do well you knew you just had to work hard like everyone else and you could,” she said.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at MSC, and what I enjoyed the most was the friendships; not only with fellow students but with the teachers.

“When it was time to learn it was heads down, but if there was a moment spare we could have a laugh or two.

“Mrs Tickle certainly holds a special spot in my memories. She was able to motivate me to put more effort and time into to my maths studies, which to this day I have found useful.”

A talented musician, she plays a number of instruments, including paid guitar gigs, and was taught here in Moree by Marty Roberts and Jac Drenkhahn.

“We are so fortunate to have such talent in Moree, I did toy with the idea of being a music teacher but quickly realised that I didn’t have the patience to work with children,” she laughed.

Performing in Mean Girls, The Red Barn and as a member of Moree Women’s Hockey Association, Moree District Brass Band and Moree Ukulele Group, Gabrielle is also grateful for the variety of cultural and sporting opportunities Moree afforded her.

“I feel like I’ve had a huge number of opportunities to participate in the community, which I possibly wouldn’t have had if I’d been at school in a bigger centre,” she said.

She admits that while her parents weren’t in the financial position to send her to boarding school, Greg and Lynda also believed that having their daughters going through school in their home town allowed them to grow up in a family environment, which was important to them.

Gabrielle is glad she stayed, and wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“At the end of the day it hasn’t been an issue at all. I certainly don’t feel behind the eight ball because I didn’t go away – particularly now everyone has finished school.

“Now we’re all on a level playing feel I certainly feel I can hold my own.”

And that’s no understatement.

Gabrielle’s passion for a career path in mechanics was cemented after a gap year in 2017 working on big rigs within the local agricultural industry.

“I obtained my license to drive heavy rigid trucks and other various forms of machinery and worked across the region including Wathagar Ginning Company, North West Ginning and Broadbent,” she said.

Not one to be intimidated, Gabrielle found her experience at the helm of some of the biggest machines in the district euphoric.

“It’s really empowering working heavy machinery – plus I’ve never felt so big,” she laughed.

She’s now excited to be broadening her horizons in Toowoomba working on automobile and light vehicle mechanics, and said her scope of work was extremely wide.

“From wheel alignments to tyres and performance vehicles I’m learning some great skills through my current apprenticeship and there are so many avenues I could pursue, it’s a really exciting time,” she said.

“There aren’t many girls in the industry, but I’ve had nothing but positive experiences – there’s a great atmosphere and everyone is inclusive.”

Her advice to students looking to pursue a career a bit ‘outside the box’ is to go for it.

“Whether you’re a boy or a girl, don’t worry about stereotypes, just do what drives you and own it – be confident in your decision and let your charisma break through any barriers.

“Once people recognise your determination you won’t look back.”

Words: Georgina Poole