I have selected a diverse range of ‘horizons’ that I have witnessed over many years. Enjoy 🙂
In 1988 I was living as a sole parent caring for my three young sons. Life was tough at times.
I met a man who worked for Mount Newman Mining and he convinced me to marry him and move to the Pilbara with my three lads. He worked as a driller for the mining company on Mount Whaleback iron-ore mine. I have included some information from Wikipedia about the mine.
‘The Mount Whaleback Mine is an iron-ore mine located in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, six kilometres west of Newman. The mine is majority-owned (85 per cent) and operated by BHP Billiton, and is one of seven iron-ore mines the company operates in the Pilbara. The company also operates 2 port facilities at Port Hedland, Nelson Point, and Finucane Island and over 1,000 kilometres of rail in the Pilbara. BHP Billiton is the second-largest iron ore mining company in the Pilbara, behind Rio Tinto and ahead of the Fortescue Metals Group. As of 2010, BHP employs 8,000 people in its Pilbara operations.’
We gave it our best shot as a family but unfortunately it wasn’t to last. In 1994 I moved back to Perth with my lads for a fresh start and my ex-husband moved to Queensland.
Such is life 🙂
Wittenoom was once home to many….the following information is quoted from Wikipedia.
“Wittenoom is a ghost town 1,106 kilometres (687 mi) north-north-east of Perth in the Hamersley Range in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. It is the site of Australia’s greatest industrial disaster.
The area around Wittenoom was mainly pastoral until the 1930s when mining began in the area. By 1939, major mining had begun in Yampire Gorge, which was subsequently closed in 1943 when mining began in Wittenoom Gorge. In 1947 a company town was built, and by the 1950s it was the Pilbara’s largest town. During the 1950s and early 1960s Wittenoom was Australia’s only supplier of blue asbestos. The town was shut down in 1966 due to unprofitability and growing health concerns from asbestos mining in the area.
Today, eight residents still live in the town, which receives no government services. In December 2006, the Government of Western Australia announced that the town’s official status would be removed, and in June 2007, Jon Ford, the Minister for Regional Development, announced that the townsite had officially been degazetted. The town’s name was removed from official maps and road signs and the Shire of Ashburton is able to close roads that lead to contaminated areas.”
I took these photos in the 1990’s when we lived in the region. It was still a popular spot for tourists at the time. One of my neighbours lived there in the 1950’s and she told me about many people who have since died as a result of asbestos related diseases. A great tragedy!
7 posts to go until I reach 500 posts!From 1988 to 1993 I lived in Newman in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. I was successful in winning a position on the East Pilbara Shire Council. It was a great training ground for my future employment plus I had a great time.
Newman is the biggest community in the East Pilbara Shire but it didn’t have a dedicated Council Chamber for meetings. We often met at meeting rooms in the Recreational Centre. In fairness to the distant parts of the region we often had meetings at the smaller communities, one of which is Marble Bar. The township was gazetted in 1893. Surprisingly, Marble Bar had full Council facilities including a Chamber for Council meetings. It was good to sit around a “proper” table!
I was the first ever female to sit on the Council. The population of the Shire included local pastoral stations, mining employees and local Indigenous Communities.
The picture above is of the Marble Bar airport. Just as well I love flying in small planes. We also had meetings at Nullagine, Telfer (a closed mining town) and Shay Gap (before the town-site was demolished). It was a great experience and taught me a lot about regional development and the complexities of trying to address the differing needs of groups within our communities.
Yesterday I was in Perth and was waiting for my husband to pick me up after an appointment. I looked across the road from where I was waiting and realised it was the Electorate Office for Greens’ Member of Parliament, Robin Chapple. This brought back some memories for me…
We had been interstate on holidays (vacation :-)) and had a stopover in Perth before returning home to the Newman in the Pilbara. It was only a few weeks out from the State Election. I picked up a copy The West Australian newspaper. It was all doom and gloom about four seats that were at risk of being lost and, if that happened, there would be a change in Government.
When I saw that Northern Rivers Electorate, where we lived, was one that was predicted to be lost, I felt I had to do something about it. My husband at the time, and I were already very involved with the local political parties. I suggested to him that I could run for the seat to help defeat the opposition. He was supportive of the idea.
When we got home I discovered several messages on my phone (we didn’t have mobiles at the time). It was Robin Chapple, from the Greens Party. He was planning to run for the Greens for the Upper House and suggested I run for the Lower House. With our preferential voting system, if I didn’t win the seat, I could choose where to direct the votes that I received. I would be able to support the current local Member of Parliament to retain his seat against the Opposition. It was one of those times when everything seems to fall into place.
I said to Robin that I could only stand for the Greens if I was comfortable with what their policies were. He was able to give up a comprehensive run down of what they believed and hoped to do. It aligned closely with my values and ideas so I agreed to give it a go! The local paper described me as a respected Shire Councillor and community worker :-). I only had a short time to campaign for votes and had a great time of it. I even went as far as kissing babies on election day.
It was an exciting time and a lot of hard work. I don’t regret what I did, but if you asked me to do the same thing today, I would just laugh and say “No way! You must be kidding !”
And the result: our local member retained his seat in parliament but we lost government. Robin Chapple didn’t win his seat but he persevered and eventually was successful – which brings me back to the beginning of this blog!
At the beach this morning I saw a great candidate for this topic. It was the ripples in the sand caused by the movements of the waves. I didn’t bring my camera though!
I thought, “I know. I have a great photo of a sand dune with a unique pattern caused by the wind. I searched my photo albums and couldn’t find it. We are not talking digital here!
BUT, I did find several old photos taken in different parts of Australia over the past few decades.
I have enjoyed this topic as it led me on a journey to places archived in my memory.
This is the sort of photo I had in mind to start with 🙂 I didn’t take this one though.
I lived and breathed politics at one time in my life. The left side of politics was under threat in Newman (iron-ore mining in the North West of Western Australia). Robe River Mining had taken on the Unions and beaten them – it was a bitter fight. Other mining companies tried to shake off the unions and there were lots of strikes – lots of nasty name calling as well.
I didn’t work for the mine but I did some casual work with the local Labor Member of Parliament. I then took on the Secretary’s job at the local ALP Branch. I loved it. All sorts of issues came up and I wrote letters to anyone and everyone. I realized that one person writing one letter can make a BIG difference to a community. I represented the branch and that had some impact.
We fought against issues like “fly-in, fly-out” contractors. They came to work for two weeks on and one week off. They didn’t contribute anything to the community infrastructure – in fact services were under threat as the number of school children reduced so teachers were withdrawn etc.
I’m not so passionate about politics today. I still believe that one person can make a difference though. Cynicism can take over if you let it!
The politicians visited town often and the local ALP branch members used to put them up over night. It was so interesting to get the inside story. I know they worked incredibly hard with long hours every week. Is it the power that drives them to keep going? My lads gave up their beds for the night so that a couple of them could stay over. One of them left their silk dressing gown behind once and I had to parcel it up and send to his wife with a message I hope she believed!
Sometimes I would get up in the morning and find one of them doing my dishes. That was a pleasant sight 🙂
In 1988 I met and married a man from the Pilbara region of Western Australia. He worked as a driller for Mt Newman Mining Co. which later became BHP Billiton, based in the township of Newman. Newman is within the East Pilbara Shire which covers an area of 378,533 square kilometres. The region is known for its rich mining and pastoral industries. It also takes in parts of the Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts and the historic Canning Stock Route.
The area is populated sparsely. There are many remote Indigenous communities and the towns house the general population who staff the hospital, schools and small businesses. Most people in Newman are employed at the mine at Mt Whaleback – one of many large iron ore deposits.
I moved from Perth with my new husband and my three young sons in December 1988. It was HOT! Fortunately we had a nice home with good air conditioning. I lived in remote communities before but this was my first experience of a mining town. The Company was moving away from providing all the infrastructure for the town (they still provided housing for their workers) and the government provided schools, hospitals etc. It was a very multicultural community with over forty nationalities represented. The demand for workers attracted people from all over the world.
Newman was a very social place. Most people knew each other as the population was about 7,000 at that time. It has fluctuated up and down depending on the needs of the mining industry. The pub was a popular place for the workers. It was pretty rough and not the sort of place to wander through without a male companion. I think I only went there twice in the seven years I lived there 🙂
It was a place of opportunity – the chance to be a big fish in a small pond, as the saying goes. I very quickly found more work and interests than there were hours in the day. I was coordinating a migrant English program, writing for the local regional newspaper, and later became involved as a Shire Councillor for the East Pilbara Shire. It was great to have input into the decisions impacting on the community and the region.
We used to fly small planes to Council meetings each month as we tried to meet in different parts of the vast shire boundaries. We normally chartered small planes to places such as Marble Bar, Nullagine, Telfer and Shay Gap. Marble Bar is known as one of the hottest places in Australia and its history as a gold mining town. During the time I was on the Shire I was the only female councillor. It was a memorable experience with many larger than life characters on the Shire and in the districts they represented.
Today a lot of the mining companies employ their staff on a fly in, fly out basis. The partners and families stay on in the cities and towns and the men do some time at the mine site and then have a week or so back home with their families. I opposed that concept as it was very bad for the towns in the region. Fewer children meant fewer teachers were allocated to the schools etc and the towns reverted to a company town with the only focus being on the mines and the pubs. Community services declined and the lives of the families in the cities live only part-time with their partners. It can be very lonely for them, however it pays well and that is why they do it.
I have some great memories of my time up there but I don’t want to go back. I would love to visit for a holiday but my life has moved on since then. Some of my information for this blog was is from a book commissioned by the Shire when I was there – Gold Dust and Iron Mountains – Marble Bar and Beyond by Hugh Edwards for the East Pilbara Shire.
cheers for now
I have learnt a new word – it is fulminate. It means to protest strongly against something. It comes from the Latin word fulminare, meaning strike with lightning.
I remember a time when I fulminated against a child being removed from her foster parent, just because of a newly introduced policy in the Child Protection Department.
It seemed so unjust and foolish to move the child from an environment where she was happy and doing really well in all aspects of her life. The natural mother of the child chose the foster parent herself and was happy with the arrangement as she had lots of access to her daughter.
The little girl was forcibly relocated to a remote community to be with her extended family. She was only there a short time and became ill due to the poor living conditions in the community.
The mother and foster-mother sought my help to lobby the Minister in charge of this area. The local MP wanted to support the hard-line of the Department and we had a boisterous discussion where I fulminated against his ideology and his unwillingness to see common sense. The welfare of the child was sure to suffer in this situation.
It is not very often that I get that animated and express my views in such a strong way. It was a very complex situation, but it could have been very simple if politics hadn’t got in the way.
I believe that laws and government policies must add some value to our lives and each situation deserves serious consideration to ensure that the outcome is the most positive one.
WordPress suggested I might like to write about my three biggest responsibilities! That got me thinking. I could be clever and say “bringing up three sons” – THE END
Yes, being a parent is a big responsibility for sure. When my first son was born (I was 21 yrs old) I proudly brought him home in his red and white carry basket; placed it on the kitchen table and said to my husband, in terror … “what am I supposed to do next?”
It got easier with sons two and three but still daunting. When I was 30 I found myself alone with the three boys (18 months, 4 years and 8 years). That was tough but we survived and they have turned into good-looking, stable young men who I am very proud of today.
A funny situation when I was living in the Pilbara and a Shire Counsellor at the time, I was asked to sit on a local Rugby Tribunal. Now, I know nothing about rugby (even if it should have a capital R or not). They assured me it wasn’t necessary as there were others on the panel with those skills. No one told me that it was a really volatile situation and that I may get rocks thrown through my window if I supported the “wrong”side. I bailed before that could happen (those guys were REALLY big and strong).
A responsibility I really enjoyed as a Councillor was performing the Australian Citizenship Ceremonies. That felt like a great privilege and a real joy!
Work responsibilities seemed big at the time – their importance can get all out of proportion when one is in the midst of the drama. Also, working for government, if something goes really well, praise and recognition goes to the Minister; if it goes badly there is always someone else to blame 🙂
I am not one to chase after lots of responsibilities – I usually stand back and let others take the lead. If no-one comes forward, then I may consider getting involved.
cheers for today