A Pilbara Snapshot: Two

21 07 2012

Consider the case of Goldsworthy.

What?                   Where?

Exactly. No one even remembers it any more.

But Goldsworthy was home to the first iron ore mine in Western Australia, established in the 1960s just outside present-day Port Hedland.

At its peak, the town was home to 700 residents, including my sister’s partner who grew up there among the red iron hills and tree-lined creeks of the Pilbara.


But then the ore ran out.

So in 1994, in accordance with government policy to ‘avoid ghost towns’, the streets were torn up, buildings removed and a whole town was wiped off the map.

Like it was never there.


Many people who call Port Hedland home have probably never heard of Goldsworthy.

But they ought to think about it when considering their own future.

Because what will happen to Port Hedland when the Pilbara’s ore deposits run dry?

You can be damned sure the mining companies won’t stick around.

Why would they?

Gina Rinehart and Twiggy Forrest are only concerned about the bottom line, not about building sustainable futures


You only have to visit the Port Hedland garbage dump to see the scale of their excesses.

Apparently there’s no money in fixing old appliances anymore. Not for the local electricians who work out of town on-site and not for the cashed-up miners who just buy a replacement.

One section of the town dump is reserved solely for retired whitegoods –   a soaring pile of fridges, freezers and washers which probably just needed a tweak.

The plasma screen TV pile is only slightly smaller.

Waste. Excess. Wealth. These are just a few of my favourite things.

Actually they’re some of the reasons I moved to Melbourne.

And not because I envy the rich.

I realized long ago that I value lifestyle too highly to ever become wealthy.

But because I’m sick of hearing about that vacuous shit.

You hear a lot about it in Western Australia.

Who has that job, how much are they making, how big is their TV…

Never mind that these people are living right on the edge of one of the country’s outstanding areas of natural beauty. As featured on Foxtel.

Because, the thing is, the Australian wilderness isn’t friendly.

Spectacular, yep. But harsh, too.

And as Calvin – my sister’s partner  – pointed out, The Bush is simply alien to so many people who have moved up to the desert country in search of their fortune.

Spiky, dusty, dry, long distances;  you gotta earn those views.


Happily, my family in the Pilbara is right into getting outback and getting amongst it.

Hell, they used to live 300km from the nearest supermarket, so an hour’s drive outside Port Hedland was nothing.

Calvin drove us out past Goldsworthy where he grew up, to a deserted river bordered with twisted ghost gums where the only crowds were roaming Brahman cattle.

The kids ran wild in the water, we drank a few beers in the shade of the paperbarks and never once wished we were rich miners watching 52-inch plasma screens in Hedland.

But what do you think, dear readers? This is just one poor, non-miners opinion.

Is it a positive move that we’re tearing holes in the outback and sending our dirt overseas so a small part of the population can become filthy rich?

Should the traditional owners of James Price Point stop whining about a few faded rock paintings that stand in the way of progress?

Or should we just accept all this as the new future while we continue to drive round in petroleum-fuelled steel cars and keep our damn mouths shut? Over to you…………


Hilariously, this is just a small portion of the many, many people who have been banned FOR LIFE from the local pub. The Wall of ‘Fame’.

Wild passionfruit bush snacks

Brady killing it on the soccer field. More or less.


A Pilbara Snapshot : One

16 07 2012

In case you hadn’t heard, Australia, or more specifically North Western Australia, is in the midst of a resources boom.

What does this mean? Simply put, huge swathes of our red desert dirt are being sent to China to be turned into steel so that they can take over the world. Probably.

Closer to home, it also means every second person in WA is earning six figures, pushing prices and rents through the roof, particularly in those towns  lucky enough to be near a mine.

Port Headland is one of those towns. Flat and dusty, there’s not much to recommend it except as a hub to visit some of the incredible country further inland.

And that seems to be how the big mining companies view it too. Not as a bustling coastal community to house their legions of workers, but just as a necessary train stop on the way to more mining dollars.

The town, which comprises Port and South Hedland is simply functional. There are few restaurants or cafes because no one can match the mining salaries.

Ore trains rumble non-stop through town and a salt factory dominates the main road. Every second vehicle is a yellow-striped mine truck and a high-visibility uniforms dominate. It’s like you’re inside some sort of remote industrial plant yourself.

The thing which really struck me was how it seemed no one was looking ahead. There’s been no community investment in the town by the Big Miners who earn so much from it. When the minerals are gone, they’ll pull out and Hedland will have no reason to exist.

It’s just a shame they couldn’t spend a few more bucks to give their workers something nicer to come home to.

Just out of town near an abandoned mining settlement.

Action Week

2 08 2011

Last week a friend from NZ came to visit.

A snowboarder from the ruined city of Christchurch, this young lady was no stranger to adventure, so I took it upon myself to organize some kind of Super Itinerary, positively bursting with desirable destinations and outdoorsy pursuits.

This had the dual benefits of showing Erin a few choice pieces of WA real estate, while providing me the chance to piss off from work and have some holiday-style fun myself.

I think we did ok.

In just  two weeks we cycled the Swan River, toured Freo, found a BYO jazz bar, watched The Nextmen at Villa, cruised to Rottnest and back, hit Margaret River, spent three days in the forest around Walpole, played volleyball, attended a festival in Perth and went mountain biking in the Ferguson Valley. All while consuming our body weight in red wine.

Maybe I should be a tour guide. We sure had a ball. Check some pics.

near gas bay, margs

oh my, the brakes have failed...

karri tree carry on



walpole farmhouse still life

cottesloe beachfront

breakin' bones

elephant rocks, denmark

the tropical north

1 08 2011

Cape Range behind our campsite

One of the very best things about living in Western Australia is the rugged, warm north of the state, a lazy 15 hour drive from Perth.

Even the most bleak winter is quickly forgotten when you cross the 26th parallel and enter the tropics proper, where red desert meets teeming blue ocean.

And there’s so much damn wildlife up there. You almost expect David Attenborough to bimble into shot, explaining why echidnas love crossing the highway at around 5pm.

Around our camp at Yardie Homestead, there were countless roos, emus, wedgetail eagles, wild horses, goats, goannas and yes, echidnas.

In the water was equally startling. As well as the fish we regularly hauled in, there were turtles popping up everywhere, huge sea snakes, sharks chasing our tuna, rays in the shallows. One day, I’d love to see a dugong.

These shots are from a couple months back when we travelled to Exmouth for a friend’s wedding and even looking now, makes me feel wistful.

Hope you feel similarly inspired.

My favourite left in the world. Mike would disagree.

a very Australian wedding scene

on the way

the author and friend

pretty, deserted beaches? check.

A girl caught the biggest fish. A GIRL!?!

fishing, beer and sunsets. a lot to like.

pinhole panos

17 04 2011

A few shots from a recent pinhole panorama project.

'sculpture by the sea' - Cottesloe


city view from king's park

cottesloe beach

'all art is rubbish'. discuss.

Meet Sharan

17 03 2011

So I ventured into Perth to look at some art by Matt Doust yesterday. I do enjoy being able to do these things on a Wednesday afternoon – one of the upsides to hardly working at the moment.

On the way out, we stopped the gallery store – one of those shops which has all sorts of beautifully-designed colourful arty shit that you never knew you needed.

Not surprisingly I discovered something my unemployed self could not do without: a cardboard 35mm panorama pinhole camera in kit-form. And just $35. Done.

As an aside, I also discovered this same gallery (Venn) was run by an old school friend of mine. Nice work, Jade.

Anyway, i finally had my much sought Pano camera. I’d wanted the Lomo one for ages but they’re 500 euros. Took it home. Opened the box. And then freaked out at the complex instructions and sheer volume of parts.

Getting there...note pocketknife.

Apparently it was supposed to take 1-2 hours to assemble. I didn’t time myself, but I reckon I went close. Things might have also gone smoother if every 5th part wasn’t labelled wrongly – possibly something was lost in translation from the Japanese.

Done! The shutter slides down the front.

But I finished her. Meet the Sharan 35 Wide. Boxy, matte black, definitely not waterproof. She’s a beaut.

Results to follow…

Cardboard pinhole awesomeness

the motherland

28 02 2010

Another January, another trip home to Oz.

Pretty much like last year really, ‘cept this time the occasion was for a wedding and this time, Perth’s already over-the-top prices had reached critical mass.

By prices, I mean the cost of everything. But mostly food.

Main courses at decent restaurants are now regularly reaching $40 for say, fish of the day (Barramundi? Really?) but even a coffee is around four bucks.

One pub has also famously begun charging $18 for a pint of Hoegaarden beer. That’s for one pint…

And yes, I know when you convert it to pounds or euros, it’s roughly halved, but no one is earning euro currency. How many European restaurants charge €40 for a main meal? Not many I know of.

But whatever. Let the rich miners have Perth. It’s still lovely and leafy and sun-baked  most of the time, but finally a few kooky bars are breathing new life into forgotten corners of the city.

view across the city

at rotto

A couple of trips further afield also confirmed what I’ve long suspected: although the Perth metro area is okaaay, it’s the destinations nearby that make WA worthwhile.

The emerald waters of Rottnest Island are just a ferry ride away, but you could be in another land.

A land with no cars, rampant wildlife, deserted beaches and long bike rides, where your most pressing concern is what to barbecue for dinner that night and how many beers are left in the Esky.

Even in the south-west, developers haven’t gotten all over the cape just yet and there are quiet corners where you can pull over the truck, unfold a hammock and watch the sun sink below a rocky outcrop with no one around. Good stuff.

rottnest waters