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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Accommodation shortage in Port Hedland, Western Australia

It's been an interesting experience spending time in Port Hedland. One caravan park in town has been bought out by a mining company to house their workers and this one, the Port Hedland, is full of permanents working in the mining industry.
Our 60 something next door neighbour and his wife live in a flash motor home and he has the garbo contract to drive hundreds of kilometres every day and empty the garbage bins on the 'pull-offs' on the side of the road that caravaners and truckies use to take short breaks. His other duty involves removing all road kill off the road. He drives such long distances that he often has to stay overnight away from home. If it can be believed, he says he earns between $3600 without overtime to $4600 with overtime a fortnight, in the hand, after tax. He was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time when his boss won the contract and the truck, his fuel and all associated expenses are paid for. His contract has one more year to run before he retires.
But at the end of next month, this caravan park, under new management, is going to move all permanents out, some caravans and motor homes are so old, they'll have to be towed out. The residents are very worried about where they will go, all accommodation is already full to overflowing, even the Port Hedland Detention Centre has been converted into cell like rooms for workers. Our neighbour says he will park his rig outside the council chambers until they find somewhere for him to go, and I believe him.
Even with high wages, some workers can only afford caravans or demountable huts, known as 'dongas' (dog boxes) like those here in this park and the 40 plus temperatures in summer must be unbearable.
But you can't help admire these men and women working in this mining town, they've come here to make money and hopefully set themselves up for life. After being here for nearly two weeks, I think they earn every cent.