A Travellerspoint blog

Life in the Pilbara: Port Hedland

red dirt, miners, beautiful sunsets and babies galore

sunny 30 °C


Now i last left you while i sat on a plane wondering how i was going to feel when i got there. Ive come to the conclusion that the least you know about a situation the better, this leaves less time to work it up in your head and worry if its right or not so when you do get there you have no expectations.
And i have to tell you i LOVE it here. I feel really chilled, not rushed or pressured and generally at peace. Some of the Aussie laid back bush spirit has been rubbed off already, life is flowing along and im just enjoying country life. It almost seems too good to be true.

I got here and turned up to the hospital unit on the Friday where all the midwives were really welcoming, however they apparently werent expecting me until the Monday and had nowhere for me to live!!......"oh ok". So we had a chat waited for a few phone calls and with a flick of a wand cinders will have a home to go to! There are two parts of Hedland, South (where the hospital is) and North (where the beach and my house is) and its a 20 minute drive between them passing the salt mines and the iron ore trains, more of that later! So off i went on the hospital minibus with my bag of which i have had many an argument with myself of what i needed to put in it.
I really hate carrying stuff, in an ideal world i would like to be a man who can live out of a small ruksack, im mostly pretty good at this but this time when you dont really have a fixed address anymore or know where you are going next....prob best to just bring most of it. And if i managed to go to bestival with my jansport backpack and fit everything in that....i can do anything. On second thoughts it did embaressingly explode open over the field on the walk to the tent revealing my undergarments much to Michelles laughing delights!.. Note: Always put the zips down to the bottom not at the top of the backpack!

On the bus i met a girl who it turns out i would be living with, during our chat we asked the obligitory questions, so where are you from, where did you train blah blah. Turns out she did nursing at Hertfordshire Uni as well and started the year after me....we must have walked past each other in the corridors, she also lived in Harrow which as some of you know if just down the road from where we are from! As they say...small world! So our house is a 6 bed nice modern house, there are a group of 6 houses which are purpous built for nurses doctors and some miners. They are pretty empty at this stage with our house having just three of us in which is perfect. We all get on brilliantly and laugh a lot, one is a nurse and one is another midwife. A short walk away in one direction is the beach, and not just any beach i really wont do this justice to explain it but a 20km winding flat stretch of unspoilt beach, surrounded by sandunes and big flat rocks to run on. In beach terms Australians probably wouldnt bat an eyelid at this vast sandy view but as a Brit abroad this still fills me with happiness. This is where i have been walking and running and pinching myself that i cant believe i live here. In Australia you are much more likely to get up put on your trainers and do something, since ive been here ive had walks and beach runs after work and even after doing night shift early in the morning, in England this just wouldnt happen you would be too busy moaning about how tired you were to go for a walk after a 11 hour night shift!


About the Pilbara: A little bit of setting the scene: So as i say Hedland is split between 'Port Hedland' (my bit) and South Hedland and the area they sit in is called the Pilbara made up of many little outback mining/bush towns which is in the North West of Australia in the Western Australia state. In Hedland 80% of the population wears fluros (florecent builder clothes) and are mostly men except for the occasional girl traddie (builder) or wife of which i have named MWAGS....'Miner Wives and Girlfriends'. Similar to the traditional WAG just less sparkley!

This town is a mining town concentrating on Iron Ore and Salt. Interesting facts of which i have learned from the local mullet haired bus driver. The trains which move the Iron Ore from the mine to the port where it is shipped to China and the like can be up to 6kms long!! Each wagon on the train can carry a mound of red dirt (Iron Ore) which is transported to the port and each ship load can carry 10,000 tons of iron ore. They load 10 ships in a 24hr period which is A LOT of red dirt! Iron Ore is used in blast furnaces to make pig iron which in turn is used to make steel! And that as we know is used in all kind of products from cars to knives and forks! So pretty vital stuff no wonder they make billions out of it and everyone who lives here gets paid astronomical money working for the mines. They also mine Salt here from salt lakes which looks like mountains of snow on the red dirt...odd. This is used mostly for chemical purposes like swimming pools, chemicals and industrial salt needs! So 4 weeks in, i have learnt something! The town is growing fast as more people choose to settle here and build homes etc.
There is also a whole lot of nothing up here inbetween towns. The nearest big towns are Karratha 2 hours West and Broome 6 hours East! Most people internet shop but there are supermarkets etc. I know of three bars i keep hearing talked about a couple of cafes and maybe 2 places to eat. There is a big aquatic centre, gym, outdoor pool by the beach, sports grounds, gallery. In general there always seems to be something going on, people get involved in the community and its pretty well set up for peoples needs. No there isnt a bustling high street with a costa coffee and a westfield shopping centre but there is something about this little place that has a passion behind it. People say its very quiet and they are just here for work but i feel like there is something else keeping them here too. In Port Hedland all the men are great big sturdy men with big beards and tattoos everyone drives a truck and has a boat and likes game fishing. SInce living here i kind of want a truck and i want to learn how to fish......luckily i dont want a beard or a tattoo though.


If i had known that maybe not a great deal of young people move around doing these contracts because of what you need to know and how you practice i might have worried a bit before. It also re-afirmed what i really do know about midwifery and that i can apply this anywhere. In this unit which is exactly the kind of unit i want to work in they have approximately 400 births and babies come out just the way they are supposed to, women breastfeed just how mother nature intended them to and midwives are midwives......real midwives of all ages and abilities who make educated decisions, work together and know what they are doing!!
They know a lot of their women throughout the pregnancy as they see them all the way through so build up a rapor, they dont complain and they provide midwife centred care and everyone feels fortunate to be able to practice the way they intended to. This makes me feel more and more sad about the state of midwifery in England, midwives want to be experts in their profession and help women and babies with the passion that encouraged them into the role in the first place but with stretched staffing, a huge leap in birth rates, limited resourses and funds people are burning out and cant give the high standard of care that women deserve.

Also in this neck of the woods there are a lot of Aboriginal people, around 35% of our birth rate is to the aboriginal woman. Birth and pregnancy in their culture is classed as womens buisness and men are not a part of this hush hush process at all, also the woman having a baby is always accompanied by her 'nanna' which is some kind of elder if not her actual granny. The family set up is a bit confusing with a lot of people called Auntie! These women birth well and just get on with it with minimal fuss (from what ive seen so far except for a few big swear words at the end!) the sad part of the story is there is a lot of drugs and alcohol abuse in pregnancy and they dont really seek midwifery care until the end of pregnancy which doesnt enable us to test for medical conditions and diseases as much as we normally would. On the up side their babies are real fighters, often born prematurely or with low birthweights they feed like little troopers maintain their temperatures and are eager little things. This has got to be some sort of survival instinct. Im pleased to tell you i've delivered three Aussie babies all born in fantastic natural births...one of which was 2.3kgs....thats just over two bags of flour! They also call nappies 'kimbies' !

So most of my time so far has been taken up with work and settling in here, exploring, meeting people, swimming, running and walking. One of my neighbours gave me a bike they werent using which has been handy although i cant get the seat up high enough so i need to find a trusty bearded traddie to fix it for me so its a bit more comfy. I havent seen any crocodiles or snakes yet which is handy although supposodly they do lurk around. Now im quite proud of myself for this next bear grylls intuition that i possess......a friend told me that people swim in the pretty pools which is essentially an eastry with swampy looking trees (hint hint) just off one end of the beach my first comment was, im not swimming in there thats prime croc grounds! 2 weeks later i see this sign: Thank you very much!!


Now i have figured out where most things are i am making friends and doing more. I graced the local horse racing event of the year with my presence won $50 and got invited into one of the sponsorship tents for a free drink....standard! I knew there was a reason i packed my wedges! This weekend is a big music festival not quite glastonbury but after 4 weeks of not really drinking it may as well be!! Plus one of my work mates wants me to look after her house and her dog while shes away for two weeks and she has a pool so that will help my tan along nicely!

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In the nearish future my plans for being here are to try to drive to Broome for a few days away at some stage which is apparently beautiful and also get Ningaloo reef near the end of the contract which is on the way back to Perth and hopefully i can fill out my ambitions to dive/snorkel with whale sharks and manta rays.

So everyday here is hot and sunny, not once have i thought hmmm i might need a cardigan! 28-30 degrees and no clouds...bliss. The sunsets are just out of this world as you'll see with the sky lighting up in all shades or orange pinks and purples as it sets. Im so relaxed and happy i cant believe i get paid to be here and do this.

So until next time with maybe a bit more of a plan of what should i do next.

Laura xxx

Ps. Michelle
Ive spotted a Kangaroo and worn a flanny! Next stop miner serenading!

Posted by Halgerty12 20:15 Archived in Australia

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WOW !! Laura what a brilliant blog, am so thrilled you are getting stuck in there. The photo's are fab, I love reading your blogs they are always funny and interesting and I am just so relieved you have found your feet. will e-mail for a catch-up ok. Love ya loads xxx

by annettesmith64

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