Miner's Girl Sarah Long: how I met my miner

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When I first arrived in Sydney from the UK, there was no way I expected to have anything to do with the mining industry, but it's had a big effect on my life.

I came to Australia via India, as part of a six-month, round-the-world trip. After graduating from my university journalism course, I worked in publishing for two years before deciding that it was time to take a break and see more of the world. I only intended to spend two months in Australia - but things didn’t turn out that way!

After travelling to Melbourne and Tasmania, I decided that I would need to spend a little longer in Sydney for work. I didn’t want to leave without visiting the east coast, and to do this more funds were needed.

When my new backpacker friends and I arrived back in Sydney, we were encouraged to play two-up in a pub on Anzac Day. Apparently that's what all Australians did and if we wanted to experience the 'real' Australia we should join in.

So we duly paid a visit to our local pub to see what all the fuss was about. And it was there that I spotted a tall, dark, slightly drunk guy with a group of friends.

As the day went on and everyone got into the game (and the drinks) we started talking. Tom told me that he was just visiting friends in Sydney and that he actually lived in Orange, where he worked as a diesel fitter in the mines. I had no concept of what this meant at the time and so it didn't really register that this could be a problem. We exchanged numbers and he promised to meet up with me next time were in Sydney.

Needless to say, he called me and arranged to visit ... and a month later I was visiting him in Orange too. By this time I had a 9-5 office job in Sydney and the complexities of dating a miner were quickly dawning on me.

Tom sent me a copy of his roster to make it easier for us to work out ways to see each other in advance. My heart sank when I saw that there was a whole month where he would be working every weekend - I didn’t want to have to wait that long to see him. So I arranged to take some days off during the week (even though I was still saving money for the rest of my trip - and working as a temp means that you don’t receive holiday pay). Tom also came to stay with me in Sydney during the week on his break so that we could at least see each other in the evenings.

I found it difficult at first, as I was torn between wanting to save money and travel with my friends and wanting to spend time with Tom. In some ways I felt like I was letting myself down by not travelling as I had intended to and I also didn’t want to miss out on anything. One weekend all of my friends went to the Hunter Valley and I couldn’t join them as I knew it was Tom's last weekend for weeks.

But I suppose by this point I knew that I had fallen in love with him - and when you love somebody you make it work. So I budgeted and worked extra hours so that I could still take days off for long weekends. And because one of the bonuses of working in the mines is good pay, Tom also helped me with the cost of my train tickets to Orange.

Since we met I have managed to do more travelling and spent three weeks travelling the east coast, visited New Zealand for and seen much more of the country than I ever would usually as a backpacker, because my partner is Australian.

In November 2010 I moved to Orange to live with Tom and we were both so excited that it would be the end of our long-distance relationship, but I was unable to find a farm job in Orange and my visa was quickly running out (one of the requirements for English travellers to gain a second-year visa is to complete three months of farm work in a rural area). So I lived and worked seven hours away in northern NSW for a few months, to gain my second-year visa. Things were tough, as we only got to see each other once a month.

In those days we'd sometimes get frustrated and take it out on each other, but you have to try to talk about it and make the time you do have together special. We try to have one date night every time we’re together so that we don’t just slip into a ‘home routine’ of cooking, cleaning and watching TV (or just locking ourselves in the bedroom!)

As a backpacker it is often easier to meet people and make new friends because you are more open to putting yourself out there and speaking to new people. I now have some great friends in Sydney, but on occasions this is not the same as having my 'home' friends around. I’ve found it really difficult at times not having my usual support network around me when things are hard. Back in England if I was upset because I was missing Tom or we had had an argument about not being able to see each other, I would have my friends and family to support me and cheer me up. There are definitely times when that gets me down.

I know life won't be easy with a miner. I am qualified to work in publishing and journalism, which are usually city-based jobs, and of course the mines are all in rural areas. But we know we can make it work. It all comes down to the fact that if you love someone you'll try your hardest to stay with them and be together, no matter what.


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