Why little (or big) mining towns make great places to live

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By Nicky Way

"I got the job." 

Four little words that can ruin anyone’s day. I wanted to be so happy for my husband, but I think the look of horror on my face betrayed me. I never did have a very good poker face.

One minute I was holding a glass of chardonnay and living smack bang in the middle of one of NSW’s prime wine (and coal) regions, surrounded by an amazing group of girlfriends.  Suddenly in the blink of an eye I was about to move back to the hot, dry desert of central Queensland (CQ) coal country. OK, maybe I exaggerate - it’s not exactly a desert - but the point is I’ve done my 'tour of duty' (as my sister-in-law calls it).  I’ve lived in a dedicated mining town, population 2000, for seven years.  Was I really going back?

Yes, yes I was. "Are you excited? Are you looking forward to it?" my aforementioned girlfriends asked.  "No I’m not, but I’ll be fine once we get there."  That was all the enthusiasm I could muster.  Over a few cappuccinos with friends I let a couple of sneaky tears get stirred in with the sugar.  As I sipped merlots with mates, I mixed in a few more tears. 

Then I started to rally. Was it an amazing opportunity? Yes. Did I think I would live in this wine-loving paradise forever? No, but please god at least you could have given me the chance to get well and truly sozzled!  

Logically though, I knew that when opportunity knocks you have to let it in. And besides, I was going to a much bigger mining town – Moranbah, population circa 8,000. That had to have its pluses.

"Look at the positives," my husband said ... and he was right. There are plenty of good reasons why small mining towns make great places to live.

I started to reminisce. Small mining towns have a great sense of community.  People look out for each other, they take care of each other. When the newsagent’s wife gets cancer, $10,000 dollars is raised in a matter of weeks. People know where each other’s kids are.  It’s really hard to muck up when everyone knows your mum. Rightly or wrongly you feel a little bit like you can’t be touched by crime. Kids ride their bike or walk to school and you know that they’ll make it home. You leave your house and car unlocked, knowing that it will all be there when you get back. You walk home from the pub unescorted because the worst thing that can happen is falling asleep and waking up in someone’s flower bed!

So with all those good memories floating round in my head, the boys and I packed up and moved to Moranbah.  It’s been almost a month now and just as I predicted, we’re fine. That’s not to say I haven’t had my moments. There was a small incident with a frog… but that’s another story for another time! 

In the hope that it helps you with a smooth move, here are a few of my favourite do’s and don’ts for starting off life in a mining town.

Do

  • Join in: Get down to the monthly markets, the outdoor movie night, the shave for a cure fundraiser night. It’s a great way to spend time as family, support the local community and meet people all at the same time.
  • Volunteer: help the scouts clean up Australia, introduce yourself at the local community office or go and join up for Rotary or one of the many community organisations in a mining town.  It’s a great social outlet to meet people and to give back to your new mining town.
  • Search social media: want to know where to get a good meal in town? Ask Facebook! Many mining towns have a Facebook community noticeboard page and almost all have a buy, swap and sell. These 'noticeboards' are a great place to ask questions and have them answered really fast. It’ll help you get rid of that ukele and other useless pieces you packed up and moved with you! In Moranbah I’ve found more than 20 Facebook pages!
  • Connect with your partners’ employer: Most of the big miners also have a community office, so get in touch with them. Others offer rebates on gym and pool membership. No matter which company, getting to know your partner's colleagues and their better halves is a great way to get know people when you're new to town. They’ve all been in your boat at some stage.
  • Visit the local community office: most mining towns have a community office and social services support officers. Many even offer a welcome information pack. Go and say hello.  They’ll be glad to see you and to put you in touch with some great networks.
  • Read the local paper and shop noticeboards: then you can get your glad-rags on and head to the High Tea that’s coming up.
  • Get a new GP: before you get sick, register the family with one of the GPs in town. Ask for recommendations and set up records for all of you. Chances are if you’ve got kids you’ll be there within the month!
  • Go on holiday: even just for the weekend. Small mining towns are great but every now and then the togetherness and living in each other’s pockets gets a little bit too much.  Head to the coast, have a posh meal out or camp under the stars. Have a change of scenery. You’ll come back refreshed and ready to get back into community life.

Don’t

  • Kill yourself trying to unpack: trust me, it will all still be there in the morning!
  • Criticise: that checkout lady you just bagged? Guess what - she’s your son’s soccer coach!  Be nice to everyone, you just never know who’s who in the zoo.
  • Overcommit: If you feel like you’re drowning in tuckshop, Rotary meetings, AFL training, taking the kids to soccer, swimming and playgroup, you’ve taken on board too much. Easy tiger you’ll find your niche.
  • Panic: when you can’t get the kids into daycare, or find a job or it’s taking a while to meet new friends. You’ll eventually make the connections that help you find the answers and the friends. Unfortunately there is no "just add water" solution to making friends.
  • Overspend: hold off on buying the brand new Landcruiser, jet ski and motorbike.  It’s exciting when you get the great new job, pay packet, and maybe even subsidised housing, but be a bit clever. Set up some investments. Buy a property, some shares or open a high-interest savings account. Set yourself up to leave town financially better off than you arrived.
  • Go away every weekend: how do you expect to make friends and influence people if you go away every weekend? Even if it’s only one weekend a month, stay home.  Put a steak on the barbie and invite the neighbours or your partner’s workmates over. That’s how 20-year friendships start.

Nicky Way is a freelance writer, blogger, mum, dormant yoga teacher and wannabe book writer. Check out her website: www.nickywaywrites.com