Making new friends - an essential tool in mining life

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Hi! I'm Sarah Long. I arrived in Australia from the UK in early 2010 and met my Mr Miner soon after. We're based in Sydney and he does drive-in, drive-out (or DIDO) to Orange in country NSW. I came out here as part of a six-month backpacking trip around the world, and never went home!

Last month I had serious cause for celebration as my visa was approved, officially making me an Australian resident. There was only one problem – I had no-one to celebrate with!

Mr Miner was away, my best friend in Sydney was in the US getting married, my other friends were all busy and my family were obviously on the other side of the world. So I sat in the dark, in shock, waiting for someone to pop up on my Skype account, just so that I could share the good news.

One of the things I find hardest about living away from the UK is missing my friends and family. I know this sounds obvious, but it's not just missing the people, I also miss having the support network too.

I have a re-occurring thought that something could happen to me while Mr Miner is away and nobody would notice (think of that scene in Bridget Jones’ Diary where she imagines being eaten by Alsatians). Although I know this is silly, particularly given I speak to my sister-in-law about 10 times a day, it’s sometimes a hard image to shake.

Having friends and family on hand is something we often take for granted - I definitely did when I lived at home. It's all just so lovely and easy: always going to your parent’s house on Sunday for a roast dinner; hanging out watching Gossip Girl with your sister; or doing things together as a family. And because they know you so well, they don't judge you (and they always get your 'in' jokes!) The same goes for long-term friends, particularly those who have known you since school.

Moving away not only forces you to make new friends, but you also miss out on all those trusted long-term relationships.

Making new friends is easy when others are in the same situation. I met my aforementioned best friend when we had both just arrived in Sydney and knew nobody else. At the time we were thrown together, but we have built a lasting friendship on our similarities and shared interests (which don’t just involve relationships with Aussie men!)

If you don't find someone in a similar situation, it can be hard to break into groups of old friends with established routines.

When your partner is employed in the mining industry, particularly doing FIFO or DIDO, it’s even more important to develop your own reliable support network.

A friend whose husband is in the Navy told me that the support network between families in the armed forces is very strong – one of the neighbours even mows her lawn for her, insisting that "Navy wives don't mow lawns!"

I have found this level of support is not so well established in the mining industry, possibly because FIFO/DIDO is relatively new and mining families don't all live in the same community.

Luckily for me: a) we don’t have a lawn; and b) Mr Miner’s brother and good friends live just around the corner and are always available for heavy-lifting emergencies (they have been known to move furniture, provide transport and cook dinner all in one day!)

Perhaps it's up to us to build an attitude of support among mining families? If you know someone who's new to mining or just new to the area, why not take them out and show them around, or just go for a coffee? What harm can come from building up your own support network?

I've worked hard to build new friendships and relationships since arriving in Sydney two years ago, and I now have some brilliant people around me. I think it’s important to be outgoing and try to meet new people, join groups and strike up conversations.

I also try not to take my new friends for granted. I know that they are very understanding. They realise that if Mr Miner is home I may want to spend time with him, but I always make it up to them by arranging another time to do something together and sticking to it.

And this is probably why I found it strange that nobody was around for my visa celebrations!

In the end my work colleagues bought me a beautiful bunch of flowers and bottle of wine, my sister-in-law took me out for champagne the following evening and bought me a bag of English goodies, and my best friend called me the minute she landed in Sydney to take me out to dinner. (Not to mention all the congratulatory texts and Facebook messages I received.)

I do miss my family and friends at home in the UK, but I am also very lucky to have my 'Sydney family' just around the corner whenever I really need them.

More from Sarah:

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