South West WA

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By Nicky Way

From the south-west corner of Western Australia, in coastal towns like Rockingham, Mandurah, Busselton and Bunbury, FIFO/DIDO workers travel to mining jobs in all corners of the state.

The lucky ones don't have too far to travel, and you'll find these miners working in coal, mineral sands and bauxite mines around two hours' drive east of their homes.

On their days off, miners from this part of the world get to enjoy some of the most idyllic waterside towns in Western Australia. 


Ask anyone what they remember about Rockingham and they're sure to answer with "little penguins and big ships". On Green Island, north-west of Rockingham, you will find Australia's largest naval fleet and submarine base. On Penguin Island you'll find, well, little penguins of course!

Other natural wonders that are attracting a growing number of families to the area include Cape Peron, Cockburn Sound and endless white sandy beaches.

With Rockingham just 45 minutes from Perth, and a bunch of mines out to the east, it's not surprising that 49 per cent of Rockingham's 114,000 residents travel outside of the area for work. The top three industries are construction, manufacturing and retail. Mining is on the list too. 

According to a few websites, Rockingham is one of the fastest growing residential districts in WA. This is probably helped by the many young and growing families moving to the area.  Options for educating and caring for young children include Good Start Early Learning & Tiny Tots Early Day Care Centre. For schooling there are state, Catholic, Montessori, Baptist and Lutheran school options and for tertiary there is the Murdoch University campus.

Rockingham also has a general hospital, GPs and community health services, although many families drive to the capital for specialist care. 

While you might be tempted to head to Perth to shop as well, you can get your retail fix just down the road. Shopping options include the older Rockingham Beach High Street/Mall and the Rockingham Shopping Centre with, over 200 retail options.


Watch Nicole Kidman's 1986 film Wind Rider, or take a look at the Triffids' Born Sandy Devotional cover, and you'll see images of the seaside town of Mandurah. This coastal town has come a long way since the 1986 popular culture icons featured it. Since then it's twice been voted WA’s Top Tourism Town. With such beautiful beaches as Avalon, Melros, Silver Sands and Town Beach, who could argue! 

Mandurah's 70,000 (ABS 2011) residents travel less than an hour to get to Perth. Like Rockingham, it's often labelled as a satellite city to the capital. 

When they aren't enjoying the beach, Mandurah's residents are working in tourism, retail, manufacturing/construction, and to a lesser extent mining and agriculture. Wages are good and some mining jobs are less than two hours away.

You can spend your family pay packet at Centro Mandurah, The Bridge Quarter (or The Foreshore), Dolphin Quay/Mandurah Ocean Marina and the Peel Inlet.  Access to the town from Perth is easy by road or rail.

Education and childcare options are good. Childcare offerings include Early Learning, A1 Fun and Goodstart. Schooling options include state, Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran and Baptist and for tertiary education there is the Challenger TAFE Peel campus and the Murdoch University Peel campus.

Peel Health Campus provides hospital facilities, although they don't cater for intensive care patients. There are also a number of community health facilities.


There are a couple of things you can't miss when you arrive in Bunbury: one is the giant 'Milk Carton'; and the other is the checkerboard lighthouse. The distinctive blue and white, milk-carton-shaped Bunbury Tower is home to many corporates and is the 1983 legacy of businessman Alan Bond. The lighthouse has been guiding lost souls (and boats!) since 1841 and dazzling Bunbury's 31,000 (ABS 2011 ) residents with its distinctive black and white check since 1971. 

Not far away from the lighthouse is the port, servicing farming, mining and timber industries. The main industry performers for the town, however, are mining, manufacturing and retail.

For the kids there are daycare centres: Goodstart, Munchkin Manor, Little Angels and Milligan House.  For schooling there are Catholic, Lutheran, Christian and grammar school options as well as a large number of state schools. For tertiary study there is the South West Regional TAFE College and the Edith Cowan University. 

To keep the family fighting fit there are good health services. Bunbury Hospital at South West Health Campus offers many services including Aboriginal liaison, allied health, emergency, intensive care, maternity, medical, nursery, operating theatre, paediatrics to name but a few. 

Bunbury has your retail therapy covered too. Shopping options in Bunbury are plentiful with the Bunbury Forum and Bunbury Centrepoint offering a good range of shops.  You can also try out the farmers' markets for fresh produce. 

Getting to Bunbury is easy. Perth is only 175km away by road and rail.

The pretty little town is also home to three international golf courses, plus Capelvale and Bonking Frog wineries. 


At the beginning of 2012, Busselton went from being a country town to the sixth regional city of Western Australia. The accolades don't stop there! A quick look at the council website and you'll find that the city prides itself on being the events capital of regional WA, and what a lot of events there are!

Some of Busselton's signature events include Cinefest Oz Festival, Ironman Triathlon Western Australia, Southbound Concert, Busselton Jetty Swim, Festival of Busselton & Beach Festival, Festival of Triathlon, Forest Rally, Busselton Agricultural Show and Geographe Bay Race Week.

There is one stand-out tourist icon that rivals these events and it might take you a long, long time to get to the end of it! The Busselton Jetty is the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere, standing at an impressive 1.8km. 

A $27m facelift means there are now dedicated fish gutting stations and filtered drinking water booths the entire length of the jetty. If you make it to the end by foot or by the mini railway you will marvel at the creatures you see in the underwater observatory. 

The jetty isn't the only thing that's been transformed. With so many events, it's no surprise to learn that tourism is now one of the strongest industries in the region. It's followed closely by dairy, cattle, sheep, crop farming, and more recently wine. Busselton is an easy gateway to the Margaret River winery region.

For the young ones, daycare options include Bluebird, Ocean Tides and Gladewater Early Learning Centres. For schooling there are Catholic, Anglican, Christian and state schools to choose from. For tertiary study there is only one choice, the South West TAFE campus.

Services offered by the Busselton Hospital include emergency, maternity, outpatients, paediatrics, pathology and radiology. 

Busselton has two main shopping centres: Busselton Central and Busselton Boulevard. Between the two, there's enough shops to keep the most hardy shopper happy.

So whether you're mining or mooching around the beaches, the wineries or one of the signature events, the four coastal towns of Rockingham, Mandurah, Bunbury and Busselton are great places to make a home and an income at the same time!


The cosy rural community of Nannup, just 40 minutes' drive from the Busselton airport, is also becoming increasingly popular with FIFO and DIDO families seeking five-acre lots with picturesque river and forest views.

There's a nice little primary school, community kindergarten, playgroup and pre-school services. There's also an early childcare centre offering full daycare subsidies, full-time or occasional care with fully qualified staff.

House and land packages are generally more affordable than in the larger coastal centres of south-west WA, and there's a good selection of five-acre properties on the market.

There's plenty to keep the whole family active too, from yoga, Pilates and badminton, through to basketball, football and Zumba. You'll also discover lots of walking, cycling, riding and canoe trails through the beautiful surrounding countryside.
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Nicky Way is a freelance writer who tells stories for publications and businesses using traditional and social media. Check out her blog:



"We love that we are so close to the beach, and have everything we need close at hand. There are cafés on the marina to enjoy a coffee break, a busy shopping centre close by, and a great train service to get to Perth when needed."

- Max and Linda Chesterfield of Mandurah. (Max also used to live in Bunbury and Busselton!)

Ever lived in South West WA? Tell us what you think...


Did you know there's a FIFO/DIDO South West Support Group? Click here

The voluntary Capes Group of the Australian Breastfeeding Association also facilitates local group get-togethers for families in the region (including many FIFO/DIDO families). They offer counselling support too. For more info visit or email Sharon on
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