Whilst there are A LOT of positives about living in the Pilbara, there are times you can feel very isolated and some days alone. From my experience, when residing and working in Tom Price, Paraburdoo and Dampier, I know many families that have struggled with the challenges that can come with living in a remote town.
Majority of people are away from their family and friends, have moved across the other side of the Country in some cases to towns that don’t offer the same services that bigger cities offer, and dealing with the sometimes tough living conditions that the Australian outback can throw at you.
For a number of families, the Pilbara town you live in is a temporary location, a 2 – 5-year stopover, before moving to your dream location. You are up here to do the hard yards, make money and set yourself and your family up for the future. For other families, the Pilbara has become your home and you couldn’t imagine living anywhere else! (This is definitely the case for my husband!) haha
No matter your reason for being here, you will have tough days where you lose sight of your goals and find it very difficult living in a town that is reading a temperature of 42 degrees outside, whilst you have 2 kids running around the lounge room making a mess as it is too hot to go outside!
For time like these, I implement the following to help me overcome the feeling of isolation:
1. Build yourself a social network – get out there and make some friends. There are many avenues to meet people in our Pilbara towns which include:
a. People at your work or your husbands work – suggest a BBQ
b. People at your kid’s school or day care – suggest a play date
c. Social Media – each town has a Facebook Page specific to that area. Post on there about being new to town and wanting to meet people
d. Depending on the age of your children, join a mother’s group
2. Plan a trip out of town every 3 months – this is probably the most important lifesaver for our family since moving to the Pilbara in 2009. My husband and I have a rule – we will get out of town every 3 months. This doesn’t have to be to Perth or too far down the road, but a long weekend in Coral Bay, a camping trip at the Islands or a stay at the Eco Beach Resort in Broome really refreshes you! Trust me, you come back ready to take on anything! And if after 1 week you are overwhelmed again, you can start the count down for the next trip you have planned in 2.5 months ha-ha
3. Treat your Pilbara friends like your family – we are all in the same boat! I can honestly say the friends we have made in the Pilbara will be some of our best friends for life. They really do become your family and it is so nice to have people to rely on. I have friends bring me soup when I’m sick, look after my daughter for me if I have an appointment she can’t attend, who I feel comfortable with to sit in front of in my PJ’s surrounded by mess in my house and have a cry – because that’s what friends are for! (You know how you are guys)
4. Participate in local sporting activities – If you ask my father, I am probably one of the most uncoordinated people in the world haha. That didn’t stop me from joining a touch football team in Tom Price or mummies netball here in Karratha. Joining a sporting group is not only great for your fitness, it is doing something for you and meeting new people.
5. Attend events that the community host – Our shires and local business do a fantastic job of ensuring there are events on in our local communities from markets, to concerts, race days and more! When something is on in town, make sure you attend! It is always fun and a great way to meet other members of the community and participate in what is on offer.
6. Make your house your home – Majority of families live in a company house. Whilst this is a great financial benefit for living in the Pilbara I hear so many people say ‘when I get my next house’, ‘I’m not buying a couch to suit this house as it isn’t mine’, ‘this house isn’t decorated to my taste but it is just a company house’. I must admit, when I first moved to Tom Price I had the same outlook… I put in cheaper, minimal furniture and really gave it the ‘transit house’ feel. This is the quickest way to feel like you are living in someone else’s house and not in your own home. Get comfortable! Decorate your place with your things, surround yourself with family pictures and art work, make it really feel like home.
7. Don’t live each day as if this part of your life is temporary… This is your life, live it! So many people say they are up here to save and to reach their goals. This is a fantastic place and opportunity for it, however you can’t stay sitting on the couch watching Netflix every night and counting down the days until you are back living on the Sunshine Coast because then you can start living and having fun. Start now! Don’t waste any time to live in the moment and enjoy each day.
8. Be honest with your partner and family and friends back home about how you are feeling – It is ok to be honest with your mum when she calls you and asks how things are going. Bottling up your emotions will only make you feel worse and let’s be honest, putting on a brave face can be harder than just having a good cry and moving on. Talk about it with your support network, get some strategies in place and move forward. You never know, a family member or friend may even jump on a plane and come up and say hi!
9. Utilise Skype and Face Time to stay in touch with Family and Friends back home – I thought one of the hardest things about having my first baby whilst living in the Pilbara was being away from my family and friends to share the precious milestones with. Thanks to technology it isn’t anywhere near as hard as I thought it would be! We Skype Nanny and Poppy every second day and have started an ICloud share album to post daily pictures of Stevie to see how she is growing and developing. The family love it!
10. Remember that it’s ok to have a bad day! You would have them even living in a city with your mum residing 15 minutes down the road. We are only human.
If you have any questions about feeling isolated and what you can do to help overcome it, don’t hesitate to email me: email@example.com.