Thursday, January 29, 2009

Day 20 - Friday 23/1

Today is the last full day we have in Hedland and for some reason I know I will miss it. We went into CUCRH in the morning and I wrote my article about the World Indigenous People's Conference and sent it off to the Telegraph. Nadia, James and I discussed how we would present the radio show we are doing tonight, making a brief outline of its content. We picked up a few local news items this week and James wrote them into a bulletin which Nadia and I are going to read on air.

By lunchtime we were on the road, seeking guests for our radio show. James had the idea of interviewing a small business owner with the idea of asking 'what does it take' to run a small business in Hedland. He managed to get the owner of Muffin Break to agree to come into the studio that night. We also had the idea of speaking to someone about the Australia Day Breakfast in Port Hedland. After making a few calls we managed to get hold of the lady in charge of the company putting the breakfast on. With a couple of hours before we were to go to air we had our interviews arranged.

We went into the radio station early to sort out our music for the show and to go over what we were to talk about. Before we knew it it was time to go on air and I must admit I was pretty nervous. We started with an interview with Kate from the women's water polo team. Nadia, James and I each took it in turns to ask questions and it all ran pretty smoothly. Luckily Nadia has had a lot of radio experience and she sort of acted as the main presenter and also made sure we didn't exceed our time limits with talking. We then interviewed Julie about the Australia Day breakfast and Anthony from Muffin Break. After our interviews, we had about half an hour left and James, Nadia and I each spoke about our experiences over the past three weeks.

Overall the radio show went pretty smoothly and I think it was a great way to sum up our trip to Port Hedland. There were a few hiccups, with James accidently mentioning the name of a company (a big no no on community radio) and myself being stuck for words a few times. However, everyone in the station was happy with our show and so were we.

Day 19 - Thursday 22/1

I didn't start working until late this morning as I waited for Nadia to undergo an interview with a lady from ABC radio - Nadia may have an opportunity to work in Karratha for ABC. I got to CUCRH at about ten and transcribed the interview I conducted with Helen Pianta on Tuesday. Listening back to my own interviews always teaches me something - from this one I learnt that I need to be more direct with my line of questioning. I think I crossed the line between interview and casual conversation, but the interview was still okay.

Today was James' day at the Telegraph, and Nadia and I played with a few ideas for the radio show we are to do tomorrow. We know that we will be speaking to someone from the water polo club, as we visited the aquatic centre yesterday. As to the other people we will talk to we aren't quite sure yet, but we should find someone in this friendly town.

We collected James at about lunchtime and had a chat with Liam at the Telegraph about the stories we would be covering this week. As for me I haven't had much chance to work on anything other than the World Indigenous People's Conference article. James and Nadia are also working on an article each.

Tonight I was lucky enough to go on a tour of the BHP Iron Ore mine at Nelson Point. I was driven around site by Dwane and I got pretty close to some big machinery, including the car-dumpers that tip iron ore from train carts into a stockpile, a reclaimer that collects the iron ore and sends it down a conveyor-belt and a stacker which seperates the ore into different grades. I went into the observation tower and had a view of the entire town. I've become pretty interested in mines since being in Hedland and I now have the aim of seeing as many different kinds as I can.

Me standing in front of a car dumper at BHP

A reclaimer at sunset

Reclaimer close up

Day 18 - Wednesday 21/1

Today we drove to Yandeyarra - an Aboriginal community about an hour and a half away from Port Hedland. We had to take a 4wd as the second part of the trip was a forty kilometre stretch of dirt road. We stopped a few times to take in the sights and we definitely felt like we were in the outback. We were surrounded by spinifex and red dirt, with the occasional cluster of enormous rocks. Just before we hit Yandeyarra we had to cross two rivers and it seemed like a miracle for there to be water out there at all.

James, Byron and Nadia crossing the river at Yandeyarra

Our first (and last) port of call was the health clinic, where we spoke to the on-site nurse and a doctor who flew in that day. The main health issues in the community were kidney illnesses as well as infections forming in young men who are circumsised with stones (when they are put through tribal lore). In the latter instance, patients often don't admit themselves to the clinic in the fear that they will be punished by their tribe. Instead these young men often hang around and the nurse/doctor has to ask them what's wrong and take them into the clinic. Ouch!

We weren't able to stay in Yandeyarra long, as it had rained the previous night and the river was fast rising. To ensure we could cross the river by car we had to go before the river rose too high. On the way back Nadia and I each had a chance to drive the 4wd on the dirt track. This was a fun but taxing experience, as it required intense concentration and a far different driving style than what we were used to. My first car was a 4wd so it didn't take long to adjust to the change.

Nadia making a splash on the way home

On our way back we stopped into the Telegraph to pick up some copies of the paper. I skimmed through to see my yacht club article on page two, my article about the Roebourne medical student on page 14 and mine and Nadia's netball story on page 39. I was pretty happy with that effort, especially because my articles were all so different from one another so they were scattered throughout the paper.

The Yandeyara trip took up most of our day and we arrived back at CUCRH in the afternoon. Isabelle filled out our paperwork, as she is setting off for Sri-Lanka tomorrow. We didn't get to work on any articles today but I still feel as though I had a fulfilling day. It was a great experience being able to see what it's really like in an Aboriginal community.

Day 17 - Tuesday 20/1

Today was my birthday so naturally I didn't get much work done :\ (though I tried!) We spent the morning at CUCRH and I was busy typing when Byron (Isabelle's son) came in and asked me to join James and Nadia in the other room. When I walked in, Nadia, James, Isabelle and Byron wiahed me happy birthday in unison and gave me a card which everyone at CUCRH signed. There were balloons on the wall and a cake ready for me to cut. It made me really happy and I thanked everyone for giving me a nice birthday suprise, before digging into a piece of chocolate cake :)

I finally got hold of Helen Pianta (World Indigenous People's Conference) today and arranged an interview for the afternoon. I used the car to go to Pundulmurra TAFE and spoke to Helen for about an hour. She was very helpful and provided me with plenty of material for my article. The focus of the conference was on improving the educational outcomes of indigenous people worldwide. Helen got a lot out of the conference and told me the main message she brought away from it was that the struggle for indigenous people is the same, no matter which part of the world they are from.

This evening Isabelle invited us to her house for dinner and cooked us some delicious food. Joanie and Anika were there too and after dinner Joanie brought out a birthday cake that she made for me. It was no ordinary cake either! Joanie had cut a doll in half and sit it on top of the cake, which was in the shape of a doll's dress. Joanie had clearly put a lot of effort in (as had Isabelle) and this made me feel really special - it was great to have such a good birthday even though I was away from home.

Joanie and me cutting into my cake

The night didn't stop there and Nadia took me to the all seasons hotel and bought me a cocktail. It was delicious! Shortly afterwards the place closed and we walked to the beach before retiring to our beds. Definitely a birthday I'll never forget :)

Day 16 - Monday 19/1

We turned up to CUCRH at about nine this morning and worked by ourselves until about lunchtime, when Nadia and I went to the police station again. The officer we spoke to last week hadn't got back to us, so we thought we would go in and remind him. It turns out he'll be away this week, so we left a message requesting another officer retrieve the information for us.

About half an hour later a policeman called us wondering excactly what we needed to know and why. Nadia spoke to him and gave him the background on what we'll be covering and he told us to come in. He gave us some statistics which indicated that the crime levels in South Hedland have dropped over the last few years. This is contrary to the angle Nadia and I were pursuing and after speaking with the Telegraph we decided not to write the crime story afterall.

In the afternoon Nadia had another doctor's appointment so I went with her to keep her company. We sat in the waiting room for a couple of hours only for the doctor to tell Nadia to come back the next day. O well! No use getting angry about that one.

We drove back to CUCRH to pick up James and do some more work. We didn't stay very long and I went home feeling as though I didn't achieve much at all. I'm starting to feel pretty tired and even though I love it up here I'm glad it's the last week.

Day 15 – Sunday 18/1

This morning we had the first sleep in since arriving and it felt great! It wasn’t long before reality beckoned though, and I got a phone call from Liam at the telegraph asking us to come in and put together the photos we took at last night’s Bollywood party. Since James did most of the work with the camera, Nadia and I went in to load them onto the computer and write captions and an introduction. James took some pretty good shots and I think they will definitely add some colour to the newspaper.

In the afternoon I went with Nadia to Joanie’s place for an interview Nadia arranged with Joanie (she is hoping to write a profile about her). Grant Bussel was there also and we had a chat over a glass of wine. It was technically Nadia’s interview so I didn’t talk much but absorbed a lot of what Joanie and Grant had to say. I actually learnt a bit from Nadia, who is a natural interviewer (where as with me it doesn’t come so easily).

I think Nadia pulled at Joanie’s heartstrings when she asked about Joan’s adopted daughter Anika. Joanie adopted Anika when she was just 18 months old and was struggling in hospital. Anika spent the first few years of her life in hospital and Joanie said that is not uncommon for Indigenous children around the area. Anika’s mother had been an alcoholic, diminishing Anika’s chances of being a healthy baby – and she came out with spina bifeda and kidney problems. Anika is a really strong person though, and she’s living a highly fulfilling life as a high school student in Port Hedland.

Tonight Nadia and I joined the BHP guys at their house and ate freshly caught barramundi. Yum! It really helps that we have made friends up here and the people are so welcoming. I have to say I am enjoying the vibes in Hedland…

Day 14 – Saturday 17/1

This morning we had a bit of a sleep in before heading over to the yacht club to meet John Bartlem (source for yesterday’s story) and take a look at the proposed yacht club site. John told us a bit about the new facilities the yacht club will have – two metre deck facing the ocean plus two new bars – and about their intentions for the existing yacht club. They hope to turn what is the yacht club now into a live music venue which can be seen from the proposed club. It should take about two years to build the new club and it should be pretty spectacular.

We then headed over to CUCRH to check whether Rosi had emailed her pics through. There were no messages in my inbox so I gave Rosi a call and she explained that there was something wrong with her internet connection and she would send the photos as soon as possible. That meant we stayed at CUCRH a lot longer than anticipated but it was ok because we got to do some research for next week’s stories.

Waiting for Rosi’s email, I read some more information about the World Indigenous People’s Conference (as I needed another source to write the story and Helen Pianta was unavailable until Monday). There were endless keynote addresses available online and I had a skim through those. Rosi’s email came through in the afternoon and we forwarded her photos onto the Telegraph.

This afternoon I read an article about Port Hedland that was published in the Weekend Australian Magazine titled ‘Still Their Town’. It was written shortly after cyclone George (2007) and examines what life is like in a boom town. The article shed some light on the consequences of a town dominated by the mining industry – the most prominent being the chronic shortage of workers in every other area besides mining. It also covered the real estate prices in the town, drawing attention to the fact that it is near on impossible to live on a normal wage in Hedland. I had noticed this about the town, but seeing it on paper really brought it home. The article wasn’t pessimistic though, as it spoke about the ‘community spirit’ that thrives among the locals.

Tonight Nadia, James and I dressed up and went to a Bollywood party in South Hedland. It was great fun and we took photos for the ‘out and about’ section of the Telegraph.

Me, James and Nadia at the Bollywood party