Get a job in Tom Price.  Work in the mine.  Iron ore.
Chase the Tom Price Dreaming.  Great money.
You think it’s going to be a frontier town:
heavy-set blokes killing each other in the Pub.

It’s not like that.

Gotta get your head around the place.
It’s an outer suburb of Perth:
as far out as you can get.  Suburbia set in spinifex;
twisted mulga; hard shale.

Clay you can’t dent with a pick-axe.

Take a joy flight, Cessna buzzing like a sick V-Dub.
Brick and tile nestles in an iridescent oasis.
Trees and lawns and ovals.  The bowling green.
Swimming pool an opal mirage in the heat haze.

Lush curves of reeds snake from the shit-farm outfall.

The people are good.  Solid people with a sheen of money.
Mums with prams gossiping in front of the Farmers variety store.
Littlies yahooing on the 20 cent ride-on in the mall.
Blokes who like a few beers after their shift.

Barbies at the weekends.  Four footie teams.

Young marrieds chase the Tom Price Dreaming.
Good money.  Real good money.
Stick it for five years you can own a house back in Perth.
Or Melbourne or Adelaide or Newcastle or Wellington.

But five years become seven, then ten.  The kids are in high school.

Tom Price gets into your blood.  Walk down the street.
You know everybody.  Everybody knows you.
The money’s good.  Too good to leave.  At least just yet.
Got to get yourselves set up properly.

Do it right.

Five days off after night shift.  Hop in the new Landcruiser.
Head off to the Gorges.  Or Millstream.
The coast is only 300 kays away.
Do a little fishing.  Drink a bit of beer.

Six weeks holiday a year.  Two free flights to Perth.

The boys want dirtbikes.  You’ve always wanted a good guitar.
A pool would be nice.  Maybe a boat for when you hit the coast.
Scrimp a little you can send Tracey down to Perth.
Year 11 and 12 at St Hilda’s.  Or St Mary’s Anglican.

A bright kid.  Deserves the best.

And so you’ll stay a little longer.  Get yourselves really set up.
Now you’re the President of the Bowls Club.  On the Tidy Town committee.
You’re still making good money.  Money you can’t make in Perth.
Or Melbourne or Adelaide or Newcastle or Wellington.

The Tom Price Dreaming eats the Dreamers whole.

*************************************************************

I don’t normally explain my poetry – it should stand on its merits.  But Tom Price isn’t like this now.  This is about the period I was there – 1980 to 1986 – and then it was a purely residential company town, highly unionised, and the working conditions were great.  8 hour shifts, and if you “worked back” you got 8 hours extra pay for 4 hours work.  The money was insanely good.  And the town was a real community – no fly in-fly out.  You lived there, and every community facility you could possibly imagine was provided free of charge by the company.  That’s all changed.  The money is still great, but you are on 12 hour shifts with minimal breaks between shift changeovers and that has radically changed how the town functions.  And the live-in population has halved, and the people I’ve spoken to tell me that the sense of community is gone.  But in many ways, while I was there Tom Price was a paradise.  Stunningly beautiful scenery, good people, and a wonderful place to live and work.  I miss it, even though I have no desire to work in the industry any more.

The Gorges in Karajini National Park - again, one small part of it

The Gorges in Karajini National Park – again, one small part of it. Paradise.

Tom Price - looking from near the mine towards the town

Tom Price – looking from near the mine towards the town -it’s off to the left in the photo

The Tom Price open-cut iron ore mine

The Tom Price open-cut iron ore mine – or one tiny part of it, anyway

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