In the 2000’s I was working at my local Nickel refinery as an operator, I had been there four years and had progressed my way up to a certain level where my next step was to have a go at learning the control room duties, but like so many other places I had heard about, this place had an old boys club, and that old boys club was blocking me from progressing, I didn’t fit in with most guys there as I don’t generally fit in with most people in life (bit of a loner), and that probably had something to do with it, but these guys had been there for 25 odd years and were set in their ways, and how dare a young fella come in and rustle our feathers. So that set me thinking that I needed a new job. Problem was I never really had any “skills” as in a trade, I left school early after walking out of detention and having a row with the deputy principal, grabbed my bike and went home, that was the last I ever saw of school and I never turned up for year 12 the following year.
So I began looking around on the internet at operator jobs, Townsville where I’m from has a large fly in fly out industry however I was constantly getting knock backs, then I saw a job for a nickel mine in WA, 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off and I thought yep I’m going to apply for that. Much to my surprise about 6 months later I got the call and ended up getting the position, this meant relocation to Perth with my wife, moving interstate for me was not a big problem as I had moved a lot as a kid including international, and thankfully my wife who is a born and bred local was up for the move too, something I will be forever grateful for to her, she will follow me anywhere this girl.
The big move happened and here we were two Nth Qlders in WA, big city stuff, a bit daunting actually. We had a week or maybe less to get settled into our company supplied short term accommodation, then I was off to work, Leaving Nik all by herself in what may as well been a foreign country to find us a house, get everything settled arrange the delivery of all our belongings etc, she did marvellous.
My first day arrived, we managed to find our way to the national jet terminal in Perth, gave her a hug and a kiss and said cya in 2 weeks, was I nervous? Yep, was Nik? You bet, how cool, im flying to work, got to the airport at site and everyone knew what they were doing except me, I got told Bear would be meeting me……..ok, Bear, really, I figured it was a nickname, but who was bear, what should I look for? anyway I made sure I was last off the plane as I figured whoever was there for me would stand out like dogs balls just waiting for me, well Bear was there, he was a big guy with an even bigger moustache, a little intimidating actually. Bear was the nicest guy and still ranks up there in the nicest people I’ve met doing FIFO, had all my PPE, my jacket as it was an unusually cold goldfields day, he took me to my temporary accommodation and gave me the tour of camp and showed me where my permanent room would be once available. It was seriously the best introduction to FIFO camp life one could get. I gave Nik a call that night and we chatted for some time.
Work the next day and I was as nervous as one gets, but my crew (D Crew) was awesome, I still to this day some 10 years on say it was the best bunch of people I’ve worked for, my boss was a Nth Qlder (Bowen to be precise) and we hit it off, the rest of the boys and 1 girl were awesome and I had the best time in the 2 years I was there. I made my way from the new guy to the control room as id discussed with my boss when I arrived and he asked me my goals.
Life in Perth for us was a bit lonely though we did make a few friends but we found Perth people to be a bit clicky and being outsiders it was hard to break in to established groups, although we did eventually make friends it was a battle. My wife got work that she enjoyed and she is still in contact with some of the girls she worked with which is great. The time came where we decided we had had enough of the Perth life and so we packed up and headed home (I wish now we had of stayed a bit longer, but we can’t dwell on that now).
I then finally managed to get a role in one of the mines back home in Nth Qld, I never fitted in, the crew were immature in my mind, very clicky and didn’t make the effort with me although I tried, it wasn’t good enough for them and so I left. It’s a shame as I don’t feel you should be made to feel like you have to leave, that job would have been perfect for me, 1.5 HR flight from home, 1 week on and 1 week off, long term mine site and a good reputable company, but it wasn’t to be.
But as always when one door closes and another opens, and that’s certainly what happened, I received contact from my former 2IC from the WA job, as he was now working on an overseas project in New Caledonia, the opportunity came up and it was perfect, so off I went and started working over there….WOW, what a cultural difference but also the experience I got was phenomenal, I met some amazing people, saw some amazing things, drank way to much alcohol but we got the job done and although I left on bad terms with my supervisor it is certainly an experience I will never forget. I also met a fella called Tom on that project, some of you may remember Tom from one of my previous writings for Deb, and he’s a true friend, one of my few.
Moving on from New Caledonia, I moved Nik and our new and only daughter to Karratha for my first LNG project, this was a great project to be on, we lived local, had a boat, went camping, met some amazing people, although I had my problems in Karratha it will still be a fond time I hold with some ever lasting memories. But as all construction projects do, they come to an end and I was demobilised, so we took some time and travelled across the top end of Australia on our way home to Townsville and to our surprise prepare for the birth of our second child……
Nik – Kieran I have sore boobs,
Kieran- you’re probably pregnant,
Nik- No chance,
Kieran – go do a test,
Nik – I’m not pregnant,
Kieran – go do a test…
Nik- I’m pregnant,
Kieran – I told you so!
in the meantime while Nik was busy falling pregnant, I was busy lining up my next gig out in the coal seam gas fields of South Western Queensland, this role lasted a good 6-8 months when I got the call from WA again back up in the Pilbara where I love it, this was a small domestic gas plant construction job in Onslow, which was perfect as it is literally next door to where I wanted to end up and that was Wheatstone, it was 3 months and although they wanted me to stay I decided to move on to Wheatstone where I had been asked to come to and that is where I remain 2.5 years later, just doing my thing, looking after my wife and kids, they are who I work away for, it’s not easy, it never will be but it’s what we do currently, FIFO is not a forever thing for me, but it is working for now, and now is what I live in.
Onto friends or are they mates – I won’t be long I promise.
How many people have I been in contact with in this industry? Thousands….yep literally thousands, and people will say oh you must have so many friends working in this industry? Nope, I have plenty of people I would call associates and mates but true friends, well this may shock you, but I have 5 true friends that I have come away with from physically being on the same sites, plenty of mates who if I ever see them again we will hit it off and have a chat or whatever and then go our separate ways, but true friends from being away on site, it’s just 5, Im ok with that because these 5 and I really are so good together, and plus I don’t have the personality to satisfy that many people.
I have so many things to write about but this will do for today, happy reading or at least put a pillow down so you don’t knock yourself out doing the noddy doddy trying to stay awake reading my ramblings.
Keiran can be followed via his facebook page here.