What was the worst roster that you did dad I asked.
He sat up straighter in the chair and said we did a month on with four days off. It was Groote building the mine and I never meant to work away. I started the job and came home but the guy heading the construction didn’t know how to handle the job so they asked me to go back. It was hard work the caustic that was in that job meant we had new boots, clothes every two weeks. We did that for three years then after that went straight to Jabiru to build that mine then the hotel and then Katherine after that.
I looked at him sitting next to me in the passenger seat and my heart swelled at how much I loved him. Like most daughters I love my dad but I am so proud of him for just being a good bloke. I cleared my throat because I could feel a lump swelling in it.
How was mum with you working away I asked? All right I suppose I asked her and she told me no different. There was only you and you weren’t any trouble. If she didn’t tell me any different how was I to know. The Katherine job though was the last one I came home one day and she said you do another job away that’s it. So that was it I never worked away from home again money can’t buy you a marriage.
I fiddled with the volume on the radio so I could hear him better and looked out the window at the landscape of the Barkley tablelands passing us by.
Why do you think so many struggle with mental illness now I asked him? I never knew dad to struggle with depression until just before he retired. When he called me and said I am sad and scared Deb I was surprised. I answered with because change is coming dad and it’s okay. Him telling me that was the proudest and scariest time of my life. So I was interested to know what he said.
He pulled at the seat belt adjusting how it sat on his chest before answering. Some just don’t like it or aren’t suited to it he said I didn’t mind it working away was okay. It was a job. They fed us put us up in accommodation. I was at work. I made sure I was social rather than sitting in my room but then you couldn’t sit in your room straight away anyway. They would turn off the air conditioners while we were on site. So when you got back from work and you opened the door it would literally ‘blow’ open from the heat it was that hot so it wasn’t perfect but they paid us for our trouble. You made the best of it. That’s what you do.
I saw lots of men come and go working away. Some just couldn’t be away from their family or their wives had trouble but then when we knew someone was struggling we gave him a hand if we couldn’t help he would leave. It wasn’t a big deal to not handle being away it wasn’t for everyone. We helped each other out looked out for each other. What I don’t understand now is if they don’t like it or are not handling it why don’t they just leave he pondered that for a minute before following it up with but bosses were a bit different too.
They didn’t keep blokes out there for as long as they do now but still you have a choice you don’t have to do it. With the exception of me they got workers in then out working a 28:4 short term no more than 12 months. People are different now to they keep to themselves now back then camp sites were small communities. Some people don’t take responsibility of themselves either can’t think for themselves and now you’re expected to have all this stuff and if you don’t your ‘strange’ and let’s face it these days people don’t like being seen as ‘strange’. The pressure to have bigger of everything. Strange wasn’t so bad back then but it’s different now people can be arses to those that are ‘strange’ perhaps that’s the problem. People can’t accept being strange, pass the buck, other people are arses and then with a changed management culture well….
He coughed and cleared his throat People can’t get over I don’t have a computer or have an email address I’m strange for not having that but I don’t need it and I don’t care that I’m ‘strange’.
We went off on a tangent about iPhones and my desire for him to have one even if its just for the tracking ability of one but he isn’t having any of that much preferring to be ‘strange’.