Capturing the Essence: Shire of Roebourne

In July, FORM ran a Place Activation Workshop in Karratha to articulate as a community what makes Shire of Roebourne unique and explore what it can be.

Thank you to everyone who attended, your effort and commitment to the workshop process generated a wealth of ideas. These are captured in the workshop summary. The summary is broken into two parts: a summary of the key big ideas and small wins identified in the workshop; and an attachment with the detailed notes gathered from the workshop.

This report includes the five important ‘tools’ that emerged from the workshop that can inform action from here:

  1. Identified principles to guide community, stakeholder and planning efforts
  2. A developing community identified essence for the Shire of Roebourne
  3. Small Wins identified that can be taken into action
  4. The beginning of a network that could become a powerful group
  5. The impetus to build further on the Karratha Vernacular with a’ Place Vernacular’

The Next Steps

Keep the conversation going

Don’t let the workshops be the end of this conversation, keep in contact and spread the word further about the ideas and outcomes. Remember, word of mouth and your passion to make a difference in this town can help build the core group of champions to make the changes in this town.

We are very excited that David Pentz at the Shire of Roebourne and Jacinta Harvey at LandCorp have indicated they are eager to keep this conversation among all of you going and encouraged a wider community participation. They are keen to establish a community ‘place maker’s reference group and would like to encourage your participation in regular discussions. They’ll be in touch to invite you to participate, or you can get in touch with questions.

For the next 2 weeks a survey will be available online to help capture other people’s ideas here. Forward on the online survey to capture other people’s ideas.

Harness the momentum

The workshops in July were a starting point to a new level of activity in Karratha. The big ideas and small wins generated over these two sessions are opportunities for making your town the place you want it to be. Each person has the ability to make things happen, and collectively we do even more so.

Build the network

Get others involved and on board with small wins and the outcomes of the workshop. The more people engaged and connected to this process, the more powerful it can be. You suggested running a Facebook group to help build connections and create a central place to share ideas. If anyone wants to take a lead on running this group we can help guide you in setting this up.

Take action

Think about the ideas and outcomes which resonated with you the most. Which ideas had the energy behind them? Let others know about how you want to take action, get them involved and start to make the changes you want to see in your town

Congratulations on an exciting start to shaping your place! If you have any queries, feel free to contact Zane Hill or Rebecca Eggleston at zane[at] and rebecca[at] or (08) 9226 2799.

Thank you to everyone who attended FORM’s Place Activation Workshop in July.

Your effort and commitment to the workshop process generated a wealth of ideas. These are captured in the workshop summary. The summary is broken into two parts: a summary of the key big ideas and small wins identified in the workshop; and an attachment with the detailed notes gathered from the workshop.

Purple Circle

In four years I’ve earned half a million dollars and have nothing to show for it.

We bought a bigger boat but then we had to buy a bigger car to tow it.  We bought a Thermomix with last year’s tax return but we never use it: yet another pricey wiz-bang appliance that has morphed into a glorified dust-collector.  The house is full of new stuff that I cling to.  I can let go of people, but I can’t let go of things.  I used to be able to fit everything into a backpack.  It was good.

When I moved in with Dave all I had to worry about was the next holiday destination, clean socks and getting pregnant.  I am so over Bali, that trashed and treasured playground of the North
West.  I am getting bored with Vietnam and Thailand as well.  Broome is over rated, full of litter and long grass.

On weekends he goes fishing out on the islands with his workmates.  I am left home alone, free to do whatever I want, whenever I want.  Glorious!  But I have no good friends.  At least I can relax.  I don’t miss him and I don’t feel guilty about it.  He misses me when I’m away, sexting me in sublimated desperation.

Where have you hidden my socks?

He has a ‘thing’ with socks.

All I ever wanted was a baby and a best friend.  Dave hates children.  He wants to make money, not babies.  The local yummy mummies parade competitively in the park and the café, styling motherhood into a fashion statement.  I am an alien in the town where I was born.

She wasn’t born here, that’s for sure.  I wonder where she is now.   Maybe she could have been my friend.  I felt I could trust her.  She was so sincere, so professional, so…so…EDUCATED.  They were intimidated because she was so articulate.  She challenged the purple circle.  We all watched her squirm; sitting alone in subject silence with no way out.  But she found a way out.  It was everyone else who stayed, too afraid to move on, move out, move up.  We could have been friends but I turned my back and stepped away.  I had too much to lose:  my seniority, our investment portfolio, this mining life.

Who would have thought that work would be so much like school?


You’re leaving me after 15 years because he makes you laugh?  What do you mean he makes you laugh?

He makes me laugh.

He makes me laugh.

Go on.  Be honest about it.  You don’t love me anymore.  You haven’t loved me for a long time.  But you loved my money, didn’t you?  You sure knew how to rack up that credit card debt, maxing it out to the limit.  Working me like a dog on a chain, night and day, 13-14 hours straight, expecting me to play with the kids on Sunday when I was absolutely knackered and all I wanted to do was sleep for a thousand years.  Me:  maxed out to the limit.

‘You’re lazy’, you’d say, as they’d pound into my spread-eagled bulk prone on the lounge room floor, loving their bouncy bean bag Dad.  Stranger.  They were seeing more of him than of me.  You were seeing more of him than of me.  He was there in our bed, sleeping in between the two of us.  I could feel the grit in the sheets, smell the grease on the pillow, trace the crusty snail tracks.


You’re leaving me after 15 years because he makes you laugh?  Tell me another one.  That’s the best I’ve heard yet.  See me walk out our front door, laughing all the way to the bank.  Watch me kick that mongrel in the guts with my work boots, smash his kneecaps with an iron bar, cave his head in with a shovel.  Maybe I’ll hire some hit man from down the pub to do the job for me.  What a joke.  The joke was on me, too blind to see, too fatigued to see, too close to see.

Although I did wonder about the assorted laundry powders, publicly displayed on the window ledge, rotating inexplicably like faulty beacon lights, as stable as old gelignite.


OMO:  Old Man’s Out

FAB:  Fucking Arsehole’s Back

OMO/FAB/OMO/FAB/OMO/FAB ad infinitum…..

I miss my kids already.

Sharon Payne 2011

Standing Together: Stories from Roebourne Art Group

On view 26 June 2011 to 14 August 2011 at the Port Hedland Courthouse Gallery.

Drawing on the make-up of their land, the Roebourne Art Group has produced a new collection of paintings that tell the stories of the Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi people and their cultural heritage.

This exhibition illustrates the natural beauty found in the Pilbara desert with special attention to colourful landscapes and unique native plants. Pieces in this collection also depict man’s influence on this region, resulting in sharp contrasts visible throughout the exhibition.

Anthropologist Hamish Morgan explains the cultural significance of painting and sharing the stories represented in Standing Together as a part of honoring Yindjibarndi Dreamtime,

The ‘Dreamtime’ is not only a sacred creation narrative, it is also something that is personally experienced and lived with. The Dreamtime is not past, but is ever-present; it is part of people’s everyday lives. The act of visiting country, the act of telling stories or painting country is all part of Yindjibarndi people’s custodial responsibilities to ‘hold’ the Dreaming, something that happens in both formal (such as ceremony and Law business) and informal (such as ‘going out bush’ ‘taking the kids fishing’) ways.

It is through the sharing of stories in this exhibition that Roebourne Art Group and FORM offer you a glimpse into the true essence of standing, moving and growing together.

On Ya Bike

6 o’clock start for a 4 o’clock finish and we’re off like a flock of pigeons: let’s get the flock out of here.  It took nine wharfies one hour to deflate a wet lifeboat today and it was like wanking a whale.   I’m on my bike, coasting at 80 clicks around the bend, gas plant on the left, mangroves on the right. Then this joker comes up out of nowhere and starts tailgating.  He wants to mount me.  So I slow down.  It’s legal to do ten clicks below the limit.  On the straight I speed up to 95 and he’s still tailgating.  Road train up ahead:  Another Trucker.  Need to keep a safe gap.  Then this joker decides to overtake, crossing the double lines.  What an idiot.  What happens?  He speeds up to the truck, slows down and tails it all the way to the highway.  He’s the filling in the middle of a sandwich.  Impatient.  He’s on his way to his own funeral, but I hope he doesn’t take anyone with him.  Idiot.  Up at the turnoff there’s one car turning right and four cars turning left.  Now’s my chance to give him the finger.  Oops.  It’s my boss.  So I just give him a wave.  At the toolbox meeting the next day I know for sure that he is the biggest tool in the whole box.


If I put the phone down on the bench, walk away, boil the kettle, make a cup of tea, drink the cup of tea, check my email, hang out the washing, water the pot plants, take the dog for a walk, go for a dip in the pool, he will still be on the other end of the line when I get back.

Handbrake. Drainer. Oxygen-thief.

I don’t even have to offer encouraging responses – ‘Oh’, ‘Ah’, ‘Mmm’ – at appropriate intervals, although I do, out of courtesy.  Where did I learn such ingrained politeness? How do I unlearn?

I am so patient: too patient.  I have the patience of a saint, waiting all my martyred life, watching them walk off with their pitiful little self-inflicted broken hearts.

Fifty minutes later and he is still waffling into the void, mouthing vacuous sentences layered with subordinate clauses.  Listening to him is the epicurean equivalent of eating a stale takeaway hamburger.

I choose timely mid-breath breaks and lodge direct questions to make it worth my while:

What is the next step after…..?’
‘How do I go about…..?’
‘When is the right time to…..?’

I appeal to his precious sense of male superiority and reinforce my own carefully-cultivated deference.

He responds with heady gratification.  I can almost see him grinning, as he sways from side to side, gathering himself for the next round.

‘I’m so glad you asked that question.’

And he is off again, racing, springing from the gates like a speedy greyhound, sights set on a distant bit of buzzing fluff, sticking oh so closely to the rails, coursing round the track in futile circles, never quite catching his quarry.

Question:  How to end the tedium diplomatically?

Answer:  Abruptly block him with a credible diversion.

Baby, you’ve got to be cruel to be kind (in the right measure)

‘Hang on.  Wait a minute.  Someone’s at the door.’

This spirited visitor whispers on the wind with wild horses, not manic machines that lack pedigree and patent.  He knows when to speak and when to be silent, when to move and when to be still.  He hears the unspoken spaces between words.  He sees the shadows and a rainbow’s subtle spectrum.  He elevates the atmosphere and intuitively reads the other.

He is creative.  He is here.  He makes friends, not money; he invests in relationships, not real estate.  He is the universal lightening bolt that charges through me, striking stories onto the empty page.

He watches over me just like an angel.

Red Dog Trailer

Following up on a discussion from last year, the Red Dog movie will be in cinemas August 4.

RED DOG Offical Trailer

Here is a poem Elaine Argaet posted about Red Dog last year on this blog:

Over the Limit

He is dressed in the best tradition of seafaring pirates.  Flashy gold bling drips from his ears, fingers, chest, but this chunky young man lacks a parrot on his shoulder, a patched eye, a peg leg and tatts graphically narrating oceanic adventures.  Pre-employment medicals detect physical impairment.  He does have a responsive winged familiar asleep in his luggage though.  This exotic presence eludes Customs and Border Protection.

The travel bag witnesses six long weeks living away from home on the supply vessel.  He cruises through the North West Shelf over rich unplundered fields littered with heroic names like Achilles, Pluto, Dionysus, Xena, Sappho, Cossack, Perseus, Maenad, Mutineer, Griffin, Gorgon.  Who said there is no poetry in hydrocarbons?

Pieces of eight, pieces of eight, pieces of eight……..

He reveals plans for his annual pissy pilgrimage to Phillip Island, where he will reunite with a mobilised crew of speed-freak mates all revved-up for MotoGP.   The enforced intimacy of the mine-equipped Toyota Commuter cab encourages personal disclosure. The bus driver listens and learns, collecting industry information for the next career move, the next story, the future, which will consolidate abiding passions.

The two great loves of his life are his missus and Casey Stoner.  She waits for him in Canberra, currently frigid and freezing with an expected top temperature of seven degrees.  The nation’s ice-box capital is 11 tedious hours away.  The distant city is also at least half a world away.  For now, all the offshore contractor needs is his bling, his mobile phone, his bare brown arms kissed by the kind sunlight and the driver who has an eye on the time(s) and an ear for the vernacular.

They clear the cutting and greet the southern vista.   Expansive evaporative salt ponds, the railway line linking inland pits with coastal ports, stretch out to meet colluvial ranges hiding ancient rock art galleries.

I am here in this present moment and this is where I am meant to be.

Half-way down the hill she decelerates to 75 clicks, anticipating gravitational momentum.

Safety first.

The intrusive thought consciously arises, as her right foot lightly feathers the brake pedal, being the mindless mantra of a brain-washed workplace culture she is tentatively entering.

An extraneous noise suddenly bursts from the bag, breaking the easy exchange, distracting her calm focus on traffic.  She glances behind her left shoulder, confounded.

What is it?

It sounds like an activated techno-mosquito from a freaky sci-fi show.  Sifting quickly through the scant contents of his luggage, he catches the strange being, intrinsically-lit and whistling insistent.  He presses its buttoned belly, raises it to his open expectant face and holds it up against his right ear, listening for a heartbeat.   He speaks in hushed lullaby tones.

His faithful wife, anchored-down in eastern seaboard suburbia, asserts intuitive telephonic possession over her absent FIFO man.

What of his other love, Casey Stoner?  Casey’s primal grand prix scream has been captured somewhere on the international racing circuit.  The ultra-engineered sound, so dependent on metals, minerals and crude, bounces randomly around the globe as a residual ring tone.

The grounded bus driver indicates left, enters the packed airport parking bay and deposits the traveller for the next leg of his discontinuous journey.  She thinks that this must be the best job in the world:  getting paid to pick up strange men all day (and night), spend 20 minutes with them, drop them off, and never see them again.  This gig will do for the next six months, until another opportunity flies out from the big desert sky like a rare wild luminous bird.

One fine dry season day she did 300plus clicks with Casey Stoner and a cashed-up pirate on the causeway linking the island to the mainland.  And she lived to tell the tale.

Big Rain Coming – Opening May 26 in Perth

Snake Tale

Snake Tale

She is leaving.

I am crestfallen.

‘Think of it as another holiday destination.’

The offer is small consolation.  We both know it won’t be the same, but we also know that it is well over time for her to go.  She wants to see lush green grass, eat fresh fruit, relax and marry her lover.  She wants to reinvent herself yet again.  There will be no more confessional disclosures under the patio drinking spritzers buoyant with ice cubes, breathing warm desert air.  No more delightfully elevating conversations.  No more anguishing over the lack of educated, articulate, faithful, available, sober, residential, professional mining men in the Pilbara.  Where are they?  Do they exist?  Are they hiding under the rocks with the mythical gully monsters?  There will be no more priceless Pilbara anecdotes.  No more Pilbara stories.  So I must record the ones that she has entrusted to me, before they are lost forever.  That is her legacy as a storyteller and my duty as a writer.


Our yap-yap terrier confronts a baby king brown hiding in the bushy border in the backyard.  The snake bites the dog twice, on the inside of the mouth.  By the time we find her, she is in shock, stiffening with paralysis.  I bundle her small body into a clean cotton blanket, to keep her warm.   Mum scoots swiftly from the lawn, through the patio and into the house within seconds, locking the sliding glass door securely behind her.  She is safe.

‘Snakes can’t open doors’, is her brilliant reasoning.

Lover-boy catches the snake and isolates it in a green canvas bag sourced from the boat, ready for identification at the vets.  I briskly scrape the car keys from the kitchen bench, along with my mobile phone.  Lover-boy delicately places the bagged snake in the car.  Mum has silently retreated into her bedroom.   Maybe she is suffering shock as well.  Vital minutes pass and Yap-Yap’s breathing fades, her pulse gradually weakens.

What are you doing?

I’m looking for something to wear.

This is not a time to stand on ceremony, yet the habits of a lifetime still surface in the midst of a domestic crisis.  Mum must face the public in style, parading appropriate outfit, makeup, coifed hairdo.

Out on Balmoral Road we are hiking it:  90kph in an 80kph zone.

‘Snake!   Where’s the snake?   Oh, my God!’

She plants the foot instinctively, pushing the speedo well over the limit, living on the edge as always, vainly attempting to flee the confined reptile, which is safely contained on the back seat.


This place is a beautiful place but a hard place:  intense, demanding, dynamic, unsettled, tough, wild, dramatic.  This place is an excellent teacher, reminding me daily that I am in the middle of an amazing remote-area-mining-life adventure.  Everyone leaves here eventually:  this simple truth I must accept, wherever I am.  The North West, itself a bundle of wonderful contradictions, urges me to live each day present in the moment, not considering what has been or what is to come, but what is NOW.

Sharon Payne 2011

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FORM is an independent, not for profit organisation dedicated to advocating for and developing creativity in Western Australia.