I worked on many construction projects throughout Australia from 1996 to 2010.
Gunpowder Copper QLD, Geraldton – SREP, Newman MPDJV, West Angelas, Gladstone Comalco Alumina Project, Olympic Dam – OEP, Yandi, Area C, Weaber Plains Irrigation project – Kununurra, Port Hedland – BHP, Telfer project, and Phosphate Hill – Fertiliser project.
Rosters were 4 weeks on and one week off , later changing to 3 weeks off and one week off.
We worked 13 days on and 1 day off when on site.
The week off allowed me to fly back to my home in Perth to be with my hardworking wife (Primary School Deputy Principal ) and two boys – one at high school and one at university.
I had lengthy phone calls with both boys when I was away.
It was a long time to be away from my family and I rang home every night for 14 years.
I missed out phoning my family about four times over the 14 years.
When you are away for so long – your construction mates become a de facto family.
One thing we try to bury when away from home and on site is “Missing your loved ones” your children especially can miss out and be affected by Dad/Mum being away and out of contact.
I fondly remember the Phosphate Hill Project – we had a great construction team lead by an able American Construction manager (Jim) – We were a real family and many of us had the privilege (our choice) of living in shared accommodation in the old township houses and not the sterile construction camp dongas.
We had a “Hey Hey its Saturday” themed show with the construction persons doing comedy, singing and playing musical instruments.
Nearly the whole camp was at the show – it was packed – some people had to stand.
Late in the night – one of the catering personnel had a guitar and sang the Pink Floyd Song “Wish you were here”
“How I wish, how I wish you were here
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
What have we found?
The same old fears
Wish you were here”
The crowd went dead silent – there were a few quiet tears in the audience as we all remembered who we were missing – I have never forgotten that song and as we reflected on what we had to sacrifice to work on these large and well paid projects.