We have just visited Marble Bar ,AMAZING AREA thankyou for giving us great facilities especially the roads which allowed our Motorhome to visit local spots, the welcome was certainly warm
Meg and Gerry Birkholz
Hendon Qld 4362
Our East Pilbara Adventure 2015
by Rebecca Kirwan
and photographs by Ann Marie Barnes
My partner and I had been traveling from Eighty Mile Beach WA, which was one of the many places we had visited whilst on our trip around Australia. We decided at the last minute instead of going straight to Port Hedland for fuel and supplies we should just head straight to Marble Bar. Our plan was to get some fuel and then to head out into the bush behind the town of Marble Bar to camp and go prospecting. Probably only for a few nights as we had plans to go further south for more lucrative gold bearing ground.
Arriving in Marble Bar, I noticed how majestic the landscape was, the red hills against the deep blue sky and I also noticed that we were very low on petrol. In fact our petrol light had just come on so we thankfully made it to the town’s only fuel stop.
We had been on the road for over three months since leaving our home in Sydney and were living in a ten foot caravan, so my anxiety levels were higher than normal. And when we were told that one of the fuel bowsers, the one we needed was broken I had to stop myself from getting cranky in public. As we were a long way from a lot of services it took a little while to get things fixed out in Marble Bar sometimes, understandably so. Well, we were not sure how long the bowser was going to be out of order. My partner Ann and I got back in our car and we tried to ascertain what our options were.
We ended up deciding to go to the Mines Department and met a friendly man who sympathised with our situation and gave us some maps to the areas we wanted to prospect. At this stage I really just wanted to get some fuel then continue on traveling, away from Marble Bar, I was getting a bit over the whole situation. So we left the Mines Department and went to the Police Station to see if anyone had any extra fuel we could perhaps buy.
We had no luck at the Police Station as it was closed for lunch. So my partner decided to call the Shire Office. Even though it was not a Shire issue in relation to our fuel problem my partner said that the man who answered the phone Ian, kindly said to come up and see him anyway.
So luckily it was not too far down the road and we both went in to meet Ian at the Shire Office. Amazingly, Ian offered to get us some fuel when he went into Nullagine the next day a town about 90kms east of Marble Bar. We were very appreciative and that left us with our final dilemma, where are we going to camp, but again Ian came to the rescue and helped us to find a suitable spot.
From Ian’s incredible gesture of kindness our whole East Pilbara experience took a turn for the better. Even when I recall the experience I just shake my head and think how amazing it was.
Now I thought, o.k. maybe we can stay a couple of days now when we get some fuel instead of wanting to get out as quickly as possible.
As we later found out, Ian had only started in his role as the Community Officer at the Shire of East Pilbara six weeks earlier. But his enthusiasm and commitment to the role was evident in the way he spoke about the projects he was working on. It was clear that he was extremely community minded and I found that I started being enthused about what was happening in Marble Bar.
We ended up meeting a young man called Gwen thanks to Ian, yet again. Gwen was from the South of Perth and came to Marble Bar to work on his PHD and to take photographs of the landscape from above in his engine propelled glider. A talented photographer indeed that ended up presenting a community discussion on his photographs to try and get a sense
of how locals and tourists feel about his images. It was a great evening and we had a chance to interact with more locals which was wonderful.
Gwen also put on a demonstration of his glider for the local school kids one morning and Ann and I filmed the event. After Gwen had landed it was great to see the kids ask questions and witness their general excitement on having a special visitor to the school. We ended up meeting Noeleen a charismatic teacher from Marble Bar School also who invited us to talk to one of her classes about our film work. This was another highlight in the string of many and it was such a great opportunity to be able to connect and encourage some amazing young people and share my passion for film with them. Later on Ann and I were invited to dinner the following evening with Noeleen and her family, both the food and the company were amazing.
We had been in Marble Bar at this stage now for about two weeks and we had spent time with so many wonderful people. And apart from the people I have already mentioned we met:
‘Windmill Jack’ and older gentleman who actually fixed windmills for a living. ‘Foxie’ the publican of the famous Iron Clad Hotel and someone who always made us laugh and made us feel welcome to the town. Jess the wife of one of the police officers in town was incredibly hospitable and good for a chat. Daniele a retired jeweller who was originally from Italy. Rod a casual prospector and council worker who gave me some great tips to help me improve my gold prospecting techniques. Chris and his wife Kelly and their two girls, who were quite new to Marble Bar, as Kelly had just taken up a teaching role at the school. Kim, the CRC manager who took a group of us on a wonderful wildflower tour and passed on some valuable knowledge to us all. We also met Lou who had just moved to Marble Bar from Newman, Kate from the Shire Office, Patrick (Pat), Annmarie from the Post Office and many others.
All of these people in their own way made our stay so very special, it is easy to remember so many names when people take time to get to know you. Something quite different to the experiences of big city living in Sydney.
We also visited some beautiful vistas, took photos and actually did some gold prospecting and found a few gold nuggets, much to my delight. The sun was shining every single day during our stay in the Bar and the heat warmed our skin and ensured an extended summer for us. Travelling to the East Pilbara in winter meant we missed out on the cold weather in the southern parts of Australia. The country around Marble Bar was purely breath taking and felt ancient and magical. It is hard to put into words but it sometimes felt like the land spoke to you and put you at ease.
I could not help but think about the stories it held and the people that had walked this land before me. Ian actually gave me a copy of a short history of the traditional owners of the area. And let us watch the film, ‘How the west was lost’ a film by David Noakes. The story of the 1946 aboriginal pastoral workers strike.
So with our new found friends we definitely felt a part of this special community. And so we stayed on for a hot glue gun workshop that was going to be presented by an international Japanese installation artist. Intrigued by this, we found out that the Shire of East Pilbara was in its second year of hosting an artist in residency program. It is Australia’s richest artist in residency program and draws interest from artists all over the world. So we were fortunate enough to be there when Yasuaki Onishi was doing his residency. At his workshop in Marble Bar we met Pip, the manager for Community Wellbeing and his colleague Rachel from the Newman branch of the Shire of East Pilbara. And before long we were able to utilise our film skills and secure the opportunity to work with Pip and Rachel to film Yasuakis’ installation process, which would start in about a week’s time
This meant that we would need to leave Marble Bar and head to Newman, we were excited about the project but also a bit sad to leave Marble Bar. We still felt we had so much to experience there and somewhere in my mind I could not ever rule out returning to the bar in the future.
So after three weeks in Marble Bar we headed for Newman and it was not long before we felt welcomed into the community here. Rachel an artist who was working on some projects at the Shire in Newman was incredibly hospitable and talented. We found out that she had worked on various art projects in the past. One of those projects saw her managing a photography shoot incorporating fashion and some of women in the community of Mullewa.
Here in Newman we again met some very special people, as mentioned previously Pip and Rachel. Also Rebecca a local who inspired me with her incredible passion for her community. Paul ala ‘Granddad’ who generously offered his home as a place to camp if we needed. Hannah from the Shire office who introduced us to the beautiful art from the Martumili artists. And of course, Yasuaki the international artist, to say we had the fortune to work with and film this young man as a once in a lifetime opportunity is certainly no exaggeration because it was.
We also attended the opera, Ian had some tickets available to the production of The Magic Flute performed by Opera Australia. So there we were in Newman WA seeing our very first opera even though our home which was about 5,000kms away in Sydney was a 10 minute drive to the actual Opera House.
We stayed for almost three weeks in Newman and Yasuaki’s exhibition proved to be a success and our time in the East Pilbara was coming to an end. We had made plans to meet up with friends further south and it was time for us to hit the road.
So after some six or so weeks instead of maybe two nights in Marble Bar and the adventure of a lifetime something that we definitely could not have imagined or planned to happen, from despair to gratitude, from anxiety to excitement the broken fuel bowser proved to be an absolutely blessing in disguise.
Thank you to Ian and the special people of the East Pilbara, we thank you so much for sharing your lives with us and for giving us a life changing adventure.
Would I recommend a visit to the East Pilbara, most definitely and who knows what will happen for you there.