There’s no place like home

For Clinton Smith, the concepts of family and friends are almost interchangeable.

Ask what he likes about Port Hedland, the answer is simple: “First and foremost, the community.

“Friends become family very quickly. It’s a very supportive community. Everyone we know would literally give you the clothing of their backs if you ever needed it.”

And then comes the area’s natural beauty and its contrasts — perhaps not surprising for a Pilbara local who was born in Newman before moving to Port Hedland aged 11.

“Winters are phenomenal, perfect for our active and exploring family,” Clinton said. “The contrasting landscape has such a beauty about it, unique and forever awe inspiring. The Pilbara has so much to explore, you have no time to get bored.”

Married to his high school sweetheart, Kira, they celebrate 20 years together in May, the couple have three children aged from nine to 1 ½.

They left for a while in the mid-2000s to live in Perth and Bali before returning in 2015.

“Living so close to Asia Pacific countries is not only a great opportunity to explore, it also has further future potential trade opportunities, but there truly is no place like home,” said Clinton, a member of Port Hedland Industries Council’s Community Industry Forum.

“I left Hedland Senior High School in 1999 and started an electrical apprenticeship with a local multidisciplinary contractor, which I completed in 2003.

“After working as an electrician on the mines for a couple of years I took a unique opportunity to move to Perth and work as a high voltage commissioning technician.

“Fast forward a few years and the FIFO lifestyle started wearing thin and we launched our own electrical contracting company, Tic Tag Systems, which we continue to own and manage from Port Hedland.

“Over the past few years, we have shifted from predominantly offering electrical compliance and high-volume testing and maintenance to mine sites and camps through to now heavily focussing and growing our solar and renewables division.

“These days I am lucky enough to have teams installing the solar panels in the heat and I focus on building the business and keeping our projects running smoothly.”

The business services clients from Esperance to Port Hedland and the surrounding Pilbara area.

A perfect weekend for the Smith family usually includes sun, sand, and surf — and friends.

“We are a beach family. Spoilbank is our local spot for a surf with the kids or kitesurfing for me when the wind’s up. We have an awesome group of friends with young families so whenever the conditions are good you can bet on there being a few of us out pushing the kids on to waves.

“We sometimes head out in the van for a few nights camping with family and friends and end the weekend down at the yacht club enjoying a meal watching the most amazing sunsets with huge ships passing by while the kids are entertained in the playground.”

Clinton thinks the many benefits of Port Hedland are not understood by those outside the town.

“The FIFO model can mean that people don’t get to experience being part of the community, have a chance to explore the natural beauty of our town and surrounds,” he said.

“I catch myself almost daily taking photos of incoming ships and our beautiful town, as a local sees it. There is so much beauty if you slow down and have a look around.”

Clinton often shares the moments of beauty on his Epic Port Hedland Facebook page: “I really like to share the beauty and uniqueness of our town.”

And there is no shortage of opportunities for his children.

“Being a small town, we have access to all sporting groups within a 15-minute drive, which means that the children get to participate in several sports.

“There are unique sporting and creative arts opportunities. Our daughter loves dancing. Her second home is the amazing Alliance Dance Academy, and she has been lucky enough to spend time learning from and dancing with the Western Australian Ballet Company right here in Hedland.

“Our son is an avid BMX racer and has the opportunity to learn from some of Australia’s best elite coaches that come up to run clinics at our local Hedland BMX Club.

“Our kids love their little network of mates who become family. They have a strong network of friends which is key to enjoying your time up here — it takes a tribe after all.”

His advice for those who are new to town is to meet the locals and make friends as soon as they arrive, if not before.

“I have seen so many families come and go over time and what keeps families here is the community connections and support gained by having a solid core of friends,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the families that don’t get out of the house and have a network of friends outside of work will continue to miss their families, who often live in other States, and not enjoy their time here.

“I give this advice to all of the new people I meet in town because I really want people to have the same experience as us and enjoy living here.”

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