Port Hedland’s ‘a hidden gem’

Tracey Garbin doesn’t work for the Port Hedland Visitor Centre, but perhaps she should such is her unabashed support of the community, and the town and what it has to offer.

She arrived in Port Hedland 17 years ago when her policeman husband, Marin, was posted here as part of the standard country rotation.

“Then there was not as much infrastructure, it has really grown,” Tracey, a member of Port Hedland Industries Council’s Community Industry Forum, said. “The town has got a lot greener. There has been a lot of improvements to the schools, you can see small businesses flourishing, and there are a lot more services.”

Returning to Perth when the rotation ended, Marin decided to leave the WA Police, successfully applied for a job in the mining sector, and the family returned to Port Hedland.

It didn’t take Tracey long to again become involved in the town and its activities.

A strong believer in the concept of Act, Belong, Commit, children’s sport was her first calling.

“A lot of people come up thinking they will stay for two years and don’t want to have input into the community, but kids’ football, netball and soccer wouldn’t go ahead without volunteers, so I jumped into all of those,” Tracey said.

“That’s how you make friends, and the people are all like-minded. You make great friends, friends for life.”

The family decided to make Port Hedland their home and bought a house.

“We’ve really made it our little sanctuary,” she said. “And I think that’s important in Hedland. You leave your work behind for your sanctuary and then you get involved in the community.

“I’m always out and about and doing something.

“We just love the lifestyle. It’s so easy. With the kids you know where they are.

“Everything is within five minutes, and I don’t like winter so it’s perfect for me.

“We love travelling. We’ve been to Karijini, Marble Bar, Broome, Cossack, you are only a skip away from Karratha. There are plenty of places to visit, but Port Hedland itself is a bit of a hidden gem.

“You have to find out what’s out there.

“One of my favourite things to do is go out to Cemetery Beach with friends. It’s a beautiful view.”

Tracey worked in the WA public sector for 30 years including in Port Hedland for the Department of Housing, Youth Justice Services, and Disability Services before leaving two years ago for a position at BHP.

“While I was working in the Government sector, I did a lot of volunteer work in the community, and BHP has allowed me to continue to do a lot of that,” she said.

Her volunteer work included about 10 years on the Hedland Senior High School P&C and then the Hedland Senior High School board while her three children, two sons and a daughter, were educated locally. Her current volunteer work is with Blood Wood Tree and the Youth Involvement Council.

Her three children are now adults, her daughter is studying at ECU, one son is in the Navy and the other is working in Port Hedland for BHP.

She said when she joined the P&C there were negative sentiments in the community because there was only one high school, a lack of career pathways, and disruptive students were affecting others.

“I wanted to get in there and see what was going on,” Tracey said.

When she resigned from the board recently, a requirement when her last child graduated, she said the school had grown and improved, and highlighted the success of her own children to indicate there is no detriment to being educated in Port Hedland.

Her daughter finished in the top 12 per cent of students State-wide, one son joined the Navy after a visit to the school from Navy recruitment personnel, and her other son was DUX of VET studies at Hedland Senior High School’s Trade Training Centre before being employed at BHP.

“There were four principals in my time, but I could see the hard work the school was doing,” Tracey said.

“The staff at the school were so dedicated, and some of them are away from their families. They put their heart and soul into those jobs.”

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