Ask Claire Boyce what she likes about Port Hedland and the answer comes quickly and simply: the people.

It’s a long way geographically — about 14,200km —from Ireland to Port Hedland, so Claire felt some trepidation when she arrived in 2013, but it was the people who put her mind at rest.

“It reminded me of home,” Claire said. “It was a pleasant change meeting people in the shops who would say hello.”

Like so many travellers before her, the idea was to find regional a job to extend her working holiday visa and then continue on her way — and eventually return to Ireland.

But as it has done for so many people over the years, Port Hedland intervened to significantly change the plans Claire had when she arrived with a friend in an old Subaru Lancer that really wasn’t suitable for the long drive from Perth.

But it did the job, and the pair headed to what they thought were the bright city lights.

“It was night-time when we arrived. We continued to drive towards the port as it was quite lit up, expecting the lights to signal a bustling CBD. Little did we realise it was the largest bulk export port that was lighting the way,” Claire said.

She said arriving in town was daunting: “I was unsure what to expect, however I quickly saw the charm of Port Hedland and how friendly and open the community is.”

Nearly eight years later, Claire is still in Port Hedland and is an Australian citizen.

She and her partner of seven years, Rodger, have two children, Tadgh, 3, Eabha who is five months old.

Claire, the Chief Executive Officer of the Port Hedland Chamber of Commerce and Industry and member of Port Hedland Industry Council’s Community Industry Forum, initially worked in real estate.

She was general manager and licensee for Crawford Realty for three years and has been in her current position for one-and-a-half years.

“My son loves everything construction and heavy machinery,” Claire said. “He lives for the weekends when he can drive through Wedgefield to look at the road trains, excavators, graders, dump trucks; the list goes on.”

While Claire is sold on Port Hedland, she said the benefits of the town are not necessarily recognised by those who did not live here.

“It is hard to convey the benefits and charms of the town until you live here and are integrated into the community,” she said.

“The benefits of living in Port Hedland are lengthy. There are fantastic opportunities for small business, the community is friendly, there are numerous sporting and community groups to participate in.

“The town needs more readily available housing at an affordable price, a second high school and additional childcare options, however I believe overall the future of the town is positive.”

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