It’s fair to say that in Rebekah Worthington’s 13-year association with Port Hedland she has experienced the best of times and the worst of times.
And it was through the worst of times that she turned to community support that eventually led to her “role of a lifetime”.
Rebekah, now the Chief Executive Officer of the Well Women’s Centre, remembers arriving at night to “a large space filled with lights, giving the impression of a big town”.
Reality soon set in. “After saying goodbye to all our loved ones and arriving at a dusty, dirty place in Wedgefield, you do think, ‘what have I done?’ It was not an easy time settling in, a new mum living in a work yard,” she said.
“I didn’t know another woman for the first 12 months, surrounded by blokes and a mining/work yard culture, it was a big adjustment.
“I think that experience is what has given me such an appreciation for the Well Women’s Centre. I wish I had found it in those early days.”
Rebekah’s first stint in Port Hedland lasted five years before circumstances intervened. Lack of accommodation in the mining boom forced them to return to Perth.
“We had already lived in a camper trailer in the backyard of a relative with a new-born baby through the winter months,” Rebekah said. “It couldn’t be done in the summer, and with only 12 properties available for rent at over $2000 a week it wasn’t possible to stay.
“But after six months of leaving, my husband had had enough of being in Perth and wanted to return.
“I came back very reluctantly. That was eight years ago and I’m so glad I did because the second time round has been so good.”
It was during this second stint that Rebekah discovered the services of the Well Women’s Centre.
Established in 1991, it provides a free service and engages with thousands of women and families every year. Funding is provided by the State Government and a BHP community partnership.
Achievements over the past five years include the extension of services to fill community gaps, doubling the size of the team, and the success of the Pink Pilbara Breakfast which has become a “locals supporting locals event” that has raised more than $150,000 in the past three years.
The centre has also won several awards for helping families and for the provision of health and community services.
“The biggest achievement is continuing the centre’s 30-year history and legacy of supporting and connecting women, many of whom say that without Well Women’s their Hedland experience would not have been the same and they feel they would have struggled without it,” Rebekah said.
She said it was difficult to see the benefits of Port Hedland from the outside.
“The real benefits are when you emotionally invest in this town and choose to step into the life it has to offer, the lifestyle, opportunities, and people connections.
“You build relationships here quickly, and they become your Pilbara family which is critical to living and loving life in this town.
“The opportunities are endless, whether you want to try your hand at something new, start your own business, be involved in the community; there is so much here that is on offer.”
Rebekah and Shaun have been married for 17 years. Their children, Jack, 13, and Penny, 10, have grown up in Port Hedland.
“The red dirt is all they’ve known, and they have loved it. The experiences and the friendships are what makes it special for them,” Rebekah said.
“It would be great to see people choose this as home for longer. It does become harder as our kids reach teenage years. If there was more available for them it would add to this town greatly.”
Holiday programs and activities over summer would help, particularly for children unable to leave for holidays over the long break when many services close.
A second high school, or private high school, would bring benefits.
Rebekah and her family say farewell to Port Hedland at the end of the month and it will be difficult for them to leave the lifestyle, their home, and their friends.
“We love being at home over the weekend,” she said. “Having a pool surrounded by a beautifully landscaped tropical garden (thanks to landscaper husband) it always feels like holidays at home with the warm weather.
“We love taking the dogs down to the beach and seeing turtles in our own backyard. You don’t have to go far to experience that ideal getaway feel.
“Although I am about to say goodbye once more to this town, I will never say never to coming back. Hedland will always hold something special in my heart.
“This town will always have people, opportunities, and heart. These things will never change and I’m confident it can continue to build on them.”
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