Don’t be guided by first impressions.

Had Chantel Cullen remained true to her resolve after first visiting Port Hedland, she would not have returned.

Her husband, Mick, was working FIFO for Monadelphous in Port Hedland when Chantel visited.

“I swore I would never move here,” she said. “But less than two years later we were ready for another adventure and left Perth to relocate here with BHP.”

But even being prepared for a new adventure did not prepare her for Port Hedland in the summer of 2013.

“We had travelled around Australia for nearly three years in a camper trailer, so I was fairly used to moving to a new town but being pregnant in my first summer here was a struggle in the heat,” Chantel said.

“Back then I was in disbelief seeing people walking in the streets during the hot months.”

Nine years on Chantel, Port Hedland Industries Council’s Business and Community Manager, is a convert, won over by the lifestyle and the opportunities.

Chantel, her children Torren, 7, and Harlan, 6, and Mick are now part of the Port Hedland community.

“I love the community spirit and the conversations I have with people about how to create positive change in a sometimes-challenging environment,” Chantel said.

“I love seeing people go above and beyond for community groups and initiatives to improve the lives of others; going to Woollies and seeing lots of people I know to have a chat; the warm winters and the thunderstorms and the sunsets that never get old.

“Port Hedland is somewhere families can thrive and have lifestyles they would never have dreamed of in other places.

“I can take my kids dirt bike riding, swimming, fishing, camping and exploring any weekend that we choose with so much choice so close.

“There is a feeling of family in the community. The kids love that they can ride a motorbike just outside their house and that most kids are all doing the same sorts of things on the weekend.

“There are so many personalities with different opinions willing to take a stand for what they believe in.”

After falling pregnant with their second child, Chantel started In The Mix Health Foods, a home-based health food shop. The shop was moved to a caravan in the driveway after Harlan was born, and Chantel continued promoting the business through pop-up shops and markets.

“It was an incredible journey with such beautiful support from the local community who are sometimes starved for choice in Port Hedland,” she said.

“These days In The Mix is owned by someone else who has created an incredible shop front and it continues to be a popular and successful locally owned business.”

Before selling the business, Chantel began working for PHIC. The role expanded as PHIC worked to create positive change through knowledge sharing and community initiatives.

“As the Business and Community Manager I am lucky that I still get to interact with the Hedland community that I care deeply for and be a positive part of the things that affect their lives,” Chantel said.

“Recently I became a Board Member of the Hedland Well Women’s centre, a popular and vital not-for-profit organisation specialising in women’s health and wellbeing including motherhood and mental health as well as nutrition and support groups.”

Having made the transition from “never moving here” to “I love the community spirit”, Chantel said she was confident about the town’s future, with organisations and people in the community working collaboratively and the port expanding as exports increase.

“We have been the type of people who don’t stay still very long, but we are very happy to call Hedland home for the past nine years and see a great future here for our family and many opportunities for the kids as they get older and look at employment options,” Chantel said.

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