If anything explains Grace Hendriks’ Port Hedland transformation, it’s the change of vehicle — from an X-Trail packed with all her worldly belongings when she first arrived, to a Prado four-wheel drive.

Grace drove into town accompanied by her father — in that well-packed X-Trail — three years ago as a recently graduated physiotherapist starting her first professional job and, to be honest, not really sure what was in store for her.

It was the job opportunity that drew Grace to Port Hedland — but she says it is the community that keeps her in town; that and the fact she met her partner, Tom, a year ago through water polo.

If you’d told Grace in Perth that she’d try water polo she would have laughed, but in Port Hedland it was just another in a long line of firsts.

“Arriving in Port Hedland was a little daunting,” Grace recalled. “Red dust and a lot of big trucks everywhere.

“I drove up with my Dad with all my things in a little X-Trail. It was the first time moving out of home, but I instantly got in touch with some of the local teachers and allied health staff and was part of a social volleyball team within a week.

“The community were so welcoming, and I found a lot of friends in a similar boat – young professionals new to town for work. There seem to be mutual friends everywhere. It’s crazy what a small world it can be.”

Grace has now gone “full Pilbara” with a tinny added to the Prado, which means weekends are often spent boating and camping.

“I originally decided to relocate to Hedland for a job opportunity, but the lifestyle has turned out to be an unexpected bonus. The job is still great, but the community is what keeps me in town,” Grace said.

“While studying at university, I was lucky enough to have a placement in Kununurra which was really where my passion for working in rural health began.”

Grace is now the Senior Physiotherapist at Hedland Health Campus, a role that offers extensive clinical variety.

It also allows for home visits and for travel to remote communities such as Kunawrrijiti and Punmu, and Marble Bar.

Grace established Fair Game, which promotes healthy lifestyles and runs health and fitness programs for young people in remote and under-serviced communities using recycled sports equipment.

She is a volunteer but also Hedland Project Officer.

“Volunteering at Fair Game has been my greatest challenge and achievement, and something of which I’m very proud,” Grace said.

“I was a volunteer for the organisation in Perth, but I saw a need for something similar for kids in the Pilbara.

“The Hedland Hub came from humble beginnings with a small group of eight kids, and three volunteers on a basketball court and has grown to about 40 kids and more than 20 volunteers running Monday night sessions at JD Hardie.

“We complete one-and-a-half hours of sport and then the kids get a healthy meal for dinner that volunteers kindly prepare during the session.”

Grace’s work with Fair Game has also taken her to Roebourne, Pannawonica, Onslow, Newman, Jigalong, Halls Creek, Fitzroy, Billiuna, and Nullagine.

A perfect weekend often includes a “trip in the tinny”.

“I bought it last year and at the moment it’s used exclusively for sunset cheese board creek cruises or Saturday morning champagne brekkies with the girls,” Grace said. “Who knew you could do so much on the boat.

“If I’m not doing that, we’re on another adventure to Karijiini, Marble Bar pools or up the coast to Cape Keraudren.

“If we are in town, we usually all get together and watch the local cricket or footy on the weekend. Always a great vibe and way to catch up with friends.

“I love the community and the friendships I have made, and the sports community. There are opportunities to try new things that I would never have done in Perth.

“Friends and family often ask if I get bored in town, but you end up playing sport every night or volunteering for a community event so there is no time to sit still.”

She said the community often created inspiring projects.

“It only takes a small amount of people to create change and positive experiences for others,” Grace said. “It’s so cool to see so many people, and women in particular, creating small businesses and everyone embracing them.”

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