Categorized | WA News

Lime green boots


once upon a time i was a hairdresser…

i started hairdressing when i was 14 …

it was my passion and i absolutely luved it for years and years!!

then when i was about 48…. i craved some adventure so,

with my hubby .. muzza’s blessing

(and my kids matt&jamies’ blessing) ,

i went in search of a job in the mining industry.


my journey started out in the dining room in tom price oct 2010.

feeding all the miners….

it was snouts in the trough morning noon and nite.

michelle & i started on the same day so we stuck together and worked our rings off…

away for 2 weeks and R&R for 1 week.

the pay was way less than i was getting doing half the work at home …

but i was on a mission to get to bigger places.

i met some fabulous people in tom price, i luved the fly in fly out life…

i stayed there for 6 months.


everyone i spoke to, said if you want a truckie job you have to get a HR license.

so that is what i did.

i was told that it would take 8-10 lessons $100 per lesson. great …!!

took me 19 lessons…. ;( ..

i was .. and still am .. sooooo “not” a natural truckie!


however i did get there!


on my HR assessment day it was like an out of body experience

because i was sooo freaked out.

the assessor i got was apparently the nastiest meanest one

(so my trainer told me afterwards).

thruout the assessment i chatted away ,

told him how terrified i was and he was encouraging and helpful

so i was lucky and scraped thru by the skin of my teeth!!


i sent out resumes with my HR license added in,

to all the people i had met in the industry … and hoped and waited !


in the meantime i got a job housekeeping on a mine site

that was still in construction in mt magnet …

once again i met some great people !!…

worked hard and long, had good laughs along the way.


thruout my third swing there i got a phone call from michelle

saying that a guy she knew was looking for a truckie to drive

a watercart from cunderdin WA to winton QLD,

and to do civil work for at least 6months … did i want the gig?

i said yes without any hesitation… i didn’t want to leave my family

but i needed a break into truckieism,

so was willing to do whatever it took and this looked like it was the break!


one of my mates, stretch, at mt magnet was driving down to perth

2 days before my swing ended and i caught a ride with him.

i didn’t wait for my scheduled flight from mt magnet…

cos i needed to get back asap!


the next day i was dropped in cunderdin at 6am

by a friend and set off across the countryside

with a bloke i had never met before.

he was driving one watercart and i followed him in the second.

he also had an LV hitched on the back of his truck.


i was crapping myself …


i had no experience in a truck altho luckily 9 hours more

than the regular person who had just got their HR license!!!

i don’t even like to overtake anything in a car …

if i’m on open roads i will hang behind traffic rather than overtake! …

but i was always following him and he would 2way back

to me to say when it was safe to overtake.


we headed off from cunderdin in WA….

this water cart had no seatbelt in it because it was built before

seatbelts became compulsory. the first nite i phoned muz and said “OMG,

my truck hasn’t got a seatbelt …what happens if i hit a roadtrain

coming the other way !!!??? …”

of course he said “well a seatbelt won’t save you!!”

went kalgroolie way, thru norseman,

ecla where the great bite is … wow thats an awesome sight…

stopped along the way each nite wherever we ended up at around 7 – 8 pm …

ate, slept then on the road again about 5am.


it was 3rd day in and i began to feel like shit…

started getting tonsillitis.

luckily for me, his truck broke down just on the outskirts

of a little place called poochera, 350km west of pt augusta.

after a long arvo trying to fix it,

(not me cos i wouldn’t know what i was looking at!)

about 5pm we had to take the LV (that was on the back of his truck being towed)

into pt augusta to try to find a part for the broken truck.


we got into pt augusta 8.30pm and realized after stopping

at a few hotel/motels to try to get a place to stay for overnite …

that we would be very very lucky to find anything.

pt augusta at that time was so busy with construction and shutdowns.

all i wanted to do was lie down, curl up in the fetal position

and sleep off my tonsillitis.

but this wasn’t to be…


a kind and helpful shop assistant said he would ph the local caravan pk

for us and was told there was one cabin available. relief!!!

so we made our way there….


OMG it was just like wolf creek…

here i was, with a man i didn’t know heading towards a nightmare looking place.

we had to share a grubby little one room cabin with filthy blankets

no sheets and munted scungy pillows…

i took my boots off, stayed fully clothed and collapsed into bed.

fetal position … my wish was finally fulfilled… in a twisted sort of way!!!

i woke at 2am for a leak…

tiptoed to the toilet block and was sure the wolf creek man

was behind one of those closed toilet doors so i squatted

outside in the dark bushes!


up at 5am …

found a truck place to order the part from and had to wait all

day for it to arrive from adelaide.

this gave me time to get to the dr to get antibiotics, thank god!


we set off … at 6pm back the 350kms to poochera…

i was feeling sooooo sick by this stage ..

got into poochera 9.30pm and had a B&B overnite.

i threw up all nite. anyway got to sleep in till bout 9am

while the truck was being fixed… met up with driver 10am.

i went to a roadhouse for a coffee and while waiting in this

little out of the way diner i was sitting at a table that had glass over the top,

under the glass were all these sayings and quotes….

one stood out to me, and still to this day when i’m freaking out about something

or someone i know is in trouble or on any day i feel in need …

i say the poem/prayer that i found in my hour of need!

this is the prayer i found in poorcera 3/9/11 …

i wrote it down while i was waiting for my cuppa !!!


every day i need you lord

but this day especially

i need some extra strength to face

whatever is to be

this day more than any day

i need to feel you near

to fortify my courage

and overcome my fear

by myself i can not meet

the challenge of the hour

there are times when human creatures

need a higher power

to help them bear what must be borne

and so dear lord i pray

hold onto my trembling hand

and be with me today


this was so powerful to me and amazing how much i needed

it right at that time.

to find it that day in the middle of nowhere gave me the strength

and courage to keep going and know that it would be alright.

my angels were with me.


so we had lost 2 days with the truck breakdown but back to it…

heading over the countryside.

i absolutely adored some of the incredible scenery we passed

and saw thruout the trip.

we have an amazing country.


we arrived in winton on the 7th day after leaving WA.

winton was very …… bland, unattractive and seemed like a

sad little town and luckily for me, i was not to be here for

longer than just overnight…. as it turned out!!


all the way across i was supposed to be practicing using all the gears,

this was a 16 gear range box ?

i don’t know what that means but it had a splitter with 16 gears….?.

when it is filled with water that’s when you need to use all the gears …


i really couldn’t understand the need for all those gears

so i just used the 8 main ones…

i thought that was plenty and any more would have been totally unnecessary!


on arrival in winton i was chucked in a paddock and left to fill up

the watercart and drive round & round to learn and teach myself

what water squirted when and where with all the controls!!!! mmmmm???

i really didn’t do much in the paddock….

except take a very important phone call….!!

rio recruitment phoned and asked if i would like to come to

a group assessment with the opportunity (not guaranteed) for employment.

OMG!! this is exactly what i had been waiting for…


however it was only the beginning of a very very long recruitment process.


that nite, my first in winton, i let the watercart owner know that i would

be heading off asap hoping to get a job in the mining industry.

he wasn’t very impressed but at least i had gotten the truck across

the country for him.

we made plans.. i would stay working with him for next few days and we would

make our way up to cloncurrie where i would then leave him and get up to

mt isa for a flight home … it was a plan!!!

so next morning i was up ready to go….

but he was already gone …! he’d left without me?!?!

i phoned him and he said “nah just get out now, don’t need you

anymore, head home .. seeya later. full-stop!”


wooah .. i was in the middle of nowhere, i knew no-one….

6am in morning … too early to ph muz just yet …

scotch??? no.. too early for that …. ?!!!

what to do what to do!!


i waited for an hour or 2….saw the lady where we were staying

and she said theres a bus that leaves here at midday …

phoned muz !! … new plan…

bus to mt isa (7hours) , overnite stay there,

plane to brisbane, 6hour delay….

home run to perth.


woooohoooo !!!

i had made it all the way across australia and back !!!

felt like i had achieved!!!

i felt like a smalltime truckie!!! wow!


so a week later i was at the rio group assessment in perth …

it was a morning of team games, to see how we interacted,

2 computer tests, 2 one on one interviews.

i really enjoyed it and felt comfortable and confident.

they said to expect to hear back within a few weeks ….

this was to take 6 months.


in the meantime i was fortunate to get a job on an FMG mine site

at cloudbreak. i started there in dec 2011.

it was thru a contracting company called integrated.

i flew in to cloudbreak, there were 5 new starters on the day i started.

we were all on the environment team.

our duties included testing the oily water pond, checking the rain gauge,

collecting all the recycled material from all over the mine site and

bundling all the collected stuff together on big pallets,

crushing cardboard at the tip, driving the flatbed truck around to collect

and change out 10 tonne skip bins around site,

doing emu bob’s around the tip … which is picking up all the rubbish scattered

around the tip, rehabilitating drill holes with shovels and picks in the middle

of the scrub, this work was all done in 45-50 degree heat!

and we worked outside in that for 10 hours of a 12 hour day.

i had this 5 litre drink container that by the end of the day the bit left

you could have dunked a teabag in and made a hot cup of tea with it!!

sooooooo hot!!!!

worked with some fantastic people and we had some hysterical times.


after 3 months there at cloudbreak i got the “phone call” and a

start date from rio … the call came on my R&R so i didn’t have time

to go back to cloudbreak to say bye or collect my gear .


i had my start date with rio tinto…. 6/3/2012.




i was going to be a truckie in the mines…. i couldn’t believe my luck!

me a hairdresser for all those years …

going to be a truckie!! a “greenie”…. and my god did i prove to be GREEN!!!


i wouldn’t say “bright” green

…. i was a lime green truckie.


so began my world , my life in the pit in tom price.

my swing would be 2 weeks on 1 week off …

7days then 7 nites then 7days off.


it was really bizarre when i got here in tom price.

it was in the same camp that i was in when i was a dinning room bitch…

i even had the same room …spin out!


i love tom price ..its soo pretty , picqueresce, calm, just something about it.

also i sooo love that i don’t have to shop, prepare food, cook, clean

everything is taken care of. so grateful for that!

we work long hours , but when we finish …. you only have to think of yourself …

no one else.

there isn’t alot of time after hours so its a strict routine!

and for me that involves a quick walk/stretch straight after work…

maybe a scotch or 3 on the odd occasion!!!

dinner, organize stuff for next day, shower and into bed…

i’m in this great routine now and i luv my job and the people i work with!


but to begin with it was not like this …

it was the most harrowing experience i have ever put myself thru.


day shift was terrifying but holy moly …

niteshift … on the bus on the way into the pit ….

sooooo dark and the equipment traveling around looked like space aliens

especially the watercarts..

all of these things made it scary, daunting and everything was so unfamiliar.

and without some of my team mates who helped me out along

the way, i may never have been able to get thru.

i cried everyday for the first 8 months ;( … some mates had wet shoulders!!

I’m not very used to being soo useless and unsure and double guessing myself.

my confidence was shattered at some stage every day by people

who didn’t care how they made you feel.

I’m sure at times some just loved to make you feel more stupid

just to make themselves feel big and clever and like

“legends in their own lunchboxes!”


on the very first nite arriving in tom price for first swing we were picked

up by our “then” supervisor , whose very first words were

“i’m not an arsehole, even tho people may tell you otherwise”..

immediately that told me everything!!

wooah!! who says that!!!! funny!!!


so our inductions and site familiarization started …

we had to learn the pit, the rules, the people.. everyone would say …

u”ll get it , yes its all very daunting, it gets easier, don’t over think it,

pick out a landmark to remember certain spots … a landmark?!????

i would think my god !! everything is the same red dirt red dirt and more red dirt!!….

a landmark … where do i find one of those?

there was just soooooo much to learn , so many rules to know,

my mind was exploding and overloaded with far too much crammed in,

quick fired information.


everyone learns so differently…

i’m very slow at learning and need alot of encouragement.

i have no sense of direction and not a great memory!!!..

when i’m under so much pressure i cant remember ANYTHING …

its all blank. terrible!!

i’m just like muriel … you are terrible muriel!!!


but i’m really good once i’ve got things and can be very supportive for others.

i just needed kind, understanding, patient, considerate and helpful team members.


alot of people here were none of these things.

and alot were all of these things !!

and eventually i started to get it…


.. but not for the first 4or 5 swings.

i “mine4″ed … which is horrifying when you don’t know much.

mine4ing is driving the LV’s around in the pit.

moving lighting plants…

firstly you have to hitch the lighting plant on by spotting the driver back

onto the towball thing .. then wind the gadgets up and down

this way and that, every light isn’t the same so each time i thought

i mite have nailed it and understood what i was doing we’d come

across a different type…

it was a bit like me in the watercart in the paddock but this time i was really trying!!


mine 4’s drop off and pick up operators from wherever in the pit,

drop off cars for the operators at places around the pit.

while i was mine 4ing not long after i started (this was on nite shift)

and the weather was wet and stormy we had to go down into the pit

to leave a car for a digger op, got permission to come into his area

and he warned us about the muddy boggy conditions but you cant see

how boggy it really is in the dark and i drove straight to the lighting plant

where we were to leave the car for him, didn’t make it that far,

i was stuck in the mud …

completely bogged… it was up to almost top of the wheels …

crap…. shit… called up supervisor on main channel …

big hoohaaa to get out. everything is a big hoooo haaa!!

he said to me….

“even i wouldn’t be so f*•*stupid to go in to this shit, what were you thinking?”

i told him every things pretty simple in hindsight…

i did get sent on a LV course after that!


learning is hard, but when there is no encouragement and seemed like people

just waiting for you to stuff up ? …makes you feel so vulnerable and on edge …

not at all a safe place to be when so new to the industry not to mention

your psychological well being.

after a few swings of this horrifying mine4ing …

it was my turn to begin training on a truck.


training on these big 2 storey houses on wheels they call haul trucks …

begins with my awesome trainer jodsy!!!

he is a legend!! a true blue legend…

once my training had been completed i wrote a letter to the training dept

to try and acknowledge jodsy’s “over and above the call of duty”

..his efforts in training me, the time and dedication that he gave as a trainer!!

i still to this day haven’t heard back or had any reply to that letter

so all i can say is i hope they realize how amazing he is and what he puts in.

he really gives his everything to make sure you got it all.

his patience, understanding, knowledge, commitment, his relentless efforts,

dedication and professionalism.


his humor and storytelling… the hilariousness… but thats another whole story!!

…. a whole nother story!!

the legend can’t talk without using his hands….

and that’s hilarious before he even opens his mouth.


my time here, began to change for the better when i started learning

the truck with him. he was all of the things i needed.

encouraging, kind always made time to explain

or draw diagrams to help…

he couldn’t have done more to try to teach me everything possible…

altho in a couple of swings of training you could never know everything

you need to … being a lime greenie!!!


now there was more to learn …all the equipment and it was all soooooo

unfamiliar…watercarts, track dozers, wheelie dozers, graders, loaders,

drills, and floats … they are all numbered but you can never read the

number cos of the dusty shit covering them!!! ….

nowadays, i not only usually know the numbers but who is in them !!!…

i was taught how to back in under diggers, loaders, shovels … how to tip off

at the tipheads or the crusher. you have a modular in the truck that tells

you where to go next.

amazing how we can adapt and learn and push ourselves to limits and beyond.


we have two 2 ways to communicate with control and anyone around the pit.

one is the main channel. the second 2 way is a back channel so you can

communicate with digger, dozer and truck operators on the run you are on.

very early on, i had trouble with my second 2 way, one day.

so i couldn’t talk to any operators… except on the main channel

but we are told not to hold up the main channel, to be very brief and to the

point. the main channel is sooo busy all the time sometimes you have to

wait to get on.

that was why the back channels were brought in.

anyway on this day i couldn’t hear anything that was going on,

on the run that i was me it was like working blind…

i sooo rely on the backchannel…(even now to this day.)

this day turned to shit… i was getting really upset and scared.

i caught up with supervisor, but their view is that your main channel

is working so get on with it.

i struggled thru and decided to bring it up at the pre start next morning.


at the beginning of every shift we have a pre start meeting to go thru any

issues from previous shift, all the info for this shift and whatever…

so next morning with a quivery voice … (i don’t like to speak up in front

of alot of people), but this was very important to me and i felt that it was

a safety issue. so i started to say what my issue was, with not having a

working back channel, and before i had even finished i was cut over and

down… supervisor said get over it , you had a main channel,

back channels are a luxury move on. END OF DISCUSSION.


i was guttered … even to this day it means so much to me that i wasn’t even heard.

this really affected me.

i had a physio appointment that day and i went in to that appointment

and just couldn’t stop crying… poor physio!! she was able to put me

onto a colleague of her’s, just to talk about what i was going thru.

this was really helpful to me, but still to me,

the supervisors didn’t give a shit.


i did write an email to them to try to explain how i felt and how hard it is for

me to work without that back channel,

but once again… to this day i haven’t had a reply.



each day once the pre start meeting is over the team scatters,

to head off to find their trucks or diggers or aux equipment…

everyone seems to know just what they are doing …

now.. i know just what i’m doing in that chaos …

but at the start… OMG it was bedlam!!!


when i was passed out by the jods the “legend!!” …

it was a sat morning and that meant that i could be unleashed

on my own to do the whole job all by myself….

holy moly shit crap and a little bit of wooohoooo !!!!!!!!

this is bigtime trucking now!!!!!


so off i set .. all alone… it was going well then later in the afternoon

i slightly ran over an island that got in my way …

god damn that!! what the!!….

it was near our home base (crib room) so i pulled in to see supervisor….

he called control “shut down the run”

i asked him … “what should i have done”

and he told me ” you should have called a mayday”

… holy crap … seriously ?? OMG!!!

i was stood down for a day , which only added to my “not” confident state.

you stay in your room, feeling like a fool with no one to talk to.

it is really horrible…

it can be such a lonely place at times.


i had a hoohaa meeting with the bigwigs… the next day

then back to work with a letter to file and i had to sign a statement saying

if it was to happen again i would call a mayday….

well it did happen again…


what am i ??.. like a moth to the light …. a truck to the islands/kerbs!!!!….


i was coming out of crib room parkup and very very slightly ran over the

kerb on my onside…. just a slither … all ok … kept going …

then i hear one of my team mates (not)

“oooh i saw that” she said….

crap… i thought

“shall i call it” .. i asked her

“definitely”… she said

“mayday mayday mayday” i called up

if i had not called it she would have dobbed me in anyway …

…and i had signed the statement.

big hooohaaa again!!!

incident… paperwork OMG!!!

i wasn’t stood down this time … the incident was fairly insignificant but added to my

experience, they were really good lessons to go thru and it taught me alot.


once again i felt like a loser.

the rest of the shift i drove around mine4ing with a great team member

who showed me lots of the kerbs around pit he said ..

“look at that and that and that….. all of these kerbs have tyre marks on them …

so many trucks run slightly over the edges to corner.”

he told me what id done wasn’t so bad … all ok.

to have that support and help, i was so grateful.


another time when i’d very first started, i was up on a tiphead, it was one

of those really confusing tipheads (…i call them cluster fucks!)

they have clean waste, potential waste, then a dozer and a grader working

with 3 or 4 dig units coming to same tiphead.

this was at nite, there was shit everywhere …

extremely confusing even to an experienced truckie…

let alone me a” lime greenie!”

you have to be on the right back channel so that you can communicate

with the operators in the area.

to know what the right back channel is almost takes a university degree!!!

anyway, i happened to be on the right back channel, but sometimes the

dozer ops don’t want to talk to you anyway!!!

or they just expect you to know whats what.

everytime i would head up to this tiphead i would be soooo freaked out …

terrified of what was in store for me this time…

this particular nite, every time i went up there i would get it wrong …

the dozer & grader op’s were talking to each other about me needing to

go back to training, laughing amongst themselves and ridiculing me.

it was awful.


i’m a sensitive little petal and take things to heart, i like to get things right and

not cause a hoohaa! i was trying sooo hard to get it.

i don’t know how many times i said my prayer that nite!!!


but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…

and all along the way, the support i have from muz is incredible.

he is always there for me, always ready to listen, give advice.

often when he knew how upset i was he would say …

“come home, you don’t need it”… “or you can do it”…

muz is always encouraging and my rock.

soooo wonderful to have that.


fifo women

Jane, Amanda and Soni in the Pilbara

thankfully lots of my team mates helped, support and encouraged

me too, along the way!! i am soooooo grateful and thankful to them!!

luckily i’m determined and i always knew that i would get it!!



another time when i was still brand new, up on a tiphead …

you always have to communicate to go into the area so the dozer

knows someone is there and don’t get too close to the equipment….

this was once again on niteshift..

i kept letting the dozer know i was there by just checking where he

wanted the load tipped… all he would answer me, was by saying

“read the tiphead”.. so i would come back and say where i thought

was the right place to tip he would not answer by saying “yes thats it”,

he would just keep repeating “read the tiphead”…

he knew i was new and i think just wanted to show how big he was in his


the next time i came up to the tiphead i yelled into the back channel

“ding ding (like a boxing ring) dozer (whatever he was)..

this is truck 154 back for round 7… ding ding!!!!”


i think a bit of humor helped a bit … but humor is sooo hard when

you’re feeling so squashed down by puffed up people.


anyway now i do get the tipheads… after being here for a year or so!

but its no thanx to any of these types of arseholes!


now, its ok if i don’t get it all the time…

i’m not so hard on myself !! also i feel confident to ask!

there was just soooo much to know to begin with.


we are all told in all our inductions to ask …no question is silly,

but out in the field its not at all the case…

ridiculed often for asking questions.

but thats not from everyone just the bullies … the lunchbox people!


one day in pre start meeting we were told to drink lots of water…

next day told not to have so many toilet breaks!!!

another time we had to watch our cornering speeds …

they had to be 15km or less and that was monitored and not long after

we told not to go “that” slow!!!

we are told take your time.. take it slow theres never any hurry..

but thats not the case either…

everything is timed and you’re forever in a state of rush rush rush !!!!


another thing we are told is if you’re not sure stop…

put your hazards lights on and ask..

we were tipping at one of the “cluster fuck” tipheads

and i was following 505 truck and she stopped put her hazards

on and was trying to find out what the back channel was …

a lunchbox got on the main channel and yells

“truck 505 what are you doing”…

i started quivering and shaking in my steel caps…

so thankful 505 was doing all the ground work for me…

i got the back channel plus where we were tipping.

wooohooo what a winner!!! ..

poor 505 tho!


there were some magical moments like the time i pulled up for my

break about 9.30 one morning …..

i got back into my truck and wrote this:



aug 24 2012

i look around up here … it is majestic!!

all of the mountains and the expanse and the colour…

looking at it as a whole, its all reddish brown but then on closer inspection

there is just sooo much variety of colour.

the reddest dirt and dirt all sorts of shades of brown, yellow, mustard,

aubergine, purple, grey, mauve, orange and all the different shades

of those in between…. also black in parts ..

the green on the mountains look like soft crushed velvet.

i have just done a 360 as i am walking back to my truck after a quick toot stop …

9.30am … theres not a single cloud in the bluest clearest sky and the silence

(when theres no trucks roaring by) is incredible.

such an amazing incredible part of the universe.

you just look and feel in awe of it.

then at nite the stars and the moon… the blackness..

the expanse of dark black nite.

i feel really blessed that i’m able to experience this up here.

also that i am a part of what i wanted for 2 years…

to be involved in the mining industry.

although its been the toughest and scariest thing i have ever put myself thru…

at times i soooo wanted to be anywhere else with kinder and more

compassionate people….

after now being here in my 5th month i feel it is where i am able to be,

and that i can begin to appreciate this beautiful part of the world.

they have a tourist bus that comes into the pit everyday and if i am on the run

that goes by them at the right time i beep beep beep beep beeppp beeep beeeep

to them as they are all taking photos and waving !!! hilarious!!!!


29th may 2013

ive been here for 15 months now.

it’s been a roller coaster!!!!

today im going for a meeting to be a peer support person.

i hope to be able to be there for someone else that starts off in the same shoes as me

……. “lime green boots!!!”


Sent from my iPhone

Sent from my iPhone

2 Responses to “Lime green boots”

  1. Faye Watts says:

    That was just awesome to read,well done on your tough journey and your total determination and grit to stick it out, and you are now able to reap the rewards.
    So happy, chuffed,and proud of you!!just awesome, have learnt a thing or two from reading this,all the best for your future,

  2. Bob says:

    Well done Soni, It was just amazing.


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