Our Suburb is a City!
I never felt settled in the city. That may sound strange from someone who moved there when they were 4 ½ years old and essentially lived there for 40 something years, but Adelaide as a space, a place of congregation for other human beings never felt like my place of absolute connection.
I have travelled to parts of the world and of course other states of Australia, including a stint living on the eastern seaboard in my late teens, and Adelaide was always my home, my centre. But I never felt true connection.
Photo by Justin Baxter
My family came from the country, a railway family. I was the youngest of 4 children, each born in railway communities Murray Bridge, Tailem Bend and I, Peterborough.
Very early memories were of Mum coming over the range to Port Pirie (the big smoke!) once a month to do her major grocery shopping.
School holidays were always spent with Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, Cousins in these country locations, all referring to us as their city slicker relatives.
We had, and still do have, family in Jamestown and the district. My maternal grandmother’s brother owned and operated a garage in Appila for many years, the name still visible on the wall many years ago at my last visit.
Photo by Justin Baxter.
So why Port Pirie, and why now?
After nearly 14 years of fly in fly out work (FIFO), I needed to center, to find my place of connection. My previous employment had treated me kindly, but it was time to pursue a new direction. Buyer beware! FIFO life is not as glamorous as one may think. One thing I can and do suggest to people considering this type of lifestyle, is to work out the things in life you are willing to sacrifice: milestone events, children’s birthdays, children’s births, celebrations, friends’ parties, funerals. What is it you are prepared to sacrifice?
Port Pirie why?
A simple part is: connection! When I drove up to Port Pirie from Adelaide for the interview for the role that I now hold, as I came over the rise from Crystal Brook, and the first view of the Southern Flinders Ranges filled my windscreen, I felt home, I felt connected!
I felt connected to the land and somehow to the people, and I knew….I just knew.
But my journey is not just about me, it is a journey for my little family for they have never known life outside of the city.
We sat, we talked, we looked at maps, websites, talked to amazing and beautiful friends, and invariably had the question posed to us “Oh dear! Port Pirie? Why would you want to go there?” It was then that an epiphany struck us!
People talk of living in the city, of living as part of the hustle and bustle but when you sit back, look and observe, most don’t actually live in the city. In fact many rarely leave the suburbs in which they live and travel into Adelaide itself, if at all.
Day to day living
Yet we pay more for the privilege of wasting days of our lives sitting in a car, living roof to roof in cramped suburbs where you can hear your neighbours snoring. Where going to the boat ramp requires leaving home one hour earlier and then paying almost another fuel bill in boat ramp fees. Where leaving your own home at the wrong time of day can cost you an extra hour in travel time because of four different schools being located within 1km of your house, but town planning meant that each has a multitude of traffic management plans that choke all traffic trying to navigate in the general vicinity. A 2km drive to the “local” shops can take in excess of 25 mins! Where sporting facilities are so numerous and under-utilised that in many cases the limited funds available to them, barely see lawn on the ovals, or lines on the netball courts.
You were never living in the city, you were living in your suburb and on rare occasions visiting the city! I’m out of breath and my head hurts from just recounting it!
Justin and wife Michelle.
‘Our Suburb’ is a Vibrant Regional City!
So if we generally never leave our suburb, it has made absolute perfect sense that a City such as Port Pirie is and can be “our suburb” . It has all of the previous conveniences of our old suburb including the places we shop, the activities we undertake and additionally divine local food, absolutely warm, genuine, amazing people and all located within the quintessential 5 minute drive (in peak hour traffic). As we wake up each morning and open the front door we are greeted by the most majestic and amazing scenery. Port Pirie is better for our health. People look confused when you say that. The typical response is “the lead, the smelter, the <insert unfounded whiney complaint here:>”. However in Port Pirie this amazing clean country air is right there at the end of the road less than 2 minutes from the heart of the town! As a former city dweller I can tell you, 2 minutes from the heart of town only gets you to the edge of town and certainly nowhere as amazing or healthy.
And heck if we want to go to the city, it’s only a relatively short drive away and easy enough to go there and back on the same day.
The question for us isn’t:
“Port Pirie, why would you?”
The question actually is “Port Pirie, why wouldn’t you?”
Justin is also a Firefighter!
And a great Photographer! Photo of the York Wreck at Weeroona Island by Justin Baxter.
Photo of Simms Cove, Moonta Bay by Justin Baxter.