A lot of people are talking about the future of Kalgoorlie at the moment. We’ve spoken to some experts who tell us why the future looks bright!
The current fortunes of Kalgoorlie were thrust into the spotlight when Diggers and Dealers visited earlier this month – with everyone from Mayor John Bowler to Saracen Chief Executive Raleigh Finlayson speaking their mind.
While Mr Bowler pointed the finger at FIFO work practices and demanded action from governments and mining companies, here’s what Mr Finlayson had to say: “I grew up in Kalgoorlie and I’m absolutely heartbroken to drive down the main street. I’m not sure what the answer is, and I’m not sure it’s not structurally broken forever.”
Like Mr Finlayson, I grew up in Kalgoorlie. I, too, am heartbroken to think this amazing city is not the vibrant, diverse and community-minded centre of the Goldfields it once was.
I’ve left Kalgoorlie three times and gone back twice. Each time I’ve returned for work opportunities. While I don’t live in Kalgoorlie now, I still tell people Kalgoorlie is where I’m from, even though I’ve spent more than half my life elsewhere.
Would I go back? For the right opportunity, absolutely.
READ MORE: What’s it like living in Kalgoorlie?
Kalgoorlie has come through mining downturns in the past. Like a lot of regional communities, this time around the bounce back is taking longer, and in Kalgoorlie’s case the bounce has not aligned with the pickup in the price of gold.
There once was a time when if gold was booming, Kalgoorlie was, too. So maybe it is booming, just quietly and not in the places it has historically boomed? Maybe the shopfronts of the main street are no longer the way to assess a town’s prosperity?
Mining isn’t the only industry or attraction in Kalgoorlie; the Dig a little Deeper website provides some insights and evidence for that. It shows what life is really like in “Kal” – the community behind the “mining town” everyone always imagines.
The fact is, there are a great number of people living in Kalgoorlie driving change and ensuring the city is a fantastic place to live. Some of these people have lived in Kalgoorlie their entire lives, others have moved back more recently.
We reached out to three of these people to find out what is happening in Kalgoorlie and what the future might hold.
The local business perspective on Kalgoorlie
Simone de Been is Chief Executive Officer of the Kalgoorlie Boulder Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She is Kalgoorlie born and bred, having lived and worked in Kalgoorlie-Boulder her entire career.
“Retail has changed throughout the world and we have to adapt with the change,” she said. “Businesses must have more of an online presence. The KBCCI are assisting retailers and all businesses in establishing an online presence, through free training and one on one assistance.”
If the Chamber’s booming membership is anything to go by (KBCCI has welcomed 100 new members in the past 12 months) then, actually, business in Kalgoorlie is booming.
“Businesses are investing in new premises, expanding and investing in machinery,” she said. “Businesses only do this when they are confident in the market. There is an abundance of confidence in the Goldfields’ market.”
Just down the road at the Chamber of Minerals and Energy, Manager Rowena Olsen said she believes Kalgoorlie is a place with a thriving community, where people can be as involved as they want.
“There is always something to do and generally it’s free,” she said. “The City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder have a wonderful arts and cultural scene, always endeavoring to bring new music, plays, the ballet and opera to the Goldfields”
So it appears the business and social scenes in Kalgoorlie are as buoyant as they have ever been. Perhaps years ago the main street was a barometer of how a town was faring, but nowadays we need to break this habit and look at other measures instead.
A mining perspective on Kalgoorlie’s vibrancy
Sabina Shugg, Director of Western Australian School of Mines in Kalgoorlie, is another born-and-bred Goldfields mining leader. She has an interesting perspective on the “main street” situation.
“I think the retail downturn on Hannan Street is far outweighed by the burgeoning activity in West Kalgoorlie, where there is plenty going on,” she said. “If you take a drive through West Kalgoorlie you will see confidence: new buildings where businesses are spending millions of dollars expanding and upgrading.”
West Kalgoorlie is a significant industrial estate on the outskirts of the city. It’s home to engineering firms, drilling companies
And if the recent attendee list at Diggers and Dealers is any measure of the industry, or the Goldfields, then the record attendance suggests Kalgoorlie is well on the road to recovery.
Kalgoorlie from a careers perspective
Kalgoorlie used to be the place people went to get a start in the mining industry. For many a current-day mining professional and executive, the city is where they studied at the Western Australian School of Mines. Kalgoorlie is a great place to start a career in mining and, equally, it’s a fantastic place to seek a career change.
So why is business finding it difficult to secure skilled people to live and work in the town? As Ms Olsen said: “There really is this stigma that you need to live in a capital city to have a high-flying career, and it’s just not the case anymore. We have so many jobs available, at many different levels, and we have the highest average salary in Australia.”
What is the future for Kalgoorlie
Whether you’ve lived in Kalgoorlie for 12 months or your whole life, you’re a part of the fabric of the place. We can all make a difference by supporting local business, encouraging employees to take residential mining jobs instead of FIFO ones, and promoting Kalgoorlie whenever we can — not just as a mining destination but a city that offers an amazing lifestyle to its residents.
Kalgoorlie is shining bright and will continue to be so. If you’re looking for a place to settle for a while, get a start in mining, or undertake additional study, Kalgoorlie has it all. As Ms de Been said: “Most people who come to Kalgoorlie only plan on staying two years and they’re still here 10 years later. It is a great community with something happening every weekend; you just need to immerse yourself into everything our great city has to offer.”
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