When you live in a town so isolated it’s a 12-hour drive to the nearest big city, you might have the song ‘I get by with a little help from my friends’ on your playlist. That’s certainly the case for Nathan Kemp, who lives in the mining town of Newman in the East Pilbara region.
The support of his friends is one of the main reasons he has stayed in the town for eleven years. “In a surprising way, isolation has the positive benefit of helping you keep focused on the important things like family,” he said. “But at the same time, if it wasn’t for the incredibly close relationships you develop outside your immediate family it would be pretty tough. “We often say there’s your own family and then there’s your Pilbara family.”
Nathan has been enjoying those two families since arriving in Newman, with his partner Rose, 11 years ago. Since then they have married and have two little girls, eight-year-old Meg and five-year-old Shelby.
“We share the home and work life as Rose is a nurse at the hospital and as I am a production operator, I am at work when she’s at home and vice versa,” he said. “But the upside is that I get to spend a lot of time with the girls which is fantastic.” In their spare time together, the family is involved in the local community along with the girls’ sports and Nathan plays for the Newman Vets AFL Masters team.
Originally from the east coast of Australia and the home of Rugby League, he wasn’t sure about playing Aussie Rules Football. The community team only plays ten times a year due to the intense heat of the town which boasts a record of 47-degrees celsius. Open to both men and women over the age of 34, the players are split into two teams and compete against one another as the Dingoes and the Turkeys of the Newman Vets Football Club.
“With the support of BHP and some other local businesses, the club stages an annual Newman Vets Celebrity AFL match, where we bring ex sporting stars and celebrities to Newman for a bit of a game and a sportsman night,” he said. The celebrities do some training and meet up with the kids in the morning and then there is an AFL game in the afternoon, which leads into the sportsman/auction night. The celebrity legends match is one of the bigger social events and it’s one of the top Newman social occasions of the year,” he said.
“We raise money for other local non for profit organisations, grassroots sports, community groups and even though we’re a small town of just a few thousand, we’ve raised more than $200,000 since we started the Celebrity Match eleven years ago,” said Nathan. The event has also evolved to include a “Talk to a Mate” men’s health initiative to talk about mental health and physical issues affecting men in the town.
According to Nathan, “being involved in something like the Newman Vets makes you feel part of the community and even though you are so far away from the big cities you feel a bit more at home. You get to share your problems and triumphs with people and you develop your own tight-knit group of friends where our kids have even ended up calling some of them auntie and uncle. We wouldn’t have stayed here this long if it wasn’t for the close relations we have built over the years.”