Who would have thought you’d find colourful hula dancers and the legendary Red Dog on the back roads of WA’s Pilbara?
Banjima, Eastern Guruma, Yinhawangka country
That’s just two of the surprises presenter Heather Ewart encounters in the heart of iron-ore country.
Heather discovers the mining town of Tom Price isn’t all hard hats and FIFO workers. It also boasts a thriving Pacific Island culture. Led by the gorgeous and multi-talented Lita Mahy, local dance group Penina O Pasifika, gives Heather a taste of a performance that once woke up the town.
Lita and her mates also reveal another, equally unexpected side to them. It seems these women are shaking up more than the tail feathers on their flamboyant costumes.
Tom Price was established in the 1960s as a Rio Tinto mining town. At their newest open-cut iron-ore mine, Heather is astonished to learn that the equivalent weight of about 70 family sedans is extracted per day out of this one pit alone. But mine manager, Abud Alnatour, springs yet another surprise on Heather that leaves her almost speechless.
Iron-ore, Australia’s number one export, has brought prosperity to the Pilbara and the recreational facilities in Tom Price attest to that. However, traditional elder, Maitland Parker, tells Heather there’s a dark side to mining. Maitland and other elders, negotiate with mining companies, who are applying for leases on Country. According to Maitland, it’s like pitting a little bus against a 10-tonne truck.
Heather meets Maitland and the local Banjima on their traditional lands, an hour’s drive from Tom Price. In the stunning surrounds of the Karijini National Park, she witnesses an unforgettable corroboree on the opening night of an immersive festival known as the Karijini Experience.
Over the course of a week, around 2,000 visitors, young and old, will take part in and learn about practices that are the cultural heartbeat of the Banjima people. The festival highlights why Country is central to First Peoples.
It’s a message brought home powerfully through a personal account from Banjima elder, May Byrne, that moves Heather to tears.
Executive Producer: Lou Turley. Story Producer: Gerri Williams