EXACTLY FIFTY YEARS ago, in the spring of 1966, my family left the Pennington Migrant Centre in Adelaide to drive up Highway 1 to Whyalla. Our destination, BHP’s Milpara hostel, was a full day’s journey away in a second-hand faded blue Ford Zephyr. As recently arrived migrants from Britain, the drive would take us into an utterly unfamiliar landscape: the red-soil and saltbush country of South Australia’s upper Eyre Peninsula.
We were not alone. Whyalla was booming. BHP’s steelworks had opened the year before, the city’s shipyard’s orders book was healthy, while ore from Iron Knob was being shipped from Whyalla in increasing quantities – my father was to work in BHP’s diesel locomotive repair shop. The Stanleys – like many of Whyalla’s newcomers, working-class Britons (in our case Liverpudlians) – were optimistic about our future in a brand new Housing Trust semi-detached in a dirt-pavement street on the city’s expanding western fringe: this was the new start in a brand new, sunny country for which we had left rainy, grey Liverpool.
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