Kirsty Harrison (Spiteri) has found a memorable way to pay tribute to her family’s long history in coal mining.
Kirsty would be the first to tell you she has a bit of a quirky streak. In her family, she’s the one who takes on the unusual renovation projects or upcycles the vintage furniture no one else wants. “I like making stuff,” she shrugs, smiling.
It was this sense of imagination – and a photo of her Pop – that led her to commission a mural of him on their latest renovation project.
The ‘Coal Miner’s Cottage’, as it’s going to be called, sits on a corner block in Singleton’s William Street. Its original weatherboard exterior has been painted powder blue; the verandah, closed-in when Kirsty and husband Ben bought the property earlier in the year, has been restored and opened back up.
And to the right of the verandah, on the front face of the house, is a huge black and white mural of William “Sunday” Thompson, exiting an underground mine portal in a shuttle car.
Kirsty and Ben bought the property with the aim of offering it as a serviced rental “to accommodate predominantly mining people,” Kirsty explains. But she also wanted to do something a little bit special.
She decided – as a way to pay tribute to her grandfather and because of its mining-town location -that they should name the property.
In keeping with the stunning original features they found hidden under the “almost derelict” interior, the ‘Coal Miner’s Cottage’ will eventually have a custom metal gate featuring its name, as well as underground head-lanterns and shovels worked in metal.
The mural idea came later. Kirsty calls it one of her “crazy conceptions,” and it was another way to acknowledge her grandfather, and the family’s strong mining heritage.
“The photo of my Grandad was on our kitchen bench,” she says. “When I went home I looked at it and it was like an epiphany. I thought ‘I have to have Pop on the wall!'”
Kirsty is a fourth generation Hunter Valley miner and she’s rightly proud of the family’s mining history.
Her paternal great-grandfather, Robert (Bob) McLennan, was a Cessnock local and the first miner in the family. His daughter Colleen would go on to marry William Thompson and raise another generation of miners.
‘Pop’ himself began his mining career in Wollongong aged just fifteen, working as an operator. He later moved his family back to Cessnock, and took on jobs across the Hunter and the South Coast.
“Everyone knew my Pop as Sunday Thompson,” explains Kirsty. “He worked in mines such as Bellbird, Burrajalong, Liddell and Aberdare East (where we think the photo was taken).”
“Pop worked in mining for some 35 plus years. All his brothers worked in mining and all of his children are or were mining households.”
Although William passed away almost thirty years ago, the family mining tradition continues.
In fact, Kirsty says, “out of 12 of Pop’s grandkids, 10 households are mining households. All my family are predominantly here, working in a number of mines around Singleton and the Hunter Valley.”
Her own daughter is now a fifth-generation miner, having recently taken a job as an operator at Mount Arthur.
As for Kirsty, she has just left the industry after 25 years in various maintenance planning and procurement roles but says her “mining connection has not dissolved.” In her new position with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) – as the ‘Classic Hornet Disposals Project Manager’, she focuses on maintaining a strong link between the Defence Force and local area industry.
When it came to creating a tribute to ‘Pop’, Kirsty approached graffiti artist Jamie Curtrupi – a former school friend of hers from Singleton – who now works on the Gold Coast. Though his commissions are usually for larger organisations – think SeaWorld – and are slightly more organised than the pictures Kirsty gave him, he liked her idea and agreed to do the mural.
Kirsty kept the project secret from most of her family, and when it was ready to unveil, she and three of her cousins had to lure the rest of the family to Singleton with various – fictional – reasons.
When ‘Nan’ Colleen Thompson and the family were gathered at the cottage, Kirsty told them “I had a little surprise for them; that one of my normal, ‘out-there’ ideas had come to fruition,” she laughs.
Kirsty moved everyone out the front, gave Colleen the photo of Sunday to hold, and unveiled the mural. “Her [Nan] and my aunties started crying straight away,” she says.
To Kirsty, the fact that she was able to get the family together to remember Pop and their mining history makes the mural worth the time and effort.
“I’m super family-oriented,” she says. “If it’s something that will get the family to focus, or bring the family together, then I’m in it.”
Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service is seeking leader to join Advisory Committee
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter is calling for Expressions of Interest from local business and community leaders to join our Hunter Advisory Committee. The Committee represents the region comprising Newcastle and the Hunter, Central Coast, Central West and Mid North Coast. Its purpose is to advise and assist the Board and Senior Management Team on matters relevant to the local region while providing governance and oversight on decision making.
The Committee currently has 7 members, including its Chair. Nominations are open for one new member and this appointment will be through a merit based process that considers skills, experience and qualifications.
Expressions of interest close on Friday 16 October.
Position advert and Position Description:
This is an unpaid voluntary position and the Service would like to thank our Community for your continued support as we operate 24-7 for all people in our community.
Students Have A Yarn
St James’ Muswellbrook welcomes a newly constructed yarning circle thanks to the generosity of Malabar Resources.
Fully funded by Malabar, the Yarning Circle will give students and teachers at St James’ Primary School in Muswellbrook the opportunity to sit together and enhance their understanding of Indigenous culture.
A Yarning Circle is an important part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and a harmonious and collaborative way of communicating. It promotes respectful relationships and provides an open environment to share cultural knowledge.
In August Malabar designed and installed the Yarning Circle which involved the placement of more than 5000kg of sandstone blocks.
Malabar’s Manager of Health, Safety, Environment and Community, Donna McLaughlin said, “We are delighted to continue building our relationship with St James’ and other schools in the region by providing resources that help their specific needs.”
“We look forward to seeing the Yarning Circle develop as native plants and artwork are added to the space, which will further facilitate cultural learning and understanding.”
The new space was enthusiastically received by students. “Thank you for this amazing and respectful area where we can teach others about our customs and traditions,” said year 6 student Tushawn.
St James’ Aboriginal Education Teacher, Tania Thompson expressed how thankful they are to have a designated place for our CREST Crew to meet and yarn.
“When we meet as a whole group from K-6 around the Yarning Circle, it gives students the opportunity to bond, form strong ties, and unite as one mob,” she said.
“Communicating, sharing and problem solving as a team are some of the extremely important life skills that we refine when meeting for Yarning Circle.”
“We learn to listen to one another and to respect the ideas and opinions of others regardless of their age, as we all have wisdom to share.”
St James’ will use the Yarning Circle as an extension of their classrooms and teaching practice to foster knowledge of Indigenous culture by engaging both indigenous and non-indigenous students and teachers.
Have You Checked On Your Mates?
This year has been an absolute shocker and it’s no secret that it has certainly taken a toll on all of our mental health in some way. R U OK? Day this year was more important than ever, and our mining companies and leaders went above and beyond to encourage employees to have meaningful conversations and connect with those around them. Let’s remember to take care and reach out to our mates every day of the year.
This year with COVID-19 restrictions in place the McLanahan team’s participation in R U OK? Day was a little different compared with previous years when they have hosted an R U OK? Day ambassador at their Newcastle premises.
Still wanting to make a difference, McLanahan donated over $2,000 to Craig Clarkes in his Coals to Newcastle Ocean Swim to raise money for Beyond Blue.
“Wow what an amazing generous donation from the McLanahan team. Hugely appreciate your kind praise and lifting the fundraising campaign over the $30,000 mark. Thanks heaps. I will be in touch.”
All staff members received an R U OK? lanyard and a yellow iced cupcake with the R U OK? flag.
DK Heavy Plant Services
RU OK? – that is what everyone was asking in the DK Heavy Plant Services (DKHPS) Workshop on September 10.
Too often people struggle in silence, do not know what resources are available, or even where to start when talking about their mental health.
Sue Milton, General Manager of Upper Hunter Community Services, was able to share with the DKHPS workforce simple advice and resources on these issues and whilst together enjoyed a great afternoon tea and conversation.
To start the conversation, Banlaw grabbed some delish donuts for the team to enjoy, whilst taking time out to ask work mates R U OK?
“As you can see from our cheeky photo’s, the donuts were a hit and a way for all areas of the business to mingle and remind staff the importance of prioritising their mental health and looking out for those around them,” said Internal Sales Coordinator, Lauren Tonks.
With the combined efforts of their Newcastle and Perth offices, Banlaw successfully raised $216 for suicide prevention.
The team at Northwest Mining started the day bright and early with a mental health toolbox talk for R U OK? Day and encouraged the guys to participate by wearing their TradeMutt shirts – a workwear brand, with the mission to make the invisible issue of mental health impossible to ignore. 5% of TradeMutt’s profits go towards ‘This is a Conversation Starter Foundation’.
This led into a BBQ lunch for everyone, cooked by the company owner Shayne Clark. “We discussed some statistics on mental health and chatted about how to start conversations if you’re concerned about someone’s mental health,” said Shayne.
“Everyone was keen to be involved and engaged in the conversations, it was a great day.”
The Bengalla Team celebrated R U OK? Day this year, focusing on teaching people that there is more to say after the initial R U OK? It is important to keep the conversation going and check in on your work mates.
To support the initiative employees enjoyed a coffee and a Kit Kat before and after shift to start the conversation with their work mates. The four important steps include:
– Ask R U OK?
– Listen without judgement
– Encourage action
– Check in
It was an opportunity for team mates to check in on each other and it was well supported from all of site.
R U OK Day saw Tom, Chloe and Matt take the opportunity to catch up over coffee and acknowledge that a conversation could change a life.
There was discussion around keeping an eye on your mates, actually asking R U OK? and what’s next after you’ve asked the question. The team remembered there’s more to say after R U OK? such as;
– How are you travelling?
– You don’t seem yourself – I am here if you want to talk about anything.
– Have you been feeling this way for a while?
– Have you thought about talking to your doctor or a health professional?
– Just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing.
The PERSAS team enjoyed each other’s company during a BBQ and discussed the benefits of R U OK? Day, while social distancing of course.
One thing that was emphasised on the day was not waiting until the next R U OK? day to have open discussions regarding each other’s wellbeing, instead keeping it as an open page where employees can talk to each other at any time.
The R U OK day message is important to Morgan Engineering, but not only just one day a year. Mental Health is important to the Morgan Engineering workforce all year round. This year R U OK? Day coincided with the company’s fortnightly Toolbox talk, and Business Development Manager Graham Sutton said that everyone got involved with the conversation.
“It was a great opportunity to discuss what mental health means to our company,” said Graham.
“With many of employees on shift work and having to spend a lot of time away from their family and friends, it’s important for the whole Morgan Engineering team to be there for each other and check on their mates.”
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