Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kalgoorlie - Golden Outback

Just some of the fantastic architecture of Kalgoorlie-Boulder

Kalgoorlie was founded upon gold and gold seekers during the 1890s and mining continues to be its main industry over 100 years later.  Kalgoorlie is definitely the service and shopping centre for the golden outback.  The city of 30 000 is a 7 hour drive from Perth and the next major centre east would be Adelaide 2000+ km away.  A treasure trove of turn of the 20th century architecture gems and plenty of things to see and do.  The streets are wide - wide enough to turn around a camel train.  The reason for my stay in Kal was an exchange teachers P.D. (professional development) weekend.  Myself and 8 other teachers visited 3 schools (Kalgoorlie Boulder Community High School, East Kalgoorlie Primary, and School of the Air) plus the Goldfields School District office and of course the local attractions.

KBCHS was an interesting school visit.  This public school serves years 8, 9, 10 and a couple stats that the principal gave us made us think. 
(1.) Because Kalgoorlie-Boulder is a transient community, just 43% of kids entering year 8 will be there at the end of year 10.
(2.) 80% of the staff has 4 years of teaching or less.
Sorry, no photos. 

Above - School of the Air building

Left - map of where the families live.

The second school visit was to the School of the Air.  Started many six decades ago and back then children in remote and outback areas were taught over short wave radios.  Nowadays, primary aged children are taught via satellite internet connection.  School is in session Monday to Friday with a live two-way broadcast lasting for less than an hour a day.  The rest of the time children will complete workbook type packages and are expected to attend "school" 9 till 3.  All exchange teachers were very keen to learn more about this distant education.

The third school visit was to East Kalgoorlie primary school.  Again, another interesting tour.  Again, a different type of school.  This primary school serves students of aboriginal heritage.  Started by an aboriginal principal to deal with declining enrollment, she started focusing on specific needs for aboriginal students that might have been missed otherwise.  Sorry, no photos.

5 Canucks, 2 Brits, 2 Aussies Teachers

Before electricity reached remote stations,
people peddled to power up their short wave radios.

Two more tours for our group.  First, the Royal Flying Doctor Service at the airport.  Flying Doctors (similar to air ambulance) began many decades ago to serve the remote areas of Australia with medical help.
The Kalgoorlie-Boulder post is still being called out on average 3 times a day.

Secondly, we played a Two Up game.  An Outback Australian gambling invention and ANZAC day tradition.  Throw TWO pennies UP in the air and put money on whether both coins are going to be heads or tails.  If it's odds (1 head and 1 tail) the spinner throws again.  This ram shackled site is no longer in daily use, but at one time it had big crowds and wages were won and lost.   
The bush land that surrounds the goldfields of Kalgoorlie have grown back naturally over the past half century.  Miners and builders cut down every available tree for construction of buildings and mining supports as well as fuel for the furnaces that ran steam engines, water condensers, and smelters.  Today, it is a beautiful semi-desert thriving once again with just 250 mm (10 inches) of rainfall per year.  [But, has an evaporation rate of 2500 mm a year.]

No tour of Kalgoorlie would be complete without a tour of the Super Pit.  Originally, the 'Golden Mile' was independently owned and operated by many different underground goldmine companies.  Old photos show dozens of head frames just on the outskirts of town.  Then in the 1970s and 80s, a WA business man started buying up the leases for the idea of starting an open pit mine to extract what was in between.  Set to dig until 2017, the Super Pit will eventually be almost one kilometre deep, 4 km long and 1 km wide.  Look how tiny the big equipment looks now!  Imagine in a few years time!

Nightlife in a wild west town full of miners, locals, and tourists alike was a blast!  We hit a few pubs - one had a glass section to walk on showing a mine shaft right below the floorboards.  Several other pubs included: The Exchange, famous for it's 'skimpy' bartenders in their undies and The Palace, famous for it's minerals and stock prices ticker and also their 'skimpy' waitresses.  Kal also has 3 working brothels.  And since we were on an educational P.D... we went on a bordello tour of one of the premises.  Although there were lots of questions asked, no homework assignments were given?! 

Lily Langtrees Country Club - a.k.a. brothel.    
One of the many bars in town and also a former mining head frame in the background.

Gold pouring demo at the Mining Hall of Fame.

Coolgardie Safe - an ingenious invention. 

The Coolgardie Safe is an Aussie outback fridge in the days before electricity.  Water in the metal tray is sucked up the hessian (burlap) walls and the breeze cools anything inside. You can actually feel the coolness!

Last touristy stop before heading home - Rabbit Proof Fence.  Built to try to stop the hoard coming from the eastern states - but to no avail.  Lots of stories and history comes from this long, long, long fence line.

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