Worker Story: From Portugal to Perth
March 28th, 2019
In 1974, nine-year old Joao Cardosa left with his family from their island home of Madeira in Portugal, bound for a much larger island, Australia. Famous as the birthplace of football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, Madeira was very different to their new home in Perth.
Fast forward forty-five years & Joao, known by friends as JJ, still feels grateful to have settled in Australia at a young age.
“It was an eye-opening experience; I didn’t speak any English when we came over. But it really is a lucky country.”
JJ was introduced to the mining industry nearly ten years ago, after moving on from his previous job with Cadbury & Schweppes in Perth.
“I went looking for a better job and better money. I started up as a spotter, I was sitting there the first week and I hadn’t got paid yet. I was thinking this isn’t for me because I’d been sitting on my arse doing nothing. Then saw I the pay packet and thought, yeah I could do this.”
From there JJ got a role as a lead hand working on bridges and tunnels. After that he spent over two years as a lead on Barrow Island doing earthworks.
Barrow Island, about 100km off the coast of WA, is a highly protected site owned by Chevron. Its protected status is largely due to the twenty plus native species that aren’t found anywhere else in the world.
JJ describes himself as an organiser and so when he found himself working projects like Barrow Island or Wheatstone, he needed something to keep himself busy outside of work hours.
“Normally I play football…So I used to organise competitions when I was at Wheatstone. We had a 6000 man camp, Barrow island had a 7000 man camp. We were staying on the boat, the BIBBY, I said to the boys, ‘I’m gonna go out and play football’, so they asked can you organise a comp.”
“I’d get all the teams & everyone together. Instead of going to our rooms, we’d go out and play football. If you go to your room what are you going to do? Go to the work mess & drink piss.”
He said everyone loved it & once he was even given a gift voucher by the company for his efforts.
For JJ, the biggest downfall of the shutdowns industry is the organisation. He says sometimes you’re given the dates & all of a sudden, they change on you.
“Whereas if you’re on a roster, you know what day you fly out and you know what day you fly in. It’s a lot better…Shutdowns are too inconsistent.”
He also pointed out that even when you do make it to the site, sometimes you don’t actually start work for two or three days.
“It’s the client that want the manpower there in case something else happens. You just sit there for days waiting to start, you can’t go out and or anywhere.”
JJ’s attitude towards work is anything that comes his way he’ll take: TA roles, lagging, he enjoys doing the long rosters. Although, he says that the last couple of years have been inconsistent finding work.
“I just go on SEEK & apply but it’s like going fishing, you’re hoping something bites.”
He says, “It’s pretty good, everything’s already on there…As soon as you apply it tells you if you’ve got a ticket missing. (It’s) Better because you go straight to the company. Whereas with SEEK you put your resume in there, then you wait till it comes back to you, it’s a bit different.”
JJ has come a long way since his childhood in Portugal. He represents so many other Australians in mining whose family migrated here to start a new life. Make sure to keep an eye out for the football competition at your next job!
If you or someone you know has their own unique experience of working in the resources industry, please reach out to our team as we’d love to hear from you.