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Tent city to outback ‘Hollywood’: How an historic mining town revived itself three times

Tent city to outback ‘Hollywood’: How an historic mining town revived itself three times

Armed with a coast projector and a steely survey of resolution, Dean Ransom can sometimes be seen wandering the winding roads of Leigh Creek, a minute outback town in South Australia’s a ways north.

Key facets:

  • Residents of the vulnerable Leigh Creek township in SA’s outback are digitising slides and photos
  • They hope to sustain the history of the scheme which became in the muse a tent city
  • The fresh Leigh Creek township is present process a multimillion-buck express govt overhaul

This fresh govt-owned town with a dwindling inhabitants of appropriate sort 120 folk old to be a bustling hub that coalminers called home until Alinta Vitality decided to end its coal mine in June 2015.

Early Newspaper

Now, Leigh Creek is present process significant changes, together with reinvestment and the demolishing of properties — for a 2d time.

About 22-fresh kilometres away is the region of the long-established township, now called “ragged” Leigh Creek.

The town became established in 1943 as a tent city, the place folk lived while they mined for coal, despite blistering temperatures.

“Coal became first found when they had been digging a dam in Copley for the railways in 1888 and it wasn’t until after WWII, round 1940, that they began to mine coal there,” Mr Ransom stated.

A black and white photograph of tents on dirt.

When the ragged Leigh Creek township became established, it became dubbed a “tent city”.(

Leigh Creek Weak Town Mission: Enid Blieschke


He stated the must haves had been “extremely harsh” for the miners and their households.

“They’d work six-day weeks very laborious in the mines and then approach home to a tent that had no air conditioning, no electricity, restricted water and even the meals supplies had been slightly most frequently unreliable,” Mr Ransom stated.

“So, they all looked forward very considerable to getting a salvage home and a yard and some retail outlets and issues that they would presumably well even have a greater quality of life.”

An aerial photograph of a brown landscape with a small cluster of buildings in the centre surrounded by mining operations.

An aerial photograph of the ragged Leigh Creek township taken about 1980.(

Leigh Creek Weak Town Mission: Rosalie Patterson


A disappearing history

All that is left of the ragged town is a enormous barren hole in the earth after it became abandoned in 1983, and a brand fresh town in-built other areas.

“In 1976, ETSA [Electricity Trust of South Australia] decided they had been going to transfer the town,” Mr Ransom stated.

Space to play or end, M to mute, left and appropriate sort arrows to explore, up and down arrows for quantity.

Maintaining ragged Leigh Creek’s history(ABC North and West: Georgia Roberts)
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This became in command that coal will seemingly be mined the place the ragged town as soon as stood.

“There became a truly enormous session program with the community, and they had been all in favour of in actual fact planning the transfer and planning the fresh town,” he stated.

A large number of white houses on scrublands.

The fresh Leigh Creek township.(

Supplied: Leigh Creek – Weak Town Mission/Rosalie Patterson


The fresh township became dubbed an outback “Hollywood” for its buildings and gleaming exterior.


Mr Ransom, a member of the Leigh Creek Weak Town Mission community, is racing against time to assign the ragged town’s legacy.

“About a of the Leigh Creek residents had been concerned they had no manner to steal their kids or their grandchildren abet to the place they grew up and clarify them,” he stated.

“The finest factor that is left now for these folk are stories and recollections.

“So, a community of folk acquired together and decided they wanted to earn these stories to be definite they didn’t receive misplaced to time.”

Mr Ransom’s job is to digitise photographs and paperwork and store them in an on-line database.

He mostly works in the abet of the scenes, but sometimes visits peoples’ homes to convert ragged slides into a digital layout.

Yellow and white boxes containing photo slides to be digitised.

Mr Ransom has visited a few households to digitise their slides.(

Leigh Creek Weak Town Mission: Dean Ransom


Mr Ransom is pleading for folk no longer to throw out their treasured photographs and slides, but fairly to portion them with the community sooner than it’s miles too unhurried.

A large white sign with red letters saying 'auction Leigh Creek township'.

When the town had to be moved, many of the buildings and infrastructure went to public sale.(

Leigh Creek Weak Town Mission: Enid Blieschke


Town auctioned off

When the town moved from its long-established scheme, buildings and other infrastructure had been auctioned off in 1982.

Gweneth McCallum’s unhurried husband Trevor McCallum offered a railway express for the fee it now charges to nearly have the petrol tank of a minute automotive.

A man and woman both with short white hair and glasses posing for a photograph.

Trevor along with his associate Gweneth McCallum.(

Meridee Groves Photography: Gweneth McCallum


“We had been a minute vastly bowled over because every of them contained an air conditioner, a hot water service, loads of cabinets and the home had a rainwater tank and a clothesline.

“They had been made of Besser brick, which became unimaginable to use, but they took all the pieces else: the total windows, the doors, the ground, the framework, the ceilings, the iron off the top. The total lot became rescued.”

The couple old a enormous truck to transport loads of masses from the ragged town to their farm, about 300km south of Leigh Creek.

A long line of grey dust from an explosion in a coal mine.

The blast of a 1 million cubic metres of sedimentary rock at the coal mine.(

Leigh Creek Weak Town Mission: Rosalie Patterson


Town’s third transition

In the three hundred and sixty five days following the closure of the mine, the 2016 census showed there became a mass exodus because the inhabitants reduced by 55 per cent, which left many properties empty.

Since then, the express govt has announced a significant overhaul of the town and stated it will fee range $43.6 million for the mission.

Native MP Dan van Holst Pellekaan stated the express govt planned to atomize empty or asbestos-filled buildings, but stir away some standing so the town could presumably well serene aim as a service and tourism hub.

Two men holding signs saying 'abstain' and 'beer is best' sitting next to a pile of beer bottles and cans.

Two males and their ragged ‘tinnies’ visiting a neatly interior sight Leigh Creek in 1965.(

Leigh Creek Weak Town Mission: Pat Howshild


“Roughly 200 properties will seemingly be demolished, and they are really these that are no longer in a appropriate sort ample condition to select anyway,” he stated.

“We’re guaranteeing that of us who dwell in Leigh Creek now who at veil rent properties will seemingly be at the entrance of the checklist for the different to handle them.

“It’s no longer for all time most efficient in regards to the those who dwell there it be in actual fact an important service centre for the pastoral industry, the oil and gasoline industry, the tourism industry and for about eight smaller surrounding communities.”

The express govt’s leases on one of the significant town’s properties slay this three hundred and sixty five days, but Mr van Holst Pellekaan says “if it be acceptable to lengthen them another time we’ll indubitably fabricate that”.

Desk tennis champ’s name-out

Residents of Leigh Creek are attempting to present extra activities for native kids because the town enters its subsequent section.

Adnyamathanha man Clayton Cruse is a instructor at the Leigh Creek Space College after provocative along with his associate and two kids to the town early closing three hundred and sixty five days.

An Aboriginal man with a moustache and beard wearing a black jumper smiles at the camera on a hill overlooking a valley.

Mr Cruse is a quite fresh resident of Leigh Creek.(

Supplied: Clayton Cruse


He stated his household moved for “an ride” and for his kids to learn in regards to the scheme and their heritage.

Mr Cruse also occurs to be a desk tennis champion. He began his occupation in predominant college.

“I moved to Alice Springs round 2005,” he stated.

“I became working up there and learned they had a desk tennis club and joined that and began playing competitively.

“I could presumably perchance appropriate sort recovered from a damaged collarbone, and the boy became appropriate sort!”

A blue sign that says 'Leigh Creek Area School' in front of a cream-coloured building surrounded by trees.

Leigh Creek Space College teaches kids interior and all over the township.(

ABC North and West: Gary-Jon Lysaght


Mr Cruse is the utilization of his desk tennis records and championship place to carry out a desk tennis home for the formative years.

He posted a name-out on social media for donations of desk tennis equipment.

“I became in actual fact overwhelmed with the response we acquired to that appropriate sort interior a topic of days,” he stated.

He purchased donations from other folks, organisations and vulnerable Leigh Creek college students.

Mr Cruse stated there had been no longer many physical activities for the kids in the town and that desk tennis could presumably well be appropriate sort for their mental and physical neatly being.

“We’ll select the equipment here at the college, so we would be ready to employ it after college hours for the community and at some stage in faculty as neatly.”

Hope for the future

The promoting manager for Leigh Creek Outback Resort, Emma Ruffles, became born in Leigh Creek and has seen the town change for the duration of her lifetime.

“It’s been heartbreaking,” she stated.

“Of us that had been constantly dwelling there that I grew up with have left.”

A lady in a grey shirt with long blonde and brown hair wearing a tree of life necklace smiles at the camera.

Emma Ruffles became born in Leigh Creek.(

ABC North and West: Gary-Jon Lysaght


Despite this, Ms Ruffles is grateful for the government’s overhaul of the town.

“I mediate it desires to happen because there is loads of unused resources there and many of the properties are fat of asbestos and they’re slightly damaged,” she stated.

“It can be turned into into slightly a good community — with out riding round as for these that can presumably well presumably be in a ghost town that is appropriate sort been abandoned.”

A black and white photograph of men tending to a BBQ on a metal plate on the ground.

A BBQ at Leigh Creek in the 1970s.(

Leigh Creek Weak Town Mission: Kevin Waters


Ms Ruffles stated there had been some detrimental responses to the plans, but it undoubtedly became important to focal level on the positives and the alternatives.

“They don’t realise that the government has labored stunning carefully with the community to be definite their livelihoods dwell.

“They’ve an different to have properties to dwell in and that the town will seemingly be cleaned up.”

A large green truck carrying black coal with a man standing in front of the truck's massive tyre.

Many those who lived in the ragged Leigh Creek township mined for coal in the unhurried 20th century.(

Leigh Creek Weak Town Mission: Rosalie and John Patterson


Later this three hundred and sixty five days, Leigh Creek Vitality hopes to fabricate an underground coal gasification plant.

It plans to express fire to deep coal at the disused mine and employ the extracted gasoline launched by the explosion to fabricate fertiliser.

“That is something that has been talked about for a truly very long time and no longer necessarily too many outcomes or answers had been given.”

Despite differing views on how Leigh Creek’s future will seemingly be safeguarded, the community will fabricate all it can to prevent the outback Hollywood from disappearing for appropriate sort.

Tent city to outback ‘Hollywood’: How an historic mining town revived itself three times