My name’s not Matthew

I’m coming to Mackay, Middlemount, Dysart & Moranbah in Queensland!

That’s exciting.

As part of the Anywhere Theatre Festival (from March 13 to 22) I’ll be performing two shows (all tix only $15):

Mining My Own Business (in Mackay, Middlemount, Dysart & Moranbah)

2015 – When We Were Idiots (comedy history walking tour in Mackay)

To celebrate, I’m publishing a few chapters from my first book over the next week or so, with photos. Enjoy!

Mining My Own Business

Dispatch No 2 – day 1

My name’s not Matthew

Ch-2 start Hawaiian Shirt

Me on my first day, in a Hawaiian shirt. I still can’t believe this wasn’t hi-vis enough.

Up at 5.30 am, as I don’t want to be late for the induction. Starts at 7, but I need to be there at 6.45 to have my photo taken. Considering it’s only a ten-minute walk, I’ve got plenty of time. I’m also exhausted. Last night at 10 pm I watched an episode of Game of Thrones before bed. Four episodes later, it was 2 am and I’d finished season two.

I reset my alarm for 6 and drift back to sleep. Then I’m up before my alarm, it’s a whole lot lighter, and I realise I’ve set it for 6 pm, not 6 am, and it’s now 6.40. After a stop by the mess hall for some fruit – there’s always time for a quick banana – I set off across to the main accommodation site and the training room for my site induction. I look over the piece of paper I’ve been given that details the date, time and location of the induction. It’s still 7 am, it’s still today, and if I miss the start, there’s still no late admittance and I’ll get sent home. There are signs for reception, accommodation blocks, toilet blocks, buses, the gym, medical centre, the dining room, meeting rooms, carpark and the wet mess (which is the bar and games room, not where they film pornos… Maybe that happens after the bar closes, and maybe tonight I’ll make my shiv).

No sign for the induction room. Now if they needed one sign, you think that’d be it. If somebody needs directions, it’s the person who’s just arrived and hasn’t been told anything, because they haven’t yet been inducted.

So I ask a girl. It’s not that I choose a girl out of all the people around; there’s nobody else. The buses leave for the worksite at 6 am, and keeping with gender stereotypes, the women do the cleaning while the men do the mining.

The lovely young New Zealand lass says, ‘Nice shirt bro.’ I’m still in my Hawaiian shirt.

‘Thanks! Do you know where the induction room is?’ It’s 6.56 am.

‘Not sure. I think it’s next to the gym. Where I’m going.’ Smart move, bulking up to fight off the fellas.

‘I did it months ago,’ she says. ‘It was like my twentieth one.’
I’m suddenly worried that it’s really difficult, and she’s failed it nineteen times.
But she continues, ‘Every job, it’s basically the same shit. How many have you done?’ Oh I get it. This is her twentieth jobsite. That seems like a lot, she doesn’t look that old.

‘I know what you mean,’ I reply. Not wanting to give away that this is my first induction since I was an engineer, over a decade ago, and that I’m a little bit excited about something she obviously finds mundane. I also don’t want to let on that I’m a complete newbie. She’s not that big but looks tough, and I don’t want to get beaten up by a girl on my first day.

We reach the gym and I say, ‘Thanks for your help, I’m Xavier by the way.’

So far people on the mining site have been so friendly that it borders on aggressive, and I’ve quickly learnt that after a conversation, the done thing is to introduce yourself.

She has a traditional New Zealand name that I instantly forget, and know I can’t pronounce anyway. It sounds really nice, but I’m a bit bogan when it comes to tricky words. That is, I can’t say ’em. Sometimes when onstage doing the comedy thing, I actually stress so much about saying them properly that I overthink it and get them completely wrong.

She goes into the gym, and the induction room doesn’t seem to be anywhere nearby. It’s 6.58. I spot a guy about 100 m away. Easy to spot because of his huge gut covered by a high-vis shirt so large that it looks more like a sail. He walks me to the induction room. His name is Gary. It’s 7.01.

I’m allowed to stay, but have to return next week to have my photo taken for a swipe card that there isn’t yet anywhere to swipe. At the moment they’ve got this awesome security system where every time you leave or enter the campsite or mining site, a security guard asks for your last name, and then writes it down on a piece of paper. Cop that, terrorists! Airport security has nothing on this place. And considering that you can only get here via a charter flight that’s booked by your employer, I don’t imagine they get many blow-ins.

The induction is all about safety first (pun intended), then an environmental session, and then a break and I think to myself that we’re nearly done. Then it’s safety again – for another three hours. It feels like a promotional session for Nuscon, the project management company running the job; however, there have been over one hundred days since an LTI (lost time incident).

At times the safety stuff does seem over the top, but with that long since any significant accident and thousands of workers onsite, well that’s a fair effort. Especially considering what mining sites used to be like, and what mining sites run by the same company overseas probably still are like. I suspect that companies care a lot about safety in First World countries, because it’s cheaper than paying compensation and rehabilitation. Which sounds like a good thing, but

consider the reverse. These companies also operate in countries where life is cheap, so the same standards most likely don’t apply.

So the induction finishes with safety, and more safety, and then a long section on fatigue during which I nearly fall asleep.

The different presenters are all engaging and well-spoken; they’ve obviously had some public speaking training, and likely honed their particular section over hundreds of similar sessions. The whole thing feels like it’s been crafted by a marketing team to keep at least a loose grip on your attention, convey information, and tick a whole lot of legal boxes. It could’ve definitely done with more jokes, but as we’re repeatedly told, ‘Safety’s no joke.’

In the six months since this mine opened, there has only been one LTI. That was when the snake handler was bitten by one. According to the presenter, it was an unavoidable incident since, ‘He’d had the training. He was the expert.’

Or maybe he was just shit at his job. I still don’t know what my job is, but surely a large part of catching snakes is learning how not to be bitten by them.

During the induction, each instructor leads us through the answers to the quiz questions for their section. So we all pass, and although I still have no idea what I’m doing, at least I’m now legally allowed to do it.

My direct supervisor, Jonno, arrives to pick me up two hours after the induction finishes. He’s also the onsite manager for the company I’m working for, JRT Projects. After a fifteen-minute drive, it’s 3 pm when I finally arrive at the mining site, and it’s somehow even hotter out here. At security we’re stopped, and after the girl takes down our names she nods at me and asks, ‘Where’s that bloke’s high-vis?’

I’m shattered. So the Hawaiian shirt really isn’t sufficient? ‘He’s just going to pick it up,’ Jonno replies.

Into the office, one of JRT’s two onsite demountables, and I meet Jerome, who introduces himself as the ‘JRT Projects Office Manager’, and leads me to a shelf of shirts. Along with the logo of Debitel, the head contractor, each also comes with a name.

Debitel manages all construction on the site where I’m stationed. In the hierarchy of things they sit below Nuscon, the overall project managers, and above JRT Projects.

So do I want to be Steven, Rick, Graham, Matthew, Matthew or David? Well only Graham and the larger Matthew’s shirts are the right size, so that’s who I’ll be until my shirts arrive, and for today I decide to be Matthew.

Jonno introduces me to a few of the guys. Robbo says, ‘Nice to meet you Matthew.’ ‘My name’s not Matthew.’
‘Is now,’ he replies, and everyone within earshot pisses themselves.

Heckled on my first day, before I’ve even started work. I can’t wait until they find out I’m a comedian.

For two hours I look up stuff on the internet and wait for someone to give me something to do, and then it’s 5 pm and knock-off time.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll find out what I’m supposed to be doing. I don’t even know how much I’m being paid, but it feels rude to ask what sort of money I’m getting for working here, before I’ve actually done any.

The next morning I do the safety induction specific to JRT Projects. Since I’m the only person being inducted, it’s one on one with Donk, JRT’s onsite safety officer.

Donk starts slowly going through the induction, getting me to initial each page after we’ve read it together. Until, under ‘position description’, I fill in ‘admin’.

‘You’re only admin?’ he asks. I nod.
‘Just initial the pages, then. Nobody’s going to give a shit if you’ve read them.’ Afterwards I fill out a bunch more forms that are all very

similar to those I’ve filled out several times before: at the induction yesterday, when I applied for this job, after I got the job, and just before I left to come out here. Then I waste the rest of the afternoon doing what I think my work might look like, because I’m still waiting for some.

I also help Jerome connect to the scanner, resize some columns in Excel, spellcheck a Word document, open a packet of sugar, and then I realise that Jerome is an idiot. Maybe my job is to be Jerome’s carer?

Just before 5 pm Jonno appeares for the first time that day, and after Jerome has left, he explains some of what I’ll be doing.

‘Most of this is stuff that Jerome’s done already or used to do, but he’s stuffed it all up so badly that I don’t want him anywhere near any of it,’ Jonno says.

Ch-2 end Matthew

My name’s not Matthew. Despite what it says on the shirt.


Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian

Follow me on Twitter: @xaviertoby

Like me on Facebook:

Buy my first book (read a bit for free):

Email me, if you dare: [email protected]

Then, don’t forget!

I’m coming to Mackay, Middlemount, Dysart & Moranbah in Queensland!

That’s exciting.

As part of the Anywhere Theatre Festival (from March 13 to 22) I’ll be performing two shows (all tix only $15):

Mining My Own Business (in Mackay, Middlemount, Dysart & Moranbah)

2015 – When We Were Idiots (comedy history walking tour in Mackay)