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Barrow Island

This article was posted on Monday, July 29, 2013

Oddly, the woman at the check-in desk asked to view any footwear that would accompany me to Barrow Island – site of the iconic Gorgan resources project. The remote island is a Grade A nature reserve. This presents a unique environment, overlaid with a set of strict compliance guidelines to operate with. Basically, flora and fauna is given a massive priority. Transgression can result in instant sacking – more rigid than Cricket Australia! Sacked Australian coach, Mickey Arthur, will argue his case in court.

First up, with a single elevated eyebrow, intuitively she laid my black brogues, soles towards the ceiling, on the counter. Not yet ‘inspected’ were my runners, heavyduty army boots or the pair I stood in.

Over time I have passed through many customs, immigration and metal detector screenings in unforgettable circumstances – East Timor, Zambia, Paris, Rome, Mumbai, Alexandria, Cairo, Jordan, Swaziland, Trinidad and Tobago. But this was another dimension.

Immediately, her microscopic scrutiny discovered 2 renegade pebbles lodged in the rippled rubber of one size 11-1/2 heel. With surgical precision she extracted, using tweezers, the 2 offending stones. I felt so guilty, the gaze of an impatient line of workers locked into proceedings up ahead.

Not easily embarrassed, I could feel heat rising in my cheeks. My face slowly turned the deep colour of a burgundy velvet curtain.

I should have been aware that this might happen. Needless to say, the delayed queue was no longer bored. Now there was ‘unexpected’ entertainment. They enjoyed my discomfort. But it wasn’t over yet.

Boots, runners and brogues back in their plastic bags. I was clear to continue. Bags tucked into the suitcase. Spin the barrel of numbers to lock the case. Roll luggage gently through another doorway … another room. I headed towards the security screening ramp.

Suitcase, plus hand luggage, would be fed into the gaping mouth of the industrial x-ray machine. Through? Not yet.

Another voice … urgent, demanding!!

“Where’s your shoes?”

“Back in the suitcase.”

“We need to screen them again … individually,” I was told, “open the suitcase”.
I obliged.

I understood the why … but, my goodness. Yes, this was the beginning of an attitude to excellence that blanketed, for the better, the entire island. Everyone, everywhere. Average never wins.

Nevertheless, at that moment for this aging fast bowler, it was “spotlight on sport” – with a gentle blowtorch.

Okay. Here we go again. Unlock the code, spin the dials, spread-eagle the container for all to see. Another roadblock for the bunched up line of resource workers reporting back for duty at this $62 billion oil and gas project.

The line was asked to step around … I was bent over, blood flowed down to my head. God bless blood pressure pills!!!

Again, my footwear was manually inspected while I anxiously waited … All clear!

“The shoe-shine’s free this time, Tangles” was said with a broad, knowing smile.

Case closed.

Next my RM Williams belt buckle provided too much metal … red lights flashed. Trouble.

Back through the free standing doorway, belt in the plastic tray. Guilty again. And because I had recently dropped 5 or 6 kilograms in weight, my trousers, thanks to my wallet and gravity, were rapidly heading south to half-mast – more smiles from the rapidly filling gallery seated in the waiting lounge.

Yes, this would be a memorable trip and a privileged experience for a city slicker like me.

Jen Robinson met me on arrival.

A setting sun and long strands of pink fairy floss like clouds disappeared into the horizon. The flat landscape was devoid of trees, with mostly ground hugging clusters of spinifex and vegetation. The dust was a beautiful burnt orange … and the tiny particles attached themselves to everything.

Why was I visiting Barrow Island?

I was invited to speak, across 4 consecutive days, to the vast majority of inhabitants (workers) from all sectors of the massive Gorgon Project.

“What it takes to create and work as a successful team, or teamwork”, was the central theme of my presentations. Also included was the aspect of living and working away from home. In many ways the workers were in 2 teams – home and island.

I have spent a lifetime away from home, on tour, travelling, living on the run out of a suitcase, yet expected to perform at an elite level. First in sporting arenas around the world, then in television studios and today communicating in a corporate community. I understand the pressure …

Four sessions each day for the 4 days!!!

A need for much energy and focus.

In many ways, like playing a 4 day Test match – but a wonderful experience.

Open air theatre, fans whirling against a dusty grill, constant ambience amongst the eye contact … slowly moving vehicles travelled left to right in the background.

Each session was introduced by a different senior person.

Then Dave Keogh, a man of much passion and experience on the island, kicked off the formalities within this informal setting by discussing the importance of coming home from the workplace safely. Safety is a daily pre-occupation for every person contributing to this incredible project.

Dave has spent 18 years living on the island.

Later, he and Jen Robinson showed me the island – nature and man-made structures side by side. A massive jigsaw of ideas, intellect and implementation. Cutting edge world best leadership here.

Everywhere, including the sessions, men and women were clad in either yellow and blue or orange and blue coveralls.

With all that yellow, gold, canary yellow or wattle in front of me … it was, in a strange way, like the early days of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket revolution. He, too, was concerned with health and safety. Players wore crash helmets after 1977. He made it ‘cool’ and safe …

In amongst my audience sat hard hats and protective eyewear. The straps of reflective tape was later to cause a challenge for my camera flare!

Question time threw up many thought-provoking questions. A chance to talk about what my audience wished. The best questions on teamwork and thought leadership, relationships and challenges were rewarded with signed cricket balls, shirts and vests.

Many nations and cultures were represented in each session … I appreciated the chance to chat with many beyond the platform, too.


Trust you find my mind-map and graphic notes an interesting way to construct the content for my talks.