For anyone who has moved to Hedland, the face of Julie Arif would be a familiar one, as she’s likely the first local they met after rolling into town.
Having lived in Port Hedland for 59 years, it’s safe to say Julie is a local through and through and the perfect person to meet and greet people at the Port Hedland Visitors Centre.
Julie came to Hedland, when its population was less than a thousand people. Back then, the town did not extend past the yacht club and iron ore was barely explored.
She had her children here, worked as a kindergarten teacher and cared for her parents in town.
“I own my own property on the ocean front, I’m fairly well ensconced in many clubs and committees around town and I have a great network of friends,” she said.
“So we’re probably going to stay here, my husband and I.”
It’s clear that Julie loves her job – she loves greeting holiday makers, who she says are always happy and pointing them in the direction of the various tours on offer.
Or the truck drivers, who come in asking for the best fishing spots and then come back to show off pictures of their catch.
But mostly, Julie loves helping people new to Hedland realise how great life can be here.
“When I worked in the kindergarten, a lot of the parents there were young families and it was their first time away from the city,” she said.
“It is pretty remote, I used to say to the young mums when they were leaving their child with me “join the playgroup and make friends with other women in town, because they will be your sisters,” and that’s what I do here now at the visitors centre.”
Julie has made up welcome packs for newcomers, which gives them a whole run down of local organisations and amenities, the things to see and even how to change their address on the electoral role.
“My aim is to get people to stay longer, to enjoy Hedland, to become a resident of the town not just someone who is passing through,” she said.
“I want to make them feel as comfortable as they possibly can in a short period of time.
“Hedland was once regarded as a place where misfits and miscreants came to escape whatever they wanted, but now we have this group of people that have come from all walks of life and everyone has to help each other out.”
You can find Julie at the Port Hedland Visitors Centre, where she’ll tell you the what’s what and greet you with a friendly smile.