Fran Cusworth

Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only


Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Master of Arts


School of Communications and Arts


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Supervisor

Ffion Murphy


This thesis comprises a novel entitled 'Boomtown Wives', and two essays entitled 'The Stage and Backdrop', and 'A Great Madness'. These works are about the Western Australian mining boom generally and the remote seaside town of Hopetotm in particular: my thesis explores how overseas demand for Australian commodities shapes the lives of a boomtown's residents. While this is a story with its micro focus on the personal, its broader focus is on a time of historic change, both national and international.

The current mining boom, while documented in the media, is yet to surface in Australia's contemporary literature. Its importance in our economic lives is barely reflected by its presence in our cultural lives. Mining towns and their surrounding environments have traditionally been used in the arts as symbols of alienation or loss, or depicted as part of a bygone era. I set out to write about how it is to live in a mining town now, in the midst of a boom. I didn't want to write about eccentric or displaced characters fleeing a mainstream life with which they couldn't cope. I wanted to write about the people I could see in the mining town where I lived: family people with dreams of getting ahead financially and professionally. I wanted to use the techniques of successful commercial fiction to write a dynamic and sometimes humourous story about three women's lives, and at the same time to capture the panicked greed of the resources boom.

In my story, people arrive in Hopetoun from all over the world with the hope of making their fortunes. Laetitia is married to a mine manager, fighting to earn trust and friendship in a town where her husband holds so much power. Cityslicker Jasmine is married to a mine recruitment supervisor, and has consented to this move in a bid to restore her husband's trust after her infidelity. Brigid is a struggling mother of three, trying with her tradesman husband Jack to clear crippling debts. The women join forces to open a cafe and as this sleepy town struggles to cope with the influx of mine workers, they fight to hold their marriages together and stay true to themselves. Tensions mount over an Aboriginal sacred site and a lost child, and the escalating boom drives mine workers to new extremes. This is a story about living amid the giddy heights of a resources boom, knowing that one day the bust will come.

The first essay, 'The Stage and Backdrop', examines the history of the Hopetoun-Ravensthorpe region, focusing on Aboriginal, mining and women's history. The second essay, 'A Great Madness', looks at the Western Australian mining boom of the early 21st century, and its influence on lifestyles and the economy, focussing in particular on the increased use of fly-in-fly-out workforces, labour shortages and overstretched infrastructure. Both essays illuminate ways that research into the history of mining and the Hopetoun region influenced the creation of my novel.

LCSH Subject Headings

Mines and mineral resources -- Social aspects -- Western Australia.

Company towns -- Social aspects -- Western Australia.

Wives -- Effect of husband's employment on -- Western Australia