“Try not to live in a footprint... Try to leave the world better than how you found it... Single life is not too much fun... I am single not because I want to be. I do miss a woman’s company. Amanda (my last partner) chose a new way, a new partner, let’s say. She does what she thinks is right, or an easy way out. It’s all about mixed up emotions. Well, I am fucking emotional about my kids... Yes, I do miss my children. I do. That’s why I’m fucking on the pitch (marijuana)...
After I left school, I worked in a timber mill in Ingham and then went to Tully to work on banana farms. Then I was in Boonah packing tomatoes, then in Melbourne picking oranges. Then I went overseas, saw the Notre Dame (France) for six months… got back… landed in Sydney... After that, I camped around Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast for a while... I didn’t spend too many nights on the street, but I will not go back to the streets; even these days, no... done the time on the streets. I know how rough it is and how tough it is. It's not a fun place to be... So anyway, then I moved down to Chillagoe. Spent two years down there. And then I come here (Sapphire). I thought the money was here... 'Must be, must be money here, Rob!' I thought... And yeah, still chasing dollars.
I think I lost my dreams... I can’t see my dreams coming to reality... It’s not all about money, I don’t think... I call myself poor, but if you are hungry I would offer you a feed. I am not that poor... just not very financially rich. I wouldn't call me [sic] rich, but I wouldn't call myself poor.”
This is the voice of Rob, a gem fossicker who lives in a makeshift dwelling on his land claim at the Sapphire Gemfields in central Queensland, Australia. In the few days I stayed with him, he told me about himself, his family and his life. I found him to be a broken man; always down, drinking, smoking marijuana. His fragile life started from childhood, when Rob’s mother left his father and took he and his siblings away. The same thing is happening now with Rob’s children.
This is not the story of a lone gem miner living on the dole, looking to strike it rich. Instead, it is the story of a father for whom this cycle of life is not easy to break or emerge from.