Demand for Australian commodities is running white-hot. So too are costs in the country’s remote mining towns, to the point where tiny huts or “dongas” can cost as much as a five-star hotel room and backpackers can earn $2,000 a week cleaning them….
“Here the work is very good. You can work 80 hours a week if you want. It’s good money,” said Pic Segolene, a 25-year-old French backpacker who came to Karratha to earn enough cash to fund the rest of her trip around Australia.
Segolene works about 10 hours a day, earning A$25 ($26) an hour to clean houses in this thin slice of suburbia that serves as an Indian Ocean port and a gateway to the endless and bountiful red deserts of Australia’s interior.
Her boyfriend, Eric Gehin, 31, makes A$31 an hour as a gardener.
…Karratha has an official population of 18,000, but up to 10,000 more cram into the town, about 1,300 km (780 miles) from the nearest major city, to work for the mining or gas industries.
Workers often have to stay in primitive accommodation known as “dongas,” pre-fabricated huts smaller than a shipping container, each with an overworked air conditioner to keep out desert temperatures that can soar to 40 degrees Celsius.
A “donga” can cost up to A$250 a night, about the same price as a room in a five-star hotel in Sydney, overlooking that city’s famous harbour, or in downtown Tokyo or London.