Teaching Treasures™

Working With Health in Mind

Diseases that result from exposure to poisonous chemicals, radiation, noise, and other hazards of the workplace are classed as occupational diseases.

These exposures are often a major cause of illness and death in modern industrial countries. In newly industrializing countries, which lack regulation and experience, working conditions are often highly hazardous.

Work-caused disease is an ancient problem. The link between lung diseases and mining, for example, has been recognized for centuries.

Your Task

(1) Read the following poem about the past situation in mining.

  • Find out what kind of dust the miner breathes in at the Golden Mile mine.
  • Miners died from silicosis. Find out what silicosis is.
  • Find out what methods are in place now to provide the miners with a better and healthier work environment.

Diggers Rest

By: John Hayes

The Golden Mile he called home for twenty years and five,
he worked below the surface in almost every mine.
Down in the tomb of darkness where carbine lanterns gleam,
he drilled the rock for natures' wealth, in search of reef and seam.
In the trembling earth above him, he watches for the fall and
breathes the dust on every shift he works against the wall.

Charges laid with fuse and cap, set to fire on time,
sounds of muffled thunder roll from deep within the mine.
Ore trucks waiting on the rails, skips race up and down,
they're sending up their quota, from the diggings underground.
While gold rooms fill with bullion bars and coffers overflow,
the miner breathes the dust of doom, three thousand feet below.

They work the shift that never ends, in the land of "deeper down"
and send their drives further out, in tunnels underground.
You can see their shadows flitting by the swaying carbide lights,
as they toil and sweat against the wall in the land of "always night"
And breathe the dust in every yard, onward as they go, the miner
and his mate called death, three thousand feet below.

Can’t you see the row of headstones with diggers names inscribed,
those who walked the galleries through passages of time,
to work the diggings daily for strike or show, and breathe the
dust of doom, three thousand feet below.

In a weather-beaten cottage on the outskirts of the town,
lives the widow of a miner who was dusted underground.
She listens for his footsteps by the gate and in the hall,
and the voice that won’t be speaking to her gently any more.
Through the nights of "cold and lonely", days of "wait in vain"
for the image of her loved one who won't be home again.

She’ll receive some compensation and a pension I suppose.
A pittance more than likely to purchase food and clothes,
for herself and for their children, while she carries on alone,
through the days of endless waiting,
for the man who won't be home.

You’ll not hear her complaining for she’s Goldfields born and
raised by the pioneers of this country, throughout the roaring days.
She will hear the siren sounding while the distant thunder breaks
and feel the tremble in her heart, as the Golden Mile quakes.

Can’t you hear the echoes as the hobnailed boots pass by,
or their voices softly calling from the goldmine in the sky.
Can you hear their laughter ringing through the streets of "no return"
or see the carbides gleaming with the flame that always burns?
’Til far away the whistle blows and the miner she loved best,
has found a place to lie in peace, down at the "Diggers’ Rest".

Your task

(2) Sanitary conditions used to be very poor. Not so long ago Australian families were quite familiar with the ‘dunny pan’. Someone would come with a cart at night and empty the full dunny pans and replace them with an empty one. It was a smelly, unhealthy job.

Read the poem about the ‘dunny pans’.

  • After reading the poem discuss as a group the difference in sanitary conditions back then and now.
  • Find out how sewerage is treated. Write an essay on the subject.
  • Write and act out a short play based upon the poem 'Doing the Round'.


    Doing the Round

By: John Hayes

'Twas back in the days of the night cart round,
when a loo was a pan or a hole in the ground.
I was doing the round for a bloke called Heald
as I needed a job quite desperately.

It was at Wongan Hills we began our run,
we arrived in the town 'bout half past one.
Through streets we idled, down lanes we ran,
collecting our load of 'dunny pans'.

They were stacked on the tray in six by twos,
if you caught a whiff, well I'm telling you.
But Phil and Buzz had learned to ride
on the running board, out on the leeward side.

We crawled out of town in the dead of the night
there wasn't a sound or soul in sight.
O'er the railway crossing we lurched and swayed
then without warning, the load gave way.

I can still hear the sound of those dunny pans
as they hit the ground and away they ran.
Some veered left, the others right,
Then the lids sprung loose, oh! what a sight.

We covered our tracks with sand and gravel
but my heart goes out to those who travelled,
the main road entering Wongan town
the morning after the load came down.


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