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a mile in my shoes

Miles Kennedy

South African born mineral explorer Miles has built a remarkably successful career for himself in mining.

Collected in partnership with Perth Festival and The Empathy Museum, A Mile in My Shoes is an extraordinary collection of stories that give us a glimpse into the lives of Western Australians from all walks of life.

South African born mineral explorer Miles has built a remarkably successful career for himself in mining.

Copyright © 2015 Miles Kennedy.

This story was collected by the Centre for Stories for the Empathy Museum’s A Mile in my Shoes installation as part of Perth Festival 2015. For reproduction and distribution of this story/image please contact the Centre for Stories.

This story was originally published on May 20, 2017.


View Story Transcript

MK: Mining companies are really extraordinary places. These people aren’t pansies, you know, they’re robust people. They work in hard, harsh environments without complaint.  


My name is Myles Kennedy and I am an explorer. Born in the province of KwaZulu Natal, meaning the place of heaven in Zulu language. Obviously everybody knows that we actually started as the years of racial separation in the year I was born, in 1948, and those years endured, rather sadly with increasing intensity until 1994 when Nelson Mandela came into power.  


I was a single child, I wasn’t always a single child, I did have a sister, who was a couple of years older than myself, but she died from typhoid. Houses were fed by rainwater tanks, open rainwater tanks, and a monkey fell into one of our tanks and contaminated it and she got typhoid and she died from it. I don’t think I was a pretty, very gregarious child, I think I was a fairly quiet, skinny child, no particular strengths or attributes at all.  


You know, my family had a long history in in South Africa. Although they believed that that only the white men could govern and rule Southern Africa. That was their core belief. My father, he wasn’t a racist, might sound like a dichotomy in terms, but he had firm belief of one thing, but nevertheless in his dealings with people of any status, or indeed of any colour. Everybody was treated with the same accord. He became a judge by the time he was 42. And certainly in recognition of him, his mother, bringing the Nationalist Party to power in what was in the Natal KwaZulu, he was elevated to the Supreme Court bench.  


I went to boarding school at that time. And I basically stayed there until I was 15. I’d started smoking, heaven knows why. 50 years later, I still smoke. And I got caught. I was told to leave. I was told that my father would be collecting me the next morning. And at six o’clock the next morning, there he was. 


He was acting Judge President at the time, and I think he thought my actions reflected on him. Perhaps they did. Ms Cook came through and said my father wanted to see me in his study. I went through that, and he said, ‘Well, what are you going to do?’ 


And I said, ‘Well, you know, I’ll go to school closer to where he lives.’ 


And he said, ‘No. No you won’t be doing that, you won’t be staying here at all.’ 


A few minutes later, I packed a very small suitcase and walked up to the main road, and I hitched to a city I’ve never been to. 


So when I left school, literally within days, I was working in the abattoir. And I lasted there for about four months. Then I went to the wharf. That was a rough old place. And then after a couple of years, I thought well, I better do something. My father had moved house and I didn’t even know. He’d moved completely, but we went and found him. And I said I wanted to finish school and nobody asked me any questions. Nobody asked where I’d been. Or how I got there.  


I think he was pleased to hear that I was studying. Or he was because he paid for it. It was certainly one of the great days of my life, my father had retired by the time when I was admitted to the sidebar in the Supreme Court in South Africa. But his brother judges said that I was up for admission. And he came back as an acting judge that day and was one of the three judges who presided over my admission [UNSURE]. We were both quite pleased with ourselves that day. 


Obviously, people hearing me say ‘You’re a South African.’ 

And I say, ‘That’s where I was born.’ But where I choose to be is here, in Australia.’ 


So, I came with my wife at that time, and two young boys. [UNSURE] Some unknown man from the Western Australian Law Society phoned me up and it’s a tragedy. I don’t remember his name because I should have kept him in [UNSURE] cigars for his whole life. But he said if I came to Western Australia and served another two years that they would admit me. I was sadly quite rude to him. I said, ‘Well, why should I believe that after the Victorian law societies said that if I write four exams, and served six months they’d admit me and I’ve just been through this whole charade, where they have changed their minds on the basis that I’m not a fit and proper person because I’m a South African.’  


Anyway, he said, ‘Well, that’s it, mate. I’m just giving you an opportunity if you want to come here. Serve two years and we’ll do it.’ 


That went a bit pear shaped too, because I’d been working here for, oh gee, nine months or something. And I formed the view that some of our clients were really just going to steal money, and I wrote them all a letter. ‘Don’t know which one of you are the crooks, but I think you’re a bunch of crooks.’ And they fired me. Not only did I get fired, I just couldn’t get work in Perth. So I ended up working as a deckhand on a cray boat, at Beacon Island, and by this stage I was, you know, whatever, 34, thinking, ‘Gee, UNSURE.’ 


‘This is not working very well.’  


So I was there, police helicopter came up, said get in the chopper. I thought ‘Oh god, what now?’  


Took me back and they’d found my letter to the directors of this company since I’d been pulling [UNSURE], They’d taken $4 million out of the bank account and jumped the country. Gone.  


You know, I started here at Mount Magnet in Western Australia with a small gold mine. I went to New Zealand, and I was in New Zealand for seven years. I’m very proud of the Macraes Mine, which I was … I put a few tickets on myself, wouldn’t have happened without me. And then that’s employed 900 people for 25 years now. And of course I, being young and foolish, thought there’s nothing I couldn’t do.  


So I was invited by a few mates to come look for diamonds in the Kimberley. Diamonds are of course about women’s vanity and men’s egos, so the ego part was finding that it took us $16 million and about five years before we found our first diamond The most beautiful, vivid, yellow diamonds in the world have come from that region.  


I hope not to change, for ten years I’ve been developing up in the Kimberly. We finally got that right after ten years. We are going to supply West Australians fish. Every time you eat a piece of white fish will be saying thank you, Myles Kennedy. I love exploring for things. I love going to remote places, and seeing what’s there. And there’s lots of remote places, there’s still lots of things to do, and I love it.  

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