Ballarat miners dodged death, but toughest part is yet to come: Beaconsfield survivor


“He told me to gather my family and my close friends around me straight away and let it all out, to hold nothing back and later, he advised me to accept invitations to go on the speaking circuit. I shared everything first with my wife, Rachel, and then everyone else. It helped a lot.”

Webb says he wants to share the same advice with the miners of Ballarat. He says Russell tended to keep his feelings to himself, “and I don’t think it has done him much good”.

Brant Webb waving to onlookers after he was rescued in 2006.

Brant Webb waving to onlookers after he was rescued in 2006.Credit: Wayne Taylor

Russell spoke to Webb’s wife, Rachel, during the week and said he wouldn’t give any interviews to any media seeking comment on the Ballarat mine incident.

Kurt Hourigan, a 37-year-old miner from Bruthen in East Gippsland, died in the rock collapse 500 metres underground on Wednesday night. His colleague, a 21-year-old Ballarat man, was flown to The Alfred hospital and remained in a critical condition late on Friday.

Another 28 miners took refuge in a nearby “safety pod” before they were evacuated.

Webb said all the men could expect to have some form of trauma from the experience, and urged them to take up any offer of counselling. He also suspected many of the men’s wives and partners would suggest a career change.

Webb has never ventured underground since he and Russell were rescued. He operates a small handyman and home maintenance business with a daughter, enjoys working in the outdoors, and regularly sails with his family and friends on a 28-foot yacht on the waters close to his home at Beauty Point, near Beaconsfield.

“You can’t do anything about rocks in a mine if they move, just like you can’t do anything about the ocean if it turns against you,” he says.

“I lost three mates to the sea between Bowen and Townsville [in Queensland] when I was about 16, out on the water fishing. My dad and I turned back when the weather started to change, but my mates got caught and down they went.

“You can’t do anything about it. You just have to deal with the feelings that you’re left with if you survive.”

Webb has become a Tasmanian ambassador for the Black Dog Institute and gives regular talks on the difficulties associated with depression and anxiety.

He says he still suffers from PTSD, and only this week had “a meltdown” triggered by reading numerous news reports about the mine collapse in Ballarat.

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He said he threw things around and stormed outside, yelling, before returning to apologise to his wife.

“It only lasted about five minutes, but you can never tell when it’s going to hit you like that,” he says.

“These blokes from the Ballarat mine will need to learn about all this, but first they’ve got to talk openly about their fears and their feelings. It’s really important.”

Tony Wright is the author of Bad Ground: Inside the Beaconsfield Mine Rescue with Todd Russell and Brant Webb.



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