What do Kalgoorlie, Tennant Creek, Mount Gambier, Dubbo, Mount Isa and Logan have in common?
They’re all in the running to be crowned Australia’s ‘Shit Town of the Year’, in a competition that has attracted a mix of horror and enthusiastic support from residents.
A Facebook page with more than 150,000 followers has been conducting a series of polls to deliver the highest dishonour.
The Shit Towns of Australia page has gained its following by reviewing Australian towns, publishing a barrage of their hate mail and compiling weekly lists of the worst news stories from across the nation.
While some voters described it as a tongue-in-cheek competition the Mayor of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, John Bowler, has asked residents not to engage with the page or vote in the competition over fears it would harm the regional city’s reputation.
“We can take the mickey out of ourselves, but I don’t think that this competition in any way helps,” Mr Bowler said.
“I just think it’s another example of social media getting out of control.”
The City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder is attempting to fill about 1,000 job vacancies, ranging from positions in the mining industry to healthcare, and Mr Bowler believes the social media campaign will make that harder to achieve.
“We’ve got all these jobs so we’ve got to attract families,” Mr Bowler said.
“When they see this, do they know it’s a joke? No they don’t.”
‘We can have a laugh’
Long-term resident Sarah Hinton, who has worked on marketing campaigns, said she jumped on the bandwagon after Kalgoorlie became the only WA town left in the competition.
“We thought we’ve got this far, why don’t we take ownership of it and try to flip it around because I knew that people would come out in defence of our city,” she said.
Ms Hinton said she did not believe the title would harm the city.
Instead, she thinks it will lead to more interest and demonstrate that the locals can “make their own fun”.
“We’ve been part of some [marketing campaigns] that have cost a lot of money and I’m yet to see results from those,” she said.
“So I just thought ‘well let’s just give it a go’.
“We can tell people that we can have a laugh, and there’s actually quite a lot of things to see and do here.”
The campaign attracted a range of responses about Kalgoorlie, with comments including, “I see Kalgoorlie possesses quite a few witty residents, love it,” and “I spent a week there and the best thing about the place was watching it disappear in the mirrors”.
Kalgoorlie was also the subject of comedian Tom Gleeson’s ‘Go Away’ segment earlier this year — a video which was applauded by Mr Bowler for being funny by “picking on negatives in a way that does hit the mark”.
Advertising director and Gruen panellist Dee Madigan recommended residents in all finalist towns not participate because turning the award into something positive was “damn near impossible”.
“There are certainly examples where people have won awards like the most boring town and then you can spin that into ‘not a lot of great things happen, but no bad things happen either so it’s a great place to raise a family’,” she said.
“I do spin for a living. I don’t know how you can spin shitty”.
She said even though the competition was seen as a joke, “people understand there is an element of seriousness to it” and the title would make it difficult to attract residents.
Reviews cause a storm
One of the page’s long-running jokes is the weekly mention of South Australia’s Port Pirie, either for a particular news story or for being “still shit”.
Independent Member for Frome Geoff Brock said he considered it “bullying on social media” which harmed the people of Port Pirie.
“We all, including Port Pirie, Kalgoorlie and others have contributed to Australia’s wealth many times more than the capital cities.
“I don’t hear people having a shot at Perth, Adelaide, Sydney or Melbourne.”
While Port Pirie was defeated earlier in the competition, it will still join Kalgoorlie in a list of 60 cities and towns reviewed in the upcoming Shit Towns of Australia book.
The book to be published under the pseudonyms Rick Furphy and Geoff Rissole is a publication of the Facebook page’s reviews.
Mr Furphy said the Kalgoorlie review was embraced by locals and they were “confident that Kalgoorlians have a great sense of humour”.
“Mayor John Bowler need not worry, Kalgoorlie’s reputation for prostitution and big holes in the ground isn’t going to be ruined by a Facebook poll.”