FIFO…not a dogs name

14 Oct

I know I have said many times that Australia is the lucky country..and it is, however one of the greater social implications of the being the lucky country is our reliance on the mining industry. Now before anybody  gets up in arms and I get hate mail or fan mail depending on which side of the green debate you support, I will make it quite clear that myself and my family have benefitted directly from participating in mining. The pay is great, and no one with a family can help but be tempted by the lure of a high level of both financial freedom and job security. Turn up, do your job and the company will ensure that you are safe, well fed and clothed and paid handsomely .

Now here comes the rub…you see it’s the turn up part that tests the way we live and the way families interact. Dad or mum, gets in a taxi, goes to the airport then flys away ( sometimes crossing the country) and then stays away for extended periods of time. Some rosters have their workers away for a month and return them home fatigued and  socially mal-aligned  for everyday society for a week. They take a day to get over the work rotation and travel, then have five days to cram in a months normality, then spend a day returning to the coal face ( no pun intended ).

Rates of family breakdown are high within these workgroups and those that make a good go out of it are realistic enough to understand that the time away can never be recovered.  Listening to your child describe an exciting event over the phone just isn’t the same as being there. The interesting things is that these FIFO (Fly In, Fly Out ) workers form little like-minded groups. Of course there is the so-called “Aussie drinking culture” . But when you stand back and look at who is involved it’s usually the hard-core oldies or the very young and new, lots of money for the first time and no mum or dad to tell them when to go to bed. Then there are the fitness fanatics, and I use that word kindly, they have time to kill and keeping fit keeps them away from the bar. A few study and a few play music.

These blokes were sitting around playing some R & B classics, having a quiet drink and a laugh. All of them would rather be home, but as they say no jobs back home, or that they want to give their kids every opportunity in life, I understand, I really do, but I can’t help feeling that not only do these husbands and fathers miss out on so much, but also their families are not as well off as they think because of the long periods of separation. This might be a case where being the lucky country comes at a cost. Next time you are at the airport and see a bunch of miners or construction workers in their distinctive hi-viz reflective clothing and safety boots, don’t just envy them for their high income, also remember the heavy cost it comes at.

PS. The colour cast of the above image is caused by the covers on the accommodation blocks fluorescent  lights that don’t attract insects…..as much!!

 

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One Response to “FIFO…not a dogs name”

  1. Yvonne Place October 21, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    This is oh so true.
    As the wife, it is heart breaking every time you go away, every night you call and I see the look on the kids faces as if to say what do I tell dad, it was just a normal boring day at school. Deep down I know you just want to see their faces and they just want to see you walk in the door. For me it is hard to admit that I actually had a great sleep last night as I had the bed to myself and no snoring to compete with….mine doesn’t count. but that only lasts for 1 or 2 nights, then it becomes quite evident that on the other side of the bed is a massive void. We feel guilty that on a weekend we may have gone out and done something fun without you, as if we are not permitted to enjoy ourselves when you are not here.
    Mining and construction does pay well, BUT, and that is a massive but, it comes at a tremendous cost to marrigaes, lives, and famililies alike. Those wanting to work in this industry, in remote parts of the country, should be rewarded, not penalised. If they wish to remain close as a family unit, local rental is exuberant (such a big word I don’t even know if I spelt it right).

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