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The wheels keep on turning………..

22 Jan

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ down the highway. Well not quite the classic lyrics to that classic song, but it sum’s up what is happening on the highways and railways of central Queensland. Trucks, some of them carrying other trucks for the mining industry never stop rolling up and down the highways of the region. Single, double and even triple trailers are common place at anytime of the day or night. The magnificent scenery would be lost on the drivers of these rigs as they push on to unload the materials that keep the coal industry digging.

Of course if the machines are digging, it means that the resource is coming out of the ground and at a prodigious rate. Everywhere you look you will see laden coal trains heading for one of the coal handling ports along the beautiful coastline. Whilst on a two-hour journey I saw several of the empty mammoth trains stopped waiting for a full to capacity counterpart to pass thru on its way to the port.

Machines are everywhere in this part of Queensland and some remind me of creations from Star Wars or indeed herds of Dinosaurs on the move. Kinda ironic really seeing that the coal being dug up today was laid down at the time of the Dinosaurs !!!

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… much!!