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Not all that glitters is gold.

Not all that glitters is gold.

I am sure that we would all agree that none of us can escape the hype of the Western Australian Mining resource sector‘s success. I am sure we have come into contact with those individuals that tell you that they are heading up North to get a piece of the action. “I am gonna get a job on the mines and earn some huge dollars”. I am sure we have all heard this comment more than once or “my mate is working on the mines and he brings home $1000 a day for driving a truck!” Well in some instances there is very good money to be made at the mines, but contrary to popular belief it’s not a matter of individuals with a heartbeat and an IQ higher than 50 turning up on site with work boots and hardhat as mining companies fall over themselves to secure their services whilst throwing suitcases of money at them. The reality is that companies hiring from mine and related organisations aren’t just in the “anybody will do” mindset. Not only do individuals need all the relevant qualifications, certificates and tickets most are looking for previous experience in a similar role. (Using a forklift once a week in the k-mart warehouse may not cut it!). I know I will get a barrage of emails of people telling me about their uncle ted that got a job with no experience blah blah blah…., but seriously the majority of companies are making sure they are employing the right individuals for these potentially dangerous worksites.

We know that individuals who are working in mining and related jobs in remote areas are getting paid a good income compared to standard local roles. However the FIFO (fly-in-fly-out) lifestyle may not be for everybody.

As we all know there is no such thing as a free lunch and the same applies here. Although the money may be good, there is of course a catch. The most popular shift is a 3/1 (3 weeks onsite and 1 week home). Speaking to a lot of individuals that work on a FIFO basis the 3 weeks on site is 21 days straight and sometimes 12 hour days. This can be very tiring and mundane, one guy I recently spoke to explained it to me as “groundhog day” he wakes up goes to site, comes home to the campsite, eats, sleeps and does that for 21 days continuously. He explained that the week off sounds great, but 2 of the 7 days he is on a plane, packing and unpacking. The other 5 days he is catching up on things that need doing around the house, maintenance, lawn mowing whilst feeling tired from the past 21 days of work. Also the family now treat him like he is ‘in the way’ when he comes home as they have got into a regular routine that doesn’t include him.

I am sure that is not the same for everybody and some guys have told me that in the 7 days they have off is fantastic. They now take the kids to school, pick them up after school and see more of the family than when they had a regular 9-5 job. A lot of people that enjoy the FIFO lifestyle feel they have more time for recreation than ever before, rather than squeezing everything into a weekend or a Sunday in some cases.

Some families cope with the FIFO worker very well; however there can be less than satisfactory consequences for some. Statistics tell us that there are a high divorce rate and incidence of depression within this group. Some frank honest discussions need to be had with the family before one decides on this lifestyle and a good idea is setting a timeframe of how long one wants to continue to FIFO. Many individuals take on FIFO positions, get into a new income bracket, change their lifestyle to suit (larger house, larger mortgage) then when they decide enough is enough, find that they can’t move back to a regular job as the drop in income won’t support the new lifestyle.

Australia needs FIFO workers but if you are a family man/woman please make sure you look before you leap as all that glitters is not necessarily gold.