FIFO workers across many industries

This-year's-medical-students-at-Nickol-Bay-Hospital-in-Karratha---Photo-by-Tamara-BinamatOn Friday Tamara Binamat reported in the Pilbara Echo that the medical staff needed in some remote WA centers are now being supplied by FIFO Doctors and Medical trainees. It is an encouraging article about a work place phenomena that is not just taking place in mining, natural resources or in construction. FIFO is a work practice that is being taken up across diverse industries. Health is only one of many. I have a friend who is a specialist nurse working in indigenous communities across NT and WA. As well as FIFO nursing her job is to train staff who are new to the community health environment. The whole working model of the Remote Area Health Corps is set up on a FIFO work place practice model and this model is working because staff are returning time and time again and therefore providing the much needed support and continuity that indigenous health centers need.

As the discussion about FIFO broadens and what FIFO means is being understood by a larger more diverse audience many people outside the mining and or natural resources industry are seeing that although they do not identify as a FIFO family they are in fact living a FIFO lifestyle. For example many professionals say goodbye to their family each week or for part of each month, when S/He travels to Sydney, Perth or Off shore for three days or two weeks on a regular and consistent basis. The families these workers leave behind are experiencing similar issues as the long haul FIFO families in mining and related industries. However, for many of these no identifying FIFO families the isolation, parenting and relationship issues that surface are doubly difficult because the “professional” FIFO work practice is not recognized as problematic or worse – actively ignored.

In my research this week I found a conference paper from 2002 which discussed what today we label as FIFO family issues but then was discussed in terms of the “Intermittent Husband” issue. The paper makes for interesting reading not only for the historical perspective it gives the issue but for the range of industries that in 2002 were seen as workplaces that caused family issues due to the “Intermittent Husband Syndrome” .

Intermittent Husband Syndrome – Research Queensland University of Technology conference paper 2002

FIFO Doctors head to the Pilbara – Newspaper article

Remote Area Health Corps

What industry are you / is your FIFO worker working in? What is the schedule you/they work? Have you had conversations with people who are in fact living a FIFO life style but didn’t identify as such?


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