Posted on May 30, 2015 by Xavier Toby

What it’s like to be a fly on the wall at a FIFO mining operation

This article recently appeared in:

The Brisbane Courier Mail

http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/opinion-what-its-like-to-be-a-fly-on-the-wall-at-a-fifo-mining-operation/story-fnihsr9v-1227373186840

The NT News

http://www.ntnews.com.au/news/opinion-what-its-like-to-be-a-fly-on-the-wall-at-a-fifo-mining-operation/story-fnjbnts7-1227373186840

FIFO photo

THE Queensland parliamentary inquiry into FIFO (fly in fly out) work has begun and already submissions are being made on the impact of and issues facing FIFO workforces.

If you’ve ever wondered what type of person becomes a FIFO worker, well for six months last year, I was out there.

From the conversations overheard, observations made and investigations performed, I discovered that there are basically 11 types of FIFO workers and with some of them it wouldn’t surprise me if mental health becomes a major focus of the inquiry.

Firstly, there are those without families who party away their week off and save nothing, and their exact opposite, those with families, whose money goes straight to the mortgage or education for the kids.

Then there are also those paying off vast debts after their own businesses have failed, so that’s three types.

Type four are the guys saving everything to buy a house outright. They look at this job like a short jail term for a long-term gain. Similar to most, I suppose.

Also out there are those that don’t even save enough to have a good time during their week off, as they spend every night off-site in the nearest pub downing spirits and gambling online or otherwise. Which is type five.

Type six talk about camping trips but never make it, because when not at work they’re always at the pub talking about camping trips.

Type seven talk about their camping trips but actually do make it, so also have photos – which they’re happy to show you, even if you don’t ask.

FIFO wife meme

With all the drug testing and breathalysers, there are also those out there to escape addiction. Using it as rehab, until they go home and get back on it again because they’ve got so much cash and stuff-all to do. Type eight.

Type nine are those who get hooked on something while out there, to cope with the loneliness and long hours and lack of entertainment options apart from the booze, gambling, smokes, sex and drugs.

Type 10 are the lifers who move from site to site, because they love the work. They look forward to their week off, because that’s what you’re meant to do. However, they’re always jumpy and jittery for that entire week as, the truth is, they can’t stand home and would rather be out at the mine with their mates.

It does take a particular sort of person to spend 75 per cent of their time away from their loved ones and added to these 10 types, I’m sure there are others. Probably as many as there are people out there. I just haven’t managed to identify them.

Except, don’t forget type 11. Those who become FIFO workers in order to pay off a stalled comedy and writing career. Which, as far as I know, is a group of just me.

Honestly, I like to think that money isn’t something that drives me. I like to think that I’m driven by a need to be creative and hopefully share something worth hearing that makes people laugh, gives them something to think about and might even improve things.

Unfortunately though, good intentions pay for stuff-all.

So, while I’d never work out at the mines for a lifetime, after I lost thousands performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, FIFO work did pay off enough of my debts that I was able to get back to comedy and writing full-time.

Like most, I had a plan and an exit strategy. Like far too few, I managed to stick to it.

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