Fly-In Fly-Out…it’s the lifestyle of around 50,000 workers and their families in Western Australia. Most common in the large mining States, it involves a routine of flying to work in remote areas for days or weeks at a time, then flying home again to enjoy well-earned time off.
The actual working rosters vary, depending on the job title and the seniority of the employee. Working typically 10 hour days, for up to four weeks on with one week off is the norm for the majority of workers in mines in the WA Pilbara region.
Others may work a ‘three-and-one’ or a ‘two-and-one’ roster. For some engineers, the fortnightly roster may include a balance as appealing as eight days on/six days off.
For employers, despite the costs of airfares and the construction of temporary housing, it’s generally not viable to relocate entire families and establish permanent communities.
For FIFO employees or contractors, the reality of living on site can be really enjoyable and jobs are in high demand. Companies are increasingly offering recreation and leisure activities, including gymnasiums, multi-purpose courts, swimming pools and indoor sports facilities, not to mention gourmet food and of course a pub (generally referred to as the ‘wet mess’ or ‘wetty’).
With extended periods of time at home and lucrative incomes on offer, there’s a lot to love about the FIFO lifestyle, but it’s not for everyone.
For the family left behind while one parent works away, there are anecdotal reports of loneliness, resentment and unsettled children. FIFO workers also have a much higher rate of divorce and suicide than the national average.
A Federal inquiry is currently underway to identify and manage the issues that come with the FIFO lifestyle.
Join a Community of FIFO Families in Perth
There is a growing list of services and online resources dedicated to supporting and connecting FIFO workers and their families in WA. Several websites offer tips, organise events and share experiences- for example, check out 'FIFO Families,' ‘The FIFO Wife,’ and ‘My FIFO Family.’