New research into fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) mine workers, that focuses on the communities they come from, shows they don’t necessarily reap all the benefits they can.
The study concluded a lot of social problems were mistakenly blamed on FIFO and it also found a greater focus on the source towns, where the workers live, was important.
The research focused on two particular source communities in Western Australia; Mandurah, 100 kilometres south of Perth, and Busselton, 200 kilometres south of Perth.
They are more than a thousand kilometres from the centres of mining activity, such as the Pilbara and the Goldfields, and are now home to significant FIFO populations.
The report was released by the CRC for Remote Economic Participation and remote services non-for-profit organisation Ninti One.
Professor Fiona McKenzie, from Curtin University, was one of the report authors. She says FIFO workers are generally engaged in their community.
“They are very committed to their communities, they spend what they can locally.
“They don’t necessarily coach kids’ footy, or other things that require a regular commitment on a weekly basis.
“But very often FIFO workers in source communities are involved in emergency services like fire brigades and ambulances.
“And, of course, they’re bringing all those skills that they’re often being trained in on-site back to their home communities.”
But having a FIFO contingent concentrated in a community also has its challenges.
“It’s been suggested that FIFO workers are the ones putting pressure on counselling services, schools and even some health services.
“But our research wasn’t able to prove that. In fact, I’d say there’s a lot of fallacy around those claims.
“However, there are fundamental issues that really do need to be addressed to help local and state governments and communities to plan to cope with change and increased population.
“Most important of all is that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) would be enormously helpful if it counted how many people are moving around in terms of their work, that are mobile, where families are in one place and workers are in another place.
“If we understood how many people were doing that, that would help with service provision, in terms of supporting families and employees and also businesses.”