View Comments
FIFO families learn to adjust
Positives: Ebony Ryan with triplets. Ari, Ella and Jack. Picture: Dione Davidson/The West Australian

A study on the problems faced by fly-in, fly-out workers and their families in WA and Queensland has found that while they continue to face challenges, most families have adjusted to the lifestyle.

The report by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, which predicts there will be more than 63,000 fly-in, fly-out workers in WA by next year, found that families with FIFO arrangements were likely to be just as healthy and well-functioning as mining workers with a daily commute.

Its findings include that parenting is a challenge for FIFO families, particularly for the partner at home who regularly has to transition between solo parenting and co-parenting.

Children were found to be susceptible to negative emotions, increased behavioural problems and bullying at school as a result of the FIFO parent's absence.

The ability to communicate regularly, privately and spontaneously was found to be key to mediating the effect a FIFO lifestyle had on families.

The study acknowledges that further research needs to be done before robust conclusions about the impact of FIFO work on children and families can be made.

Study leader Elly Robinson said a family's ability to cope with the lifestyle depended on factors including workplace cultures, their roster, their home environment and individual circumstances.

"The lifestyle does not suit everyone, with some research suggesting that in those families who cope well, the at-home partner is supportive, has access to family support, good education options and child care, and is more self-reliant," Ms Robinson said.

Hocking mother Ebony Ryan, whose husband Dave works as an exploration driller near Newman, said looking after three nine-month-old babies on her own for two weeks at a time was challenging at times but the positives of the FIFO lifestyle outweighed the negatives.

"It is super hard for him to be away from the babies but when he comes home, he is just such a good dad with them," Ms Ryan said.

FIFO Families director Nicole Ashby said her experience was that families who were prepared for FIFO and had access to support and resources could make the FIFO lifestyle work for them.

She said more research needed to be done because existing studies did not represent enough families.