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Suck it up, princess  culture must change
Suck it up, princess culture must change

Cultural and organisational change is needed in Australia's fly-in, fly-out industry to tackle issues with mental health and emotional wellbeing, a groundbreaking WA study has warned.

The research, by Lifeline WA and Edith Cowan University psychologists, identified numerous factors affecting workers mentally.

These included high stress from longer periods working away, particularly for those with young children, and disrupted sleep and fatigue from long shifts.

Companies employing FIFO workers needed to address the "suck it up, princess" culture and build policies and services to address workers' mental health needs and combat their reluctance to seek help, the report's authors said.

"Workers did report a sense of powerlessness about their ability to exercise control over their lives in the tightly regimented confines of the FIFO working environment," the report said.

Workers felt vulnerable to intensive scrutinising, intimidation by higher management and the threat of job loss.

They said they had no control after working hours and were not free to move around or have meals at preferred times.

The report said workers also felt trapped because they were financially committed in accordance with their current income and so could not quit.

Other recommendations included targeted support, for example, for workers over 50 who were less likely to seek help, pre-FIFO training to show new employees what to expect and post-employment support to reduce the stigma of getting help for mental health problems and to help people cope.

The Australian Institute of Management WA will use the findings to develop, with Lifeline WA, programs to help managers and workers improve FIFO and drive-in, drive-out experiences.

The research compiled views from 924 FIFO and DIDO workers - 81 per cent men, 80 per cent 49 years old or younger and half parents.

Relationships Australia WA holds one-night seminars for couples considering or who recently started FIFO work. For dates and information, visit wa.relationships.com.au. WA parenting organisation Ngala also offers advice and a workshop for families with a parent working away. Information is available at ngala.com.au.