Independent News For The Australian Public Service
Edition Number 397. Updated Tuesday, 18 February 2014

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Australian families with a fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) income earner have largely adjusted to the lifestyle, although children may suffer, according to an analysis by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Families with FIFO arrangements are likely to be just as healthy and function as well as daily commute mining workers, according to the research led by the manager of the Institute's Child Family Community Australia information exchange, Elly Robinson.

The review looked at the problems faced by the workers, most of whom are men, and their families in the resource states of Queensland and Western Australia.

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The ability of families to cope with the lifestyle depended on factors including workplace culture, rosters and recruitment practices, and the community, home environment and individual circumstances, Ms Robinson said.

"Children may experience negative emotions as the result of the FIFO parent's absence," she said.

"They may have increased behaviour problems - particularly boys, greater experiences of bullying at school, and increased pressure to succeed academically.

"Parenting is a challenge for FIFO families, particularly for partners at home who have to manage the continual transitioning from solo parenting to co-parenting and back again, while providing for the physical, emotional, and intellectual needs of children, without the support of a partner always at home."

The review found that a heavy drinking culture exists across some mining sites, particularly for young, single male workers.

The analysis said that while the FIFO industry has taken steps to address this, the crackdown may lead to greater consumption when at home.

It said that regular communication between the worker and the family is vital, with partners at home expressing frustration if mobile phone coverage was inadequate.

The report identified return-to-home and departure-to-work points in the roster as times of high stress.

It also said that partners at home faced loneliness, problems finding flexible employment and childcare and coping with the physical and emotional work of managing children and a household solo.

While children generally coped well in FIFO families, very stressed mothers may play a significant "buffer" role, she said.

"One of the potential impacts on children is a lack of daily interaction with the FIFO parent.

"However the flipside is that the FIFO parent is then home for extended periods and available to spend quality time with children," she said.

Unmarried couples or families with teenage children fared best, she said.

Read the review at this PS News link.

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