FIFO workshop: What if you lose your job?

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The free FIFO workshops are a great way to meet other FIFO families and get practical advice, says Berenice Sieber.

A FREE workshop offering support and advice to the fly-in fly-out of challenges to Western Australian FIFO families and couples.

Yanchep and Butler residents can attend the hour-long Planning for the Unthinkable – What if you Lose the Job? workshop to be held on Thursday, March 2.

Run by the not-for-profit organisations FIFO Families and i60 Community Services at Ocean Keys Shopping Centre the sessions are for those in FIFO households seeking advice as work within Western Australia’s mining resources industry diminishes.

Community psychologist Anne Sibbel, whose extensive research on the wellbeing of FIFO workers and their partners has seen her consult to a number of mining companies, said a number of FIFO families were having to adjust to changed financial circumstances.

Dr Sibbel said some FIFO families were now facing a lack of surety in employment or a loss of employment and the financial and emotional burden that came with either situation.

“Work rosters are also changing – time on-site may be longer so FIFOs are away from their families for greater periods and some who were full-time employees may now be looking at shorter term contacts, which can bring inflexible and unpredictable shifts,” she said.

Dealing with the erratic nature of her FIFO husband’s contractual work was an adjustment for Quinns Rock mother Berenice Sieber.

Originally from Germany, she and husband Chris moved to Western Australia in 2007 for his work in oil and gas and have been living the FIFO life for a decade.

Mrs Sieber said  her husband’s work was mostly overseas contractual and the rosters were very random.

“He might be away for four months and only home for three days, or what is meant to be a three-week contract may be extended to months at the last minute it makes it very difficult to plan anything,” she said.

At  first FIFO life was a challenge due to her husband’s prolonged absences and a lack of  extended family or friends to call on for help.

“For the first year of our firstborn’s life, Chris was only there for two and a half months, which was tough and sad for both of us and I was very lonely as I didn’t know a lot of people.’’

The lack of support network was also difficult when emergency struck in 2012 and their youngest daughter was rushed to Princess Margaret Hospital after a serious burn accident, which left her in hospital for two weeks.

“That was very frightening and it was hard without many people to call on for help while Chris was away.

“I feel very lucky now that I have an adopted Aussie family of friends for the times I’m on my own.’’

Mrs Sieber, who has attended most of the free workshops since their inception in April last year, said they offered a place to share experiences and garner advice in a safe place, with people who understood FIFO life.

“It’s been reassuring to hear other people face similar challenges, we share our own stories and help one another and the workshops provide useful, practical advice.

“I wish so much these had been around ten years ago when I first moved to Perth, I would have come to every single one.’’

Dr Sibbel said research showed it was important to have a support network during home and away times for FIFO families, especially in times of stress.

“In these tight financial times grassroots community workshops like this are needed now more than ever, they are a truly valuable resource,” she said.

In addition to covering topics like helping children adapt, managing anxiety and relationship and family advice, the FIFO workshops will examine the timely topic of financial changes.

According to a report by Deloitte Access Economics for the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia, the resources sector workforce is expected to decline from 105,2004 in 2014 to 87,000 by 2025 with weaker commodity prices behind a decrease in planned mineral and energy investment projects in Western Australia.

Due to the high-level of interest, registration is required – call 9407 2411, visit the information desk in-centre, or register online at www.oceankeys.net.au

More information on i60 Community can be found at  www.i60communityservices.org.au, further information on FIFO Families can be found at www.fifofamilies.com.au