06. The Mining Bonanza

A Boon or a Blow for Rural Communities and Families?
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Introduction
Much is assumed about how people are benefiting or, on the other hand, being affected by the mining and resources boom, but do we really know what is happening? Many men and some women are leaving their communities and commuting to distant mining sites in search of big dollars; but is the money worth it, or are some families experiencing the down side of separation, shift-work, unfamiliar relationship dynamics, and having a lot more disposable income?

Contributors
Dr John Ashfield
Professor Dean Carson
Melissa Koch
Dr Tony Lian-Lloyd
Elena Rudnik
For details of all interviewees who contributed to this project, click here

Future Farmers. Photographer Kath Kelly Victoria

Future Farmers. Photographer Kath Kelly Victoria

Thinkabout Talkabout
Dr John Ashfield
Anecdotally, we hear of many problems arising from Fly In Fly Out (FIFO) and shift work (reported by health professionals, and community leaders), including men experiencing depression being away from home, some not handling unusually high income in positive ways, alcohol abuse, marriage breakdown, and wives struggling to manage children in the absence of their father.

A commonly reported problem is that of adjustment when men return home: couples needing to become reacquainted, but encountering tensions about whose needs are most important: tired wife, who has cared for the children on her own, or the husband that just wants to relax and not have to deal with the children because he’s been away.

Despite these reports, the fact is, we don’t really know clearly or accurately what the balance of benefits versus disadvantages is, because we are only just beginning to research this in the Australian context.

Dr Gary Misan, a research professor from the University of South Australia’s Centre for Regional Engagement, in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Male Health and Studies, is looking at this very question. He and his team (including Elena Rudnik, whom you will hear in this program) are researching the FIFO phenomenon, to understand what impact positive as well as negative this might be having on workers, families and communities – in order to be able to provide health providers and the mining industry with vital information about any negative impacts that may need to be anticipated and addressed.

Further Reading
Men’s Health Australia website contains an article by Associate Professor Gary Misan et al, on Health Tips for Fly In Fly Out Workers.

First Broadcast – Monday 06 May 2013

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