Clarkson: support network develops for FIFO families


Leah (8), Berenice, Chris and Sophie (5) Sieber.
Leah (8), Berenice, Chris and Sophie (5) Sieber.

FREE monthly workshops to support and advice to the FIFO community started in Clarkson this month.

Not-for-profit organisations FIFO Families and i60 Community Services held the first hour-long ‘connect group’ sessions at Ocean Keys Shopping Centre on February 8, with the next planned for March 2.

The workshops cater for people in FIFO households seeking advice as work within WA’s mining resources industry diminishes.

According to a report by Deloitte Access Economics for the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA, the resources sector workforce is expected to decline from 105,200 in 2014 to 87,000 by 2025 with weaker commodity prices behind a decrease in planned mineral and energy investment projects in WA.

Community psychologist Anne Sibbel said a number of FIFO families are having to adjust to a change in financial circumstances.

“A key issue some FIFO families are now facing is a lack of surety in employment, a loss of employment and the financial and emotional burden that brings,” Dr Sibbel said.

“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.”

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 WA in 2007 for his work in oil and gas and have been living the FIFO life for a decade.

“Chris’s work is mostly overseas contractual and the rosters are very random,” Mrs Sieber said.

“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 in the beginning 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,” she said.

The lack of support network was also difficult when emergency struck in 2012 and their youngest daughter Sophie was rushed to Princess Margaret Hospital after a serious burn accident, which kept 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,” Mrs Sieber said.

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

Mrs Sieber has attended almost every free workshop at Clarkson since their inception in April last year and said they offered a place to share experiences and get advice with people who understood FIFO life.

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.

The workshops cover topics such helping children adapt, managing anxiety, relationship and family advice and financial changes.

All workshops run from 10-11am. To register, call 9407 2411, visiting the information desk in centre, or visit www.oceankeys.net.au.

FIFO WORKSHOPS

March 2: Planning for the unthinkable – what if you lose the job

April 5: Be wise with your finances – taking time to tame the money flow

May 4: Don’t let money make you miserable – make it work so you can play

June 7: Get SMART with goal setting – planning ahead makes sense

June 29: Your personal future – homefront plans and dreams

August 2: Looking after your emotional self – if you’re right then helping others is easy

September 7: Raising happy children – happy children, happy home

October 11: Boosting your resilience – at home, at work

November 9: Getting ready for the holidays – planning the best for all the family