From the Pilbara to Indonesia - how I've learnt to love thy neighbour

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Hi! I'm Sandy (although lots of people call me 'Auntie') and my husband works offshore in oil/gas. We've been together for 30years, many of them as a fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) family. In that time we've raised two daughters (both now at uni) and moved more than 19 times! I wanted to write for Mining Family Matters to show you can survive FIFO.

The man of the house was recently humming a tune by Small Faces called Lazy Sunday Afternoon. (For all you young ones out there, here's a link

Anyway it got me thinking about all the places I have lived, all the neighbours we've met and all the communities we've been a part of.

I come from a rural community in NZ, surrounded by the sea and a neighbour on each side. The blocks are large. Ideal. Great for kids, living outside swimming and climbing trees.

Moved to South Australia. Lived in an apartment building. Woken in the middle of the night to the sound of horse’s hooves. "What is going on with that, maybe a nightmare?" No, it was mounted police. That was a first for me. Then there was the sound of clinking bottles at 3am every morning - locals collecting bottles to claim a refund.

From here to Queensland. Another apartment building. Amazing place to live, one block back from the beach. But one of the neighbours had a visitor who was very vocal when it came to night "activities". She would call his name continuously in the heat of the moment. I can tell you it echoed throughout the neighbourhood, and I struggled to keep a straight face when I did finally meet her!

Onto the Pilbara. No chance of meeting the neighbours here. By 5am the whole street was empty. Off to work they went. Working long hours, six to seven days a week.

Then to Indonesia. Neighbours? Not sure we had them. Living in another apartment block. Everyone was too transient to meet.

Off to the city in Australia, so sure this would be better. First up, a landlord who walked right into the house because the front door was open, or would be standing on the back of his ute looking over the fence. Not the greatest.

Time to move on.

A couple of places later and here I am in my piece of paradise. Living in the 'burbs. There are the neighbours you can rely on for a cup of sugar.

We are the typical Kiwis in the street - standing on the front lawn or in the garage with a can. Not long and most of our neighbours are there too. Kids playing and parents solving the world’s problems. There is the neighbour with the amazing workshop. If he can’t find his tools, he knows they are at my place!

Not long back I learnt how important this group is when they surprised me with a BBQ for my birthday. Turned up with enough food for a small tribal village. Cake and balloons as well.

But we also recently experienced the down side of living here. Conflict in the 'hood. The police were called and words were exchanged on a social media website. Comments were made by people who had nothing to do with the issue.

Sure there can be problems: the barking dog; the kid over the road riding without a helmet. But it can all be resolved. So:

  • Don’t assume your neighbour knows you've got a problem, often they have no idea
  • Communicate!
  • Focus on the problem, not the person
  • Try to look at the situation from your neighbour's point of view
  • Don't air conflicts on social media.

Just remember, you all live side by side, so try to fit in. Sure you'll need to compromise sometimes, but that's part and parcel of living in a community.


More from Auntie Sandy:

If you've got a question for 'Auntie' Sandy or would like to make a comment about FIFO living, we'd love to hear from you. Click here!