Lessons learnt from a transient FIFO life

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Sandy (or 'Auntie', as many people call her) is our FIFO Survivor. Her husband works offshore in oil/gas and they've been together for more than 30 years - many of them as a fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) family. In that time they've raised two beautiful daughters (both now in their 20s) and moved more than 19 times! Sandy wanted to write for Mining Family Matters to show you can survive FIFO.

When I first moved from NZ to Australia, I was located in Adelaide. Before long it was off to Townsville. For a change let’s drive across to Karratha. We actually settled there for a couple of years. Given the opportunity, I'd go back in a heartbeat.

But from there it was a different story. Let's move countries (again)! We ended up on a small island in Indonesia, close to Singapore. I could actually stand in the apartment and see Singapore, but in reality it was a 45-minute ferry ride.

It was a culture shock, living there. The poverty and filth were overwhelming. Rubbish was piled high on the streets and then burnt. Even in our apartment, running water was discoloured - especially if there was rain. Once, I saw the staff filling the filtered water container in the dining room with tap water. No wonder I had the trots for a few days.

The apartment block residents and staff were welcoming and very protective of me. Whenever I left the compound, they'd ask where I was going and remind me how far I should go. I existed within a one kilometre radius. Step outside this little bubble and it was totally different. Children and some adults would run up and touch me. Small children would burst into tears upon seeing me. They had never seen a western woman before.

One trip out was particularly frightening. I was followed home but a couple of men on a bike. I remember racing in the gate to have the security deal with them. A bit of a wake up call.

The man of the house came home and realized I was unhappy and suggested I go back to Australia. He went to the gym and returned an hour later to find I had booked flights for the next day. He stayed in Indonesia and we were back to fly-in, fly-out life again.

Leaving the island, I stood on the dock (which doubled as a food hall) to look back at what had been my home. I looked down and the ground was black, so I stepped forward and the ground started to move. It was thick with cockroaches - a fitting final memory of my time there.

But I'll never forget how lovely the residents and staff were in our apartment block, despite how tough the living conditions were. Living in Indonesia was a real eye opener - it taught me to be a little more excepting of those from different backgrounds.

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!