Media Release: New guide shows mining families how to survive and thrive

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March 2011  

Intimate relationship advice is being offered to Australia’s mining families in a bid to ease the pressures of fly-in, fly-out lifestyles and living in isolated communities.

The Survival Guide for Mining Families is a 32-page, A5 booklet featuring professional advice from a registered psychologist, and practical tips for keeping relationships healthy and families happy. 

The guide is an initiative of Mining Family Matters, Australia's first online mining community established in early 2010. Chapters include: <?xml:namespace prefix = o>

  • Helping kids to cope with FIFO (fly-in, fly-out rosters)
  • Sharing time and avoiding conflict
  • Dads and discipline
  • Tackling loneliness when you’re apart
  • Are you making excuses about sex?

The guide is friendly, frank and most importantly, practical – also featuring advice for mining women and families on the move. Much of it has come about through questions put to Adelaide-based registered psychologist Angie Willcocks on the Mining Family Matters website

Adelaide Hills mum and Mining Family Matters creator Alicia Ranford says mining offers great benefits for families, but it can also put huge pressure on couples in terms of communication, intimacy and raising happy children. 

"I’ve moved six times in the past 12 years, raised two young children while their dad has worked a FIFO roster and seen many marriages crumble under the strain of living apart – I wish I’d been armed with a guide like this when my husband and I were starting out in mining," Ms Ranford says. 

"All relationships have their ups and downs, but the stresses are heightened when one partner works away or you’re a long distance from your closest family and friends – this guide offers really practical ideas for relieving those pressures." 

The guide is targeted at mining companies for distribution to both new and existing employees. Orders and enquiries have been received from across Australia and as far away as Canada, and can be by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

"Research suggests it costs a company up to 1.5 times a miner’s salary to replace a lost worker. With Australia’s increasingly tight labour market, this guide is an invaluable tool for mining companies aiming to retain happy, productive employees," Ms Ranford says.

Sample tips from The Survival Guide for Mining Families 

House rules for a happy home: "Agree on a realistic list of jobs that need doing around the house on the days you're together – and then write them down. This cuts out the need for nagging and arguments about being nagged."

Sharing time and avoiding conflict: "For those on FIFO rosters, how 'home' time is spent is a major source of conflict. Talk about 'The Problem' as a symptom of the lifestyle, rather than as a relationship problem. Seeing it as a problem outside of the relationship can help you tackle it together as a team, rather than thinking that there is 'something wrong' with your relationship." 

Are you making excuses about sex? "Differing libidos is a big issue in most long-term relationships. FIFO couples are no different, except there’s the added pressure of often being apart. 'I'm too tired' can be code for 'I don’t want to feel close to you, only to lose that feeling again'.  It is very important to sustain the connection even when away from each other. You need to find ways to feel connected when apart." 

Helping kids to cope with FIFO: "A major issue for every FIFO family is ensuring the kids don't miss Dad too much, or become overly anxious when he's away at the mine site. Never talk about Dad 'going away' or 'leaving'.  It should always be Dad is 'going to work'. They're just words, but children take things very literally." 

Does mum always know best? "Have a conversation with your partner about your parenting styles and values. Do you both agree on basic issues such as expectations of the children and discipline style? Do you have the same ideas about what sorts of behaviours should be disciplined and what is reasonable punishment? If you do basically agree, mum needs to back off and let dad find his own feet with parenting." <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office">

FIFO dads and discipline: "Create a list of family rules. Depending on the age of your kids, involve them. Write them up and stick them to the fridge. Remember the golden rule for FIFO families: the rules apply all the time, whether you are home or not. Standard rules are very important for kids in FIFO families." 

Mining mums working away: "All FIFO parents face personal obstacles as a result of working away. However, FIFO mothers also face the judgments of other people. Remain clear about why you chose mining as a career and/or FIFO as a lifestyle. Choose to see the positives and find ways to make the lifestyle work for you and your family." 

Relocating tips for happy travels: "Have a family discussion to allow your children to air any issues. (One way to initiate debate is to get the kids to write down five good reasons and five bad reasons for moving.) Explain where and why you are moving and show them pictures and maps of your new town and home. Give them lots of information about the new area, the school, parks and things to see and do."